The belle epoque chandeliers glisten. The curtains groan in their heavy velvet luster. The bespoke bar boasts top-shelf spirits and French champagne. And the cushy custom furniture suggests a taste for the fine life.
Or la vie boheme might be more accurate. Victor, a new French-themed bar/lounge, has opened in the former Zimm’s Bar space at 4321 Montrose. It’s so rich in its lusty textile and cut-crystal richness it looks like it might have been bobbing in champagne bubbles for ages.
But no, the chic bar is newly minted, the project of an intensely focused group of Frenchmen whose collective eye has envisioned an operation that looks, tastes and sounds tres French. Named for “Les Miserables” author Victor Hugo, the 50-seat lounge (with a 12-seat bar) sports cadet blue upholstered furniture and navy walls and drapery; the inky darkness brightened by the soft glow of chandeliers and orange ottomans. There are a handful of heavily curtained VIP rooms that the owners prefer calling lounges. And throughout, quotes from famous French citizens are stenciled onto the walls. One such quip, emblazoned in French, from Coco Chanel: “I only drink champagne on two occasions: When I am in love and when I am not.”
Well, Coco, there’s plenty of fizz to keep the in-love and the loveless happy at Victor. The menu boasts Bollinger, Dom Perignon, Cristal, Dom Ruinart and Armand de Brignac champagne, as well as a healthy selection of French red, white and rose wine. And plenty of craft cocktails such as the Envie de Toi (Bulleit Rye, sweet vermouth and chocolate bitters), Epicee (Grey Goose vodka, elderflower liqueur and jalapeno ginger paste), and Marseille (vodka, basil, brown sugar, lemonade and bitters). There are also appropriately Frenchy nibbles: duck pate, country pate, smoked salmon, Croque Monsieur, tapenade and country bread, and meats and cheese boards.
Victor’s backstory has decidedly c’est la vie elements. Co-founder Vincent Sinard, who owns a real estate brokerage firm in Las Vegas, was visiting a friend in Houston who was opening a store at River Oaks District. During that visit he dined at Café Azur, only steps from the former Zimm’s Bar. “I felt a good vibe,” said Sinard, originally from the south of France. When he heard that the Zimm’s space became available, Houston suddenly looked ripe for a French wave.
Partnerships were formed and the Zimm’s space was acquired with Sinard as co-owner and Jean-Pierre Gleize, a nightclub owner and restaurateur from Toulouse, as owner/operator. Franky Boissy, manager of Victor, is a deejay and club owner responsible for Pink nightclub in San Francisco.
Boissy might be doing more for putting a quintessentially French twist on Victor with a unique blend of French music that he has described as a blend of disco, soul, funk, jazz and worldbeat. In addition to the house soundtrack, there will be a live deejay Wednesday through Saturday nights and a party every Wednesday called La French, a celebration of French underground music blended with French classics.
“Edith Piaf and an accordion is not who we are,” Boissy said.
Sinard said Vincent might feel right at home in Houston but it’s definitely not anything like Houstonians have in their current party playlist.
“We’re trying to bring something very different to the city of Houston,” he said.
And there’s more of that different to come. The Vincent team also has acquired the former Café Azur space, 4315 Montrose, and will completely renovate it for a new French restaurant. Expect La Villa Saint Tropez to bow within a month, Sinard said.
Victor, 4321 Montrose, 713-521-2002; barvictor.com. Open Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 to 11 p.m., Thursday through Saturday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday 5 to 11 p.m.