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You knew him at Bar Hemingway at Ritz Paris. Born in Rugby, Warwickshire in 1961, Colin Field is recognized as a cocktail authority, named “world’s best bartender” by Forbes on multiple occasions. During his tenure on place Vendôme, he didn’t just serve Le Tout Paris, but also Hollywood actors and celebrities, like Kate Moss, who became regulars. Now, after nearly 30 years, Field has retired from the Ritz. But don’t despair- he’s still in the consulting business. So you can taste his creations at the likes of Maison Proust in the Marais, where he’s a “permanent guest” behind the bar every Friday. The bar littéraire theme so appreciated by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Daniel Craig, and Bruce Willis is on full display here. In an exclusive interview, Field shared his thoughts on Paris and favorite city addresses.
If you could share a bottle of wine with a Parisian, living or deceased, who would it be?
That would be Serge Gainsbourg. It seems to me that he was an artist, actor, singer, and writer who was not afraid of the crowd, whether on stage or in society. I met him while I was working chez Lasserre, and participated in June 2007 on stage with Jane Birkin, Marianne Faithfull and Carla Bruni in the “Tribute to Gainsbourg” at Salle Pleyel in front of 2000 people.
A local you admire
Edouard Baer, the French actor, film director, director, screen writer, writer, whom I appreciate for his sense of repartee and his know-how.
Your favorite Paris ‘hood
I really liked the 18th. At one time I was married to a pretty dancer from the Moulin Rouge and really loved local life on rue Lepic. Unfortunately it has become too commercial; is this the fault of the successful film Amélie Poulain? Today I like the atmosphere around rue Cadet and rue Montorgueil and towards the Grands Boulevards.
What do you like best about Paris?
In Paris there are bistros and bars everywhere, I love them all. When I work in Tokyo, Shanghai, Palm Beach, Mexico City, to name a few, I find that bars and restaurants are quite rare in comparison.
What’s the one thing every Parisian must have?
A well-stuffed wallet! Paris may be the number one tourist destination in the world, but prices have become exorbitant. Restaurants, bars and taxis… That’s a hell of a budget! When I have lunch in the countryside, or go shopping outside Paris, the difference is incredible.
Where do you eat lunch in Paris?
I get up too late for lunch! But for dinner, Le Bon Georges ticks all the boxes. The beautiful beef comes from Alexandre Polmard, the star butcher/breeder who produces the best meat outside the state of Texas. Excellent service, great atmosphere, and the choice of wine is enormous if a little expensive.
Where do you drink in Paris?
I like Maison Souquet, opposite Le Moulin Rouge on rue de Liège, for a classy aperitif. For coffee, I just pop into any coffee shop whenever I feel like it. This is Paris! Once in Tokyo, I wanted a coffee, I had to take a taxi for 10 minutes!
If you were a cocktail…
I’m a big believer in “you are what you drink,” but I choose based on how I’m dressed, who I’m with, and the message I want to send. French 75 in a Tumbler, when I’m in a blue blazer and jeans. Manhattan on the rocks from November to March when dressed in tweeds. In my perfectly cut new Hugo Boss suit I’m a well balanced Dry Martini- straight up, three olives, Bombay Sapphire, please!
Where do you buy your clothes?
Marks and Spencer for shirts, boxers, socks etc. For suits it’s Hugo Boss (see above).
What’s the tourist activity you would try – if you had time?
The open-excursion sightseeing boat, on the top deck. I’ll hide a bottle of Champagne in my bag with two flutes. It’ll be upstream and downstream on the River Seine, with Marina my very beautiful wife, and we will not stop chatting while we enjoy our cruise.
If you could buy a Paris landmark, what would it be?
It has to be Maxim’s – pure Art Nouveau. It’s no longer for sale. The new owners, Paris Society, have recently reopened it after a renovation.
And for the Olympic Games, what are your plans?
I don’t think alcohol and sports are the perfect combination! Clients and friends say they’re leaving town from July 26th until August 11th. I look forward to meeting international visitors to Paris during this time.
If you were mayor of Paris for one day, what would you do?
I will not impose my own opinions on Parisians. But I would like to abolish priority on the left on the roads. There’s nothing logical in this law!
What’s the one thing you wish Parisians would stop moaning about?
Stop complaining… Just be more positive.
You have €25 euros left – how will you spend it?
I’ll go to Bouillon Chartier, one of the oldest restaurants in Paris with still reasonable prices. I would have a starter, a main course, a dessert, wine and the 25 euros will do the trick.
What’s your favorite book?
Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway. La Crevasse by Paris-born author Vladimir Volkoff. The Mountain of Tanios by Amin Maalouf. The Man Who Would Be King and other short stories by Rudyard Kipling. The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories by Hemingway. Oh dear, too difficult!
Your favorite movie?
I love movies. But Short Cuts by Robert Altman changed me for life because I identify with the boy in this film.
Your favorite city outside Paris?
The small fishing village Porto Ercole in Tuscany right next to my favorite hotel Il Pellicano.
An event you look forward to?
Fashion week! I have so many friends who come from everywhere, it’s really a party.
Your favorite place to entertain a guest in Paris?
La Maison Proust, where you’ll find me every Friday evening. The décor by Jacques Garcia is perfect; it reminds me of the legendary L’ Hotel, rue des Beaux Arts, where I once worked. Well, it’s mostly my house in the countryside of La Ferté Gaucher. On 2 hectares surrounded by 20 hectares of forests. We have no neighbors, we eat well and we can smoke cigars in the swimming pool with music as loud as we want! Afterwards we walk through the apple orchard.
A Paris secret?
You can’t go boating like Phantom of the Opera, but there is a “lake” beneath the Opera Garnier! Unfortunately, it is not open to the public. It is therefore impossible to admire it with one’s own eyes. Only the Paris fire department has ever had the chance to see it, as they train there from time to time. The tank would also serve as a reservoir in the event of a fire at the Opéra Garnier.
Need to Know
Colin Field collected so much marvelous memorabilia over the years that he is auctioning pieces online with Christie’s from February 29th-March 4th
Lead photo credit : Colin Field. Photo credit: Benjamin Roseburg