Sexy Baranis brings some Mediterranean sunshine to the vaulted cellars of the same former auction house on Chancery Lance that houses Cigalon. It is here that the UK’s only indoor pétanque pitch is found. The boules-type game originated in Provence in the early 20th century and is now regarded as a national sport in France. It’s a delightful addition to the St Tropez-inspired bar, with its brightly painted pillars, bare brick, secluded alcoves, and the vintage pin-up starlets that adorn the walls.
Baranis is – first and foremost – a bar, and one where the aromas and tastes of Provence take precedence. Pastis, the anise-flavoured aperitif that has an almost mythical status in France, features strongly on the beguiling cocktail list, as does “the green fairy”, Absinthe – a spirit so potent it’s guaranteed to get any party started. Calvados, Cointreau and Cognac also appear on what is an innovative assortment of libations: opt for a classic French martini or French 75, or defy convention and sip a floral Lychee & lavender martini or a Pastis old fashioned. The walk-in cellar holds a wealth of French wines, with a concentration on Provençaland Corsican vin – many of which are underrated, under-supped and deserve to be drunk.
The food – a more casual affair compared to Cigalon upstairs – is chosen to complement the beverages and snack-like in nature. Like Cigalon, the culinary influences are Provence and Corsica. Pissaladière, an anchovy and onion tart, stays true to its roots, as does Socca, a crisp, chickpea pancake. Niçoisesalad aims to satisfy smaller appetites, just as the beef burger with homemade barbecue sauce, and the charcuterie selection sates hungrier folk. Fresh goat’s cheese and violet jelly is a light, subtle cheese course; and finger desserts are in keeping with the bar’s straightforward fare. Do what the French would do and go for the lunchtime Plat du Jour, reasonable at £6 – a steal at £8 with a glass of vino.
Baranis is as good-looking and captivating as the jet set that frequents the French Riviera. Yet although it’s cool, it’s too good-humoured to be exclusive. A restful lunch is something Baranis does very well, but this buzzing bar comes into its own in the evening – take friends or clients and they’ll come away believing you took them on a surprise jolly for a few precious hours.