When it comes to drinking trends, I can shift quite quickly from captivated to curmudgeonly. I know it’s a trivial matter, but by the fifth time I’ve been served a cocktail in a mason jar, or handed a menu of obscure libations topped with oils and foams, I have to quell the urge to roll me eyes.
Perhaps that’s why I’m so charmed by Andre’s Cigar Lounge and Culinary Library. Tucked away on the second floor of Chef Andre Rochat’s namesake restaurant inside Monte Carlo, it’s a sanctuary for the civilized. The dim, boys' club atmosphere, the scent of cigars and a menu of more than 200 single-malt whiskeys, cognacs and Armagnacs all add up to a classic experience that transcends a night of frozen, day-glo, bacon-garnished potions handcrafted by some tattooed mixologist.
If I had to be a snob and address a few minor quibbles, I’d start with the glassware. I blanched at the sight of my 30-year-old limited edition Talisker served in an etched Dewar’s glass. Plate your foie — which is excellent, by the way — in an old KFC bucket, why don’t you? I am also looking for recruits in my charge against computerized cocktail menus. Bring back paper, please, because studying scotches under the unflattering glow of an iPad is a mood-killer.
Bar bites are available, but please don’t get your fingers too grubby because what makes this place a hidden gem is the library. Volumes of books that line the stairwell like breadcrumbs lead to the lounge, which houses Rochat’s impressive personal cookbook collection. More than 700 books are on display, including titles from as far back as 1892 (The Everyday Cookbook, The Encyclopedia of Practical Recipes, by Jean-Pierre Gauthier) and 1796 (The First American Cookbook, by Amelia Simmons.) The most precious works are locked in a showcase but available to view upon request.
The space is small and its location makes it invisible to tourists, which is a shame because it’s a unique point of interest for any bibliophile or cookbook lover. Hopefully with some word-of-mouth buzz it will become an attraction that visitors make time to check out, because as far as I’m concerned, leafing through dusty old treasures is a better way to spend your evening in the city than stuffing young girls’ thongs at Treasures.