We Will Always Have Paris: Chloe 81 NYC

We Will Always Have Paris: Chloe 81 NYC

by Luiza Oleszczuk
02.26.2009

New York has been even more sleepless since August; especially the hip crowd of the city, to whom craving old-school beats didn’t let close their eyes and to whom the swanky downtown lounges became more ordinary than Tao to the likes of Tom Cruise. This state of agitation is not associated with recession—for goodness’ sake, some of these kids don’t know what that word means— but with a new joint in town. Every night, swarms of ambience-hungry hipsters wander the dark allays of Lower East Side with commotion that might raise the dead. But all they raise are even more brethren hipsters and they all seem to be flowing in one direction—Ludlow Street.

As the undercover guardian angel of the Big Apple nightlife, peace and booze of its citizens, CP felt in obligation to solve this mystery.

It was a cold, moonless night in early December. Nothing would set this dark staircase on the Broome Street side of the block apart from others, if not for a well-built fellow who looked as if he was standing just at that spot for a reason. The building was quiet, almost eerie—no neon, no signs-- and housed Casanis—a small, unassuming French bistro on the ground floor. Too perfect a picture one might say. Something was fishy.

As I moved towards the suspicious-looking fellow, two tall blondes in dark pea coats and high heels appeared, only to disappear again in the chasm of the narrow staircase. So—our source has been correct. That is the new speakeasy of the NYC bohemia—Chloe 81. The buzz of the whole town. I approached the bouncer (it was an undercover bouncer). He knew the game, but I knew it too. We measured each other with spiteful regards. 

“Do you have a reservation?” he asked.

It was more than a bouncer-line they pick up with their door person instructional textbooks. Chloe 81 is a place which should be most glad to see chaps splurging on a bottle or two. However, the difference between this joint and other similar venues is-- patrons at Chloe actually do that a lot, so no reservation usually means no table. Chloe 81 also hosts a lot of private parties, so make sure you don’t stumble on one of those. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how good you look, angel, when they say “private party,” they mean it.

I walked in. At first, the narrow staircase seems to have no end, but it soon reveals a subterranean lair of hip. The room was bathed in the soft glow of reddish light coming from omnipresent small candles, and their glow reflected in red leather booths. Bottles glittered behind the bar and on the tables. There are painted pressed tins along the base of the low ceiling. All the walls are laid out with small white tiles—a marketing technique meant to bring to mind a Parisian metro station, which, in fact, it did. The tiles + the vaulted ceiling + the bulb-shaped fixtures give you a feeling that le train will arrive any minute. Nice trick, given New Yorkers’ extensive Francophilia.

Still, somehow rather than Edith Piaf I would expect to see Paris Hilton in this crowd. And should the owner, Brooke Smy swear by Lindsay Lohan that the cast of Gossip Girl comes to hang out here, it wouldn’t be hard to believe either. The décor is slick despite being minimalistic, and the crowd makes it painful not to be single.

Parisian metro station artists were replaced by high-end music equipment, and the house dj knew his guild. It’s not that often in this city that you get to listen to classics-- 90’s, 80’s, electro and rock’n’roll. But there is nothing that dj couldn’t mix, really.

The bathrooms could be larger, but at least they’re clean.

I was leaning against the bar sipping the signature drink, Chloe mojito ($10)—and, btw, beers are decent too for such a maquillaged spot, at $5 a glass — and I people-gazed, which is a whole new experience at Chloe 81. There is something about the secretiveness of places that unchangeably excites New Yorkers-- even more than Paris or it’s rough imitations. And that conspiracy factor is what raises Chloe 81 above the faux-Francais venues like Caine Luxe or Pastis.

The charm and conspiracy of drinking underground attract people who look slick; slicker than the midtown financiers and NYU frat boys. These were no ordinary chaps there. It smelled of PR, media production, scensters and socialites. Too bad I don’t collect blondes. There’s plenty, and they sport designer dresses and copy the catwalks better tan the Olsen twins. New York based magazine crews are known to loosen their ties (or whatever else) at Chloe 81, and celebs, tired of gold-dripping, warehouse-size restaurants, also sneak in more and more often.

My curiosity lead me to chat with a fellow who seemed to have been enjoying himself, squeezed between two girls— both of them pretty and both of them looking as if they needed another drink.

“I transferred here straight from Beatrice,” he said. His name was Brian and, just as I suspected, he was an underwear designer for a large corporation (female intuition).

“Even the coolest place turns stagnant after a while, but it’s my fourth or fifth time here, and I’m still into Chloe. The vibe is similar to Beatrice, but the ‘cover’ definitely different. Beatrice is all about a hole-in-the-wall boho joint. This place is classy. I think it’s a serious relationship… by now,” he laughed. You can never tell with someone who ditches a lounge as soon as a new hottie comes to town.

With a proportionate built, a height of at least 5’9”, an abundance of teeth and a fashion-conscious outfit, Brian might go for a good example of a male regular of Chloe 81. And his acquaintances were not bad examples of female patrons. One of them, a brunette, claimed to be a model, though her average height made me question that and wonder is she was not one of the feet (or other limbs) model. Of course, I kept my doubts to myself.

The blond looked Scandinavian and her name might bring any guy wanting to take down her number to despair. Gudlaug.

In fact, she was from Iceland and her name was implying that she would make a good wife.

“Some say people here have an attitude,” said Gudlaug, sipping a cucumber martini—another house specialty which, surprisingly enough, went great with her make-up. “But I’ve never met with anything like that at all. The doorman is always friendly with me. And this dj is one of the best I’ve heard—or seen-- in a while.”

Meanwhile, the party went very much on, despite the lack of a dance floor. Designer outfits with their inhabitants were bending and bouncing amidst booths and pillars.

The joint needed to have one last element—at least in CP standards-- to become a top-shelf hotspot. Food. And they scored high on that one. Smaller and larger plates are smuggled from upstairs (Casanis) every night until midnight. You can munch on appetizers like tuna tartar ($10) or escargots ($9) (of course they would have escargot). Entrées include a selection of fruit de mar, goat cheese ravioli ($15), carmelized sea scallops ($22) or roasted duck breast ($19). Not bad for a joint focusing on music and ambience.

One thing is sure—time flies at Chloe 81. Before the dawn came (it closes at 2am), the party was over and the red-cheeked, sweaty young and beautiful spilled out and up the staircase, into the street. Soon, the entire crowd drove off in cabs. Probably, when the day came, people were passing the staircase at 81 Ludlow  Street, not even suspecting of what happens there after dark.

Chloe 81
81 Ludlow St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 677-0067

For more info on Chloe 81, click here.


 

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