It’s getting harder and harder to rate any nightclubs without being specific about the actual soirée. For example, I had never been to Maxim’s or Madame until I started going to the Urban Nights parties, hosted by Brett & Danny. These are usually "after work" soirées held Thursdays from about 7pm-2am in multiple venues around town.
Maxim’s is a historic Parisian bar and restaurant near Place de la Concorde, with its gorgeous Art Nouveau decor still intact (photo left). Seems almost sacrilegious to let in a standing-room-only pile of heavy drinking, heavy smoking 30-somethings to trash the place, but they do. When they first open, they keep everyone in just a few rooms of the three-floor townhouse. But as it starts to fill up around 1am, they progressively open more doors until the large dance floor on the ground floor is finally open.
Madam is one of those small dance clubs off the Champs-Elysées that used to be a "gentlemen’s club". Nice decor, on the "boudoir" side, usually decent dance music; hotter than heck in the summer (no a/c).
I had been to the CinéAqua once and found it very bizarre — it’s an animation studio and an aquarium open to the public, underground in the Chaillot hill (Trocadero). Maybe it’s not that strange at all that they open it up for clubbing now (as L’Aqua). The sharks certainly seem happy, hoping someone will fall in the tank. Great space in the beginning where the shark tunnel is, high ceilings and videos screened on the blank walls. Later in the night everyone is herded into the bar area (where smoking is allowed), which is more like a crowded club than the main area, but you can still see some fish on one side.
Finally, I tested out the opening night of the Ice Bäar last week, which isn’t a bar made from ice as you might think. It’s actually part of the Häagen Dazs on the Champs-Elysées, directly above the main ice cream parlour. So you get to eat your mini ice creams and drink Champagne while watching the people strolling the avenue (Lady Sophia in the window seat). Still, despite the music and the crowd and the Champagne, we still felt like we were just at an ice cream parlour. Not very cool.
I should mention that all of these soirées operate this way: you get on the mailing list, send in your confirmation for a soirée so that you only have to pay €15 at the door, not €20, and then there’s an open bar and food buffet for the first two hours. Afterwards you pay (a lot) for drinks. There is usually a HUGE crowd outside the doors before they’ll open it, and everyone goes right to the food (which is adequate, if not gourmet). The atmosphere is very casual. Everyone looks like they came direct from work (suits and heels, of course), and have come with their friends. SO not too much mixing. Then again, I never have stayed until closing time…maybe they become more outgoing as the night progresses.
In all, an interesting way to see different aspects of Paris (in summer they do river cruise soirées). Tell Lord Brett that Heather sent you!