Friday 15 February 2013


Somewhere in the years after Baudelaire expired from an excess of absinthe and poetry and before Proust had everyone madly eating madeleines as a memory aid, it became fashionable for your average Haute Bourgeois to keep a mistress, who he'd visit on the way home from the office. The French, having no truck with our mimsy, pursed-lip disapproval of infidelity, coined a phrase for these two relaxing hours wedged between the responsibilities of work and the duties of family: 'Le Cinq á Sept' entered the language as a little lost time in the early evening when one could indulge in some 'no-questions-asked' philandering. 

Lately, it's struck me that this incredibly louche phrase should be revived for the twenty-first century. I'm not advocating adultery - after all, who has the time or energy - but I wonder if le cinq á sept could be repurposed to mean a stolen hour where one can go off grid. My days are spent ricocheting between one meeting and another, the tiny gaps between meetings punctuated by frantic blackberrying just to stay on top of the demands of the job. Then I hurtle home to wrangle the infant Trefusii into bath and bed and make dinner by the end of which I'm too wrung out to do more than snarl at Mr Trefusis before collapsing gratefully into bed. How much more agreeable I might be if I carved a little Cinq á Sept into my day, a very modern take on 'me-time', and - switching off all mobile tracking devices (because as far as the blackberry or the iPhone know, I could be stuck on the underground) - idle into a smart bar for a reviving cocktail with a good book or in the company of an interesting friend. Please don't take 'friend' as a euphemism: to be properly relaxing, my take on le Cinq á Sept is easier if the agenda is uncomplicated. But the sweetest pleasures often need an illicit element, and in the case of my Cinq á Sept, this means home thinking I'm still at work, and work thinking I've gone home...when all the time I'm lounge-lizarding.

Why? For the super-chic euro-crowd and the unbelievably flattering light after dusk. 
Where to sit: At the bar, no one interesting sits at the tables at this time of day.
What to drink: Better Negronis than any bar in Milan
Cecconi's Mayfair
5A Burlington Gardens
T: +44 (0)20 7434 1500

Bar Americain
Why? For the Gatsby-esque glamour and Bollinger by the glass
Where to sit? The tables nearest the bar are perfect if drinking a deux
What to drink? A Sidecar - it's not on the menu, but Bar Americain's alchemy turns this classic mix of Remy Martin, Cointreau and lemon juice into something spectacular 
Bar Americain
Brasserie Zedel
20 Sherwood Street
London W1F 7ED
United Kingdom
020 7734 4888

Coburg Bar, The Connaught
Why? Sink into the warm embrace of one of the Coburg's velvet armchairs and you'll never want to leave.
Where to sit? The table near the fireplace under the Julian Opies offers good people watching opportunities
What to drink? The extremely comprehensive cocktail list reminds one why 'cocktail' is a verb as well as a noun.
The Coburg Bar at The Connaught
Carlos Place


Krizanovich said...

Absolutely inspired. Will leave lover and husband to their own devices and escape to these bars au seul...

The Curmudgeon said...

In Montreal, "cinq a sept" means, simply, happy hour. A bit less louche, but on those glorious and dearly-paid-for days of summer, it feels very luxe and like one is Getting Away With Something.

Unknown said...

This speaks to me! Love that idea (and agree on the

Alison Cross said...

I wonder how long it would be before we got 'itchy' and checked our phones?

I love the idea of le cinq a sept as a concept of a little me time. Couldn't be fagged with taking a lover though - I'd need another two hours to make myself presentable!

My pet peeve: chatting with a friend who keeps looking at their phone while we're talking. Bring on the cinq a sept!!!

Ali x

Steerforth said...

Yes, I've always been baffled by how anyone with young children finds the time (or energy) to have a bit on the side.

My cinq a sept used to be a lovely Singaporean restaurant in Richmond, run by an eccentric Chinese lady called Susie. I had my own table by the window, where I'd watch people going home from work. Bliss.

Today, I'm just grateful for the simple pleasures of being able to read or listen to music without any interruptions.

Rose said...

What a lovely post and idea. I am certainly a fan of the Connaught bar and always keen to add new places to my repetoire. I also quite like occasionally taking myself for an early supper somewhere, just reading a book or magazine and eating alone- i used to be terrified and now only do it about twice a year- but always find it actually very enjoyable!

I took myself to the cinema last night to see Les Mis, which was more of a 3 hours to myself occasion. No one wanted to come with me and embrace their inner musical lover (perhaps that's just me) so off I went, I wouldn't normally but I felt it needed to be seen on the big screen. I had a little drink and a little popcorn and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Jeane M. said...
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