Speaking Truthfully about Spikisi

It was the third and last stop on our Jeune Genevois cocktail-bar-hopping night. Walking down the cobble stone street to Spikisi, with a few cocktails already down the hatch, the mood was giddy: we had left Geneva and were projecting ourselves onto the late-night streets of Milano (without the mess of limbs and the clattering of voices). It seemed like Geneva might finally have the critical mass of cool bars it needs to foster a night life fit for those of us who are neither students nor bankers!

First let’s debunk the expectation that the Spikisi is a speakeasy- sadly, it is just a fun misnomer. The bar/restaurant sits on a small street behind Plainpalais and not in anyway concealed. But, when I stumbled across this place on a website advertising it as a bar, it seemed promising. From there, I perused their Facebook page, where visions of cocktails and burgers danced in my head. What a cash cow, I thought to myself: nightcap AND preventive hangover remedy in one go? Why hadn’t anyone else thought of that yet?

The bar has that neighborhood café feel

The bar has that neighborhood café feel

The setting is perfectly attuned to my taste: small, warm, café style seating with a romantic twinge, but very much still feeling like a bar scene. Reggae/ska/ragga over the loudspeaker gave the place a cool and comfy vibe. My anticipation grew, despite myself: had we reached the promised-land?

I started fearing I built it up too much in my own head. I mean look at the competition: Geneva is now graced with some internationally competitive burgers thanks to Inglewood and The Hamburger Foundation, and Apothicaire still boasts my all-time favorite cocktail (and no, it’s not on the menu).  Spikisi had some tough acts to follow.

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The restaurant spreads out to the basement, for more whimsical seating

The restaurant spreads out to the basement, for more whimsical seating

Let’s get the tough part out of the way: the cocktails were downright undrinkable. The Italian owner, mustachioed and as hipster as they come, was super friendly and asked me what kind of alcohol and flavors I was into. I told him my standard: gimme something tart and tangy, not too sweet, not “tropical”, not bitter. That usually results in a gin with some kind of citrus, a cucumber and/or mint, and some signature flavor to make it stand out. In this case, he arrived with a dark orange sample for me to taste what turned out to be a Negroni, a classic Italian cocktail that to me is squarely in the “bitter” category. I declined. Second sample: the liquid was bright yellow this time. It tasted like liquified lemon cough drops; I diplomatically told him it was just too sweet. Third try: a fluorescent blue-green liquid, which I tasted and accepted because it was the least offensive so far. If memory serves, it must have been a kamikaze. Whatever it was, it did NOT match the pictures of the cocktails I saw on their FB page.

Funky menu from which decade, i don't really know

Funky menu from which decade, i don’t really know

The burger combos they proposed sounded great and spoke to the 20s-30s theme: “Frank Me!” “Al Capone” and the “Borsalino” to name a few. I chose the Metropolis, which came with mozzarella, caramelized onions, and barbecue sauce. THF and co. can rest easy, there was no competition there. The burgers were all bun, no patty. Undersalted/uderseasoned. The meat was on the dry side. My caramelized onions were tasteless (an accomplishment indeed). And the fries were simply forgettable.

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Sadly, I loved the place, but wouldn’t be able to justify going back for either the food or the drinks. It’s got a great space, cute decor, laid back vibe, and very warm and whimsical staff. Now, if they would only invest in a decent cocktail shaker behind the bar and a burger flipper in the kitchen…

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