When you find yourself riding a towering escalator to get something to eat, it's usually not a good sign; visions of some garish food court nightmare come to mind. That's hardly the case at Petit Robert Central, although you may have some trouble actually finding the second floor Downtown Crossing restaurant space if you don't know where to look. (Try looking up). No matter, the after work and wet lunch office crowd should eventually know the path by heart if they've got halfway decent taste.
The recently opened incarnation of the expanding Petit Robert brand (with locations in Kenmore, Brighton, the South End and Needham) pays tribute to its French bistro roots with cocktails that lean on the Prohibition-era Paris bar scene with Sidecars and French 75s, French ingredients like Chartreuse, Lillet, and Pernod, and French Quarter New Orleans-born recipes. Bar manager Eric Cross emphasizes that heritage with a properly balanced selection of coquetiers (a French word once thought to be the origin of the word cocktail) like Harry's Pick-Me-Up Cocktail made with brandy, fresh lemon juice, grenadine and champagne.
The cocktail menu gives a brief background of where and when drinks like this were invented. “We want to create conversation,” Cross says. “To have people learn something about the drink that they're drinking. It adds another element to going into the bar, having a drink that has some history and a cool story.”
What he's having
“The Vieux Carre is my go-to,” says Cross, of the cocktail named after the French Quarter in the New Orleans made with equal parts Cognac, rye whiskey and sweet vermouth, plus a dash of Angostura and Peychaud's bitters. “But what does the trick is a teaspoon of Benedictine to soften it out. On paper it looks like a beast, but it's a great drink if you like brown liquors.”
Petit Robert Central
101 Arch St., Boston.