Le Chat Noir is like a second home to me. It’s where my passion for bartending and the cocktail world started. So forgive me for raving about it but you’ll know the following words come from the heart!
A household name since 1985, Le Chat Noir, aka as the Black Cat, in Carouge, Geneva, has everything you need for a great night out: a bar and restaurant on the ground floor, an other bar and a concert hall turning into a club after midnight on the lower ground floor. In the summer, a large terrace opens on the street as well. Perfect to enjoy a drink in the open air during those long warm nights! For the smokers, there’s an indoor smoking room.
The ground floor: a bar and a restaurant
Let’s start with the ground floor. On entering the Chat Noir you might feel a bit confused by the decoration. A green piano is suspended upside down above the staircase leading downstairs, Smurf figurines hover over you, music instruments are displayed in a corner and, of course, you’ll see cat references everywhere. An eclectic assortment of collectibles as one might find at a yard’s sale and that somehow makes you feel at home. Add to that the friendly staff and the laughter of regulars and you’ll never want to leave.
The ground floor is in a L shape. Once you pass through the door, you’ll see a long bar with a few high tables across from it. There is of course the possibility to sit directly at the bar. Perpendicular to the bar space, there’s the restaurant. It’s still in the same room but the tables are further away from the bar and most of them are regular tables, not high tables. We often eat at the Chat Noir with my friends as the food is really good. They have a weekly menu with two different dishes, as well as two regular dishes (the Black Cat burger and the Argentinian steak), but what we enjoy the most are the “Bouchées du monde” (World’s bites). They are good size starters that, honestly, suffice as main dishes. My absolute favourite is the beef tataki. I order it 9 out of ten times! It is that good!
On weekend nights the upstairs bar is usually very busy so, if you’re a large group, you might want to book a table before going. If not, don’t worry. With the club and second bar opening downstairs after midnight, people come and go and you might be able to get yourself a place at the bar. If it’s summer, make yourself comfortable on the terrace!
As I said before I caught the bartending and cocktail bug at the Chat Noir. Sitting at the bar with my friends I was in prime position to watch the bartenders operate and I fell under the spell of their craft. I was fascinated by the bartenders’ speed, memory and knowledge and mesmerised by one’s gestures. Every move was fluid, yet precise and, somehow, elegant; a real mastery. That really piqued my interest and I started paying more attention to what happened on the other side of the bar, asking questions about the hows and whys of cocktail preparation and just having fun talking with the guys working behind the bar. I’ve built rapport with the Chat Noir’s bartenders and they supported me in my newfound passion for their trade, telling me about bartending schools, inviting me to trade events and encouraging me with my blog. I’ll be forever grateful to them. So, my advice: if you visit the Chat Noir, sit at the bar. It’s the funnest and most entertaining part of the place and you’ll meet great people.
The cocktail menu
Once you’re settled, it’s time to have a look at the cocktail menu, which usually changes once a year. Every bar staff member had their word about the latest one and each of them came with a new drink. Regulars will retrieve Le Chat Noir’s classics, such as L’Orgasme de Nina (you can guess the translation for yourself), a fresh mix of Tanqueray 10 gin, apple juice, lemon juice and elderflower cordial with a few mint sprigs. Two of the cocktails are contest winners: Havana Passion, a mix of Havana Reserva, fresh passion fruit, apple juice, vanilla sugar, topped with a few dashes of Angostura, was crowned best Cuban cocktail in Geneva in 2012, while Mama Doble, a mango daiquiri with cinnamon infused rum, got on the first step of the podium at the Flairstar contest in Basel in 2011. The Chat Noir’s bartenders regularly participate in bartending competitions, such as Diageo World Class to name just one, by the way.
There are no live DJs at the ground floor bar – they play in the club downstairs – so bartenders are in charge of the music. We used to joke about the playlists with my friends: “Playlist n°1 or n°2?” It was all in good jest as we were always bouncing on our feet or stools to the hip hop/R&B beats. With the arrival of new bar staff in the last year, the music selection has diversified but, if anything, it’s only got better and I’m still bouncing at the bar to the amusement of the bartender whose music is now playing.
The lower ground floor: a small bar and a concert hall/club
Through its link with the ASMV (Association de soutien à la musique vivante – Support Association to Living Music), the Chat Noir welcomes a whole range of singing talents, whether professionals or amateurs, from Tuesday to Saturday night in the first part of the evening in its downstairs concert hall. Jamming and slam sessions, as well as comedy nights, are also regularly held there. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights as of midnight until 4/5 am, the concert hall turns into a nightclub. There’s an electro night once a month; otherwise it’s mostly reggae/ragga/dancehall, R&B, hip hop or all style. It gets pretty hot downstairs as it’s quite small and gets very crowded but, fear not, you’ll find a bar to quench your thirst! We’ve spent many a night there partying with my friends until closing time.
You’ve guessed it: I highly recommend a visit to the Chat Noir. If you’re in Geneva and are looking for a place that has it all, you know where to go!
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