Here’s a little Parisian bar that packs a big punch – and punch is the right word. The Cravan bar is named after the poet/boxer Arthur Cravan.
This unexpected mix of poetry and boxing is the exact kind of contrast that owner Franck Audoux enjoys, and it inspired him to open a cool cocktail bar in the middle of a relatively sleepy area.
We visited the bar as part of our 24 hours in the 16th arrondissement, and chatted with Franck about his bar and the neighbourhood. Below are photos from the bar, plus a transcript from this week’s podcast, which you can listen to here.
But first: Quick facts about Cravan
It was opened in May 2018 on rue Jean de La Fontaine. The building dates back to 1911 and was designed by the “Pope of Art Nouveau”, Hector Guimard.
The interior was designed in a similar style (but by another artist). It was named as one of the Best New Bars in the World in Conde Nast’s 2020 guide. You can find the bar here: Address: 17 rue Jean de La Fontaine – 75016 Paris. Open Wednesday to Saturday 6pm – 11pm.
Q&A with Franck Audoux from Cravan
Let’s begin with the 16th arrondissement.
For Cravan, the idea is that we’re a real destination. I have lived in Paris for a long time now and I’m not really attached to one district. I have always moved around Paris. So I love the idea of crossing the city to have a coffee somewhere and then to cross the city again to have a drink somewhere else.
And are you finding that your customers are from all over the city?
We have three different types of customers. Firstly, we have customers from the west of Paris, the second is tourists, then the third is the rest of the city. But the 16th for me, to be honest, I don’t really know the area. I chose this place to tell a story. Yes, Cravan is a cocktail bar, but the most important thing to me is to give a sense to the things I do. When I saw this place, for me, it was the perfect place to tell a story.
You mentioned Hector Guimard, the “Pope of Art Nouveau”: are you a fan of his? Is that what drew you to this place?
Hector Guimard is quite important to architecture, even if Art Nouveau disappeared with Art Deco and so on. Nobody really knew the importance of Art Nouveau, but now more and more people know how big this movement was. You know that in 1971, there was an exhibition in MoMA in New York about Hector Guimard and here in Paris at the same time, they destroyed almost all the villas he built and a lot of subway stations. There are only a few of them left.
Could you describe this bar where we’re sitting?
It’s a cafe bar from 1911 and Hector Guimard designed the building. The interior design is not by Hector Guimard, but by a different artist. So there are different architectural movements within this bar. The space is like it was in 1911, the ceilings, the paintings, the mirror is from the time.
Let’s talk about the cocktails. Have you got a deep interest in cocktails and exploring new things?
Yes, Caravan is quite particular. When we opened we received a lot of awards and press. Here we are very focused on balance, flavour, using minimal ingredients, taking care of the glassware and there are no fancy garnishes. This is really quite a radical proposition: a focus on the drinks and on the flavour. So that’s also the durability we can find in a place from 1911. The idea is that we have gastronomy liquid from the past, but with cocktails for the future.
What are the cocktails you’re proud of here? When I visit, what should I drink?
The cocktail, which is called “Yellow”, has a focus on bitterness. We also have “Royal Basilic”, the idea with this cocktail is that it has an infusion of basil flower and dried basil from Sicily. We have four of them in the series, all focused on natural qualities and herbs. They are just an infusion of champagne, so it’s something different but always elegant.
Are they expensive? What does Yellow cost?
Yellow is 15€, The Royal is 12€
I would have imagined that in the 16th everything would be a little bit more expensive.
Yeah, but we are not in this kind of establishment.
So you have a storied past in restaurants. You were in the 11th then on the other side of Paris…?
Yeah, my former career was in restaurants, gastronomic restaurants, in the 11th district and when we opened this place in 2016, the 11th district was not what it is now. I really like the idea of “breaking the rules”, so as there were a lot of places opening in the east of Paris, for me, the first thing to do was to open a place on the opposite side of the city.
So you come to this side of Paris, you’re sitting here in a leather jacket – you’re the bad boy of the 16th, making cocktails.
The idea was to be where people don’t expect you to be.
But speaking of time, anyone who is out there who has the time to come to the 16th arrondissement, should come to Cravan.
Yep, definitely, you’d always be very welcome.
The Earful Tower podcast episode
You can hear more from Franck in the podcast episode below from 21:51. Listen to the end to hear our final ranking on the district out of 100.
Tour the 16th arrondissement in our YouTube video
Here is our visit the to 16th arrondissement in video format, from our YouTube channel, where you can get another glimpse at the cocktails from Cravan at 4:25. We’re making a video like this every week, so be sure to subscribe (you can do it in one click via this link).
And that’s it! A big thanks to Charlotte Pleasants for the additional reporting, Augusta Sagnelli for the photos, and to the Patreon members who make all this possible. Join them here.
If you want more from Franck, he wrote French Moderne Cocktails from the 1920s & 1930s, which he describes as a “cultural snapshot” of Paris between the wars during the golden age of cocktails..
Oh yes, and you can also support our work by buying one of our children’s books, or our PDF guide, below. Merci!