Things to Do

Checking Out: Le Bar at the Sofitel Lafayette Square

Welcome to Checking Out, a new feature where we explore some of the area’s most interesting and swankiest hotel bars. This week we hit the sleek, Frenchified Le Bar at the Sofitel Lafayette Square.

A couple enjoys drinks at Le Bar.

A sleek canopy announcing the French lounge Le Bar invites the pre-dinner or pre-night-on-the-town crowd to veer toward its illuminated, tree-framed entrance. A further invitation: A doorman immediately swings open the double glass doors of the Sofitel Lafayette Square (806 15th St., NW; 202-730-8800), the hotel that houses the upscale, plush, and pricey bar.

The first sips of some unique, exciting-sounding cocktails aren’t as inviting—at least when it comes to the bar’s signature L’enfant (Grey Goose vodka, Chambord, Grand Marnier, and lemonade) and the Lychee-opolitan (vanilla vodka, lime, and lychee juice). The L’enfant—French for “child”—doesn’t have the smile-widening taste one might expect from its namesake or its lemonade-infused promise. The Lychee-opolitan, topped off with the bobbing, white Asian fruit it’s named for, offers less of a perfume-sweet lychee flavor and more of a strong, syrupy taste.

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The cocktails are redeeming in their elegance and go well with the shiny wooden tables, an obelisk of bold vases at the room’s center, and the red lighting and candles accenting the space’s smooth lines. A tall bar invites the toute seule hotel guest with three flatscreens and beers on tap: Leffe, Stella Artois, and Irish Bass Ale. The spacious setting allows for intimate conversations. As bar interiors go, only the busy black-and-white pattern of the chairs’ upholstery seems out of place.

Le Bar recently started serving food, including steak frites and Peking-duck spring rolls. The sweet-potato frites—served in a folded, fake newspaper and served with a Gorgonzola dipping sauce—are the perfect bar snack and go surprisingly well with a decent wine list, including selections ranging from Italian to Californian. Leave it to a French hotel bar to let food and wine overshadow the cocktails.

Ici, an “urban bistro,” joins Le Bar in the Sofitel February 1, replacing the recently closed Cafe 15. Perhaps Le Bar’s food and wine are telling of what’s to come at Ici?

Do you have a favorite hotel bar in the Washington area? Let us know in the comments section and we’ll check it out!