Sometimes you have fun in the most unexpected places, at the most unexpected time. Three weeks ago, on a Friday night, a friend and I wanted to unwind after a particularly tough week in the office. We decided to go for a drink right after work. After hitting two very quiet spots – we started at 8 pm on a Friday after all, at a time people usually go for dinner – we decided to innovate and go somewhere we’d never been before: Café Voisins.
Café Voisins is located on the rue des Voisins, at the corner with the rue des Sources, on the quiet side of Plainpalais, Geneva’s student district. Ten years ago, back when I was at university, there was nothing on this street but a seedy neighborhood bar frequented by the local winos. Over the last few years, the street has changed. The wino bar has turned into a reputed restaurant and a classy gym has opened. In November 2014, a coworking space, called Voisins, made its appareance. It was followed in May 2015 by its very own café/restaurant/bar, Café Voisins, the result of a partnership between Voisins, Street Gourmet (a café/restaurant specialized in sandwiches and salads- think fine food and not fast food – for Café Voisins’ food offer) and the Bottle Brothers bar (for the beverages offer obviously).
My friend and I had heard positive comments about Café Voisins but hadn’t visited it yet. I tried once on a Saturday a few months ago but it was closed. Closed on a Saturday? Well, the café is attached to a coworking space and people aren’t expected to work on the weekend so it makes sense for the café to be closed then. Anyway, what with our memories of the neighborhood, the fact the bar is closed on Saturdays and having just visited two very quiet bars, my friend and I headed to Café Voisins with no other expectations than to enjoy a drink or two in a chilled, probably cozy environment. Voisins is the French word for neighbors after all. We were in for a great surprise and ended up visiting Café Voisins three times in the space of a week and have returned twice since then!
On our first visit, we headed straight to the bar where there was just a little room left for us to stand. All the tables were otherwise occupied by people finishing dinner or already having a drink. On our other visits, the bar was busy and we sat at one of the tables. The café’s decoration is really simple but welcoming : wooden tables, an angle bar with tiles bearing the names of the people who sponsored the bar’s opening as well as lightboxes resuming the purpose of the café’s areas: drink, listen (over the DJ booth), …
The menu, a simple thick paper leaflet, comprises the food offer on the left and the drinks offer on the right. You can choose between craft beers (on draft or bottled), fresh fruit juices (until 6pm), soft drinks and cocktails. The menu proposes six signatures cocktails and, if nothing has your fancy, you can ask the bartender – aka the “alchemist” – for a classic or custom cocktail. There are also a few non alcoholic cocktails. The drinks change regularly. So far I’ve enjoyed the Bloody Beetroots (gin, beetroot juice, lime juice and apple juice) and the Kumteki (tequila, kumquat, chartreuse and lime). The beetroot juice gives the first cocktail a really nice earthy taste and the juices are perfectly balanced, thus the drink doesn’t taste too sweet. The second cocktail was a bit of a dare for me, as I usually don’t like chartreuse, but it was delicious. The chartreuse taste was suggested and not overpowering and worked well with the other flavors. You can also order wine from a selection of mostly organic wines.
While the drinks are really good, what impressed us more than anything on our first visit was the atmosphere. That first Friday we arrived at approximately 9.30 pm and left at 12am. A short but intense 2.5 hours! While the place was rather quiet when we arrived, one of the guys working at the bar started singing old tunes from the 80’s-90’s at the top of his lungs. His colleagues quickly joined in, singing and dancing; the DJ immediately picked the tunes to play them and the whole bar, my friend and I included, started singing and dancing as well. Who would have thought that, after a draining week at work, an initially calm night out would turn into a wild dancing party to tunes we often moan about at only 10.15 pm? What can I say, the bartenders and waiters’ joyous mood was infectious! We left Café Voisins exhilarated and with every intention of bringing our friends with us on the following Friday.
It turns out we couldn’t wait and returned on Wednesday already, when another surprise awaited us: a live act performing soul music. The singer’s voice and the voice of the girl who joined him mid-set lulled us in a blanket of cosiness, so to speak. For the course of an evening, my friends and I felt transported to New York. We ended up staying until the end of the gig and went back home still wrapped up in a magical blanket. Just so you know, live acts play every Wednesday. We returned two days later and again the atmosphere was joyous.
As I’ve said, I’ve returned twice to Café Voisins since these first three visits and on both occasions I had a wonderful time. Café Voisins is the perfect cure against the depressing cold season and the gloomy mood that accompanies it. Here under is the video they made to celebrate their first year of operations. See what I mean about their good mood being infectious ?