When Richard Fiske bought The Bombay Club (830 Conti St., 586-0972; www.thebombayclub.com) 16 years ago, the French Quarter's jazz music scene was in decline. "Aside from Preservation Hall, nobody was doing jazz," he says. "Sixteen years ago, the complaint was that there was no jazz in the Quarter, so it is nice to be here and see jazz coming back."
The Bombay Club, a bar and restaurant that features nightly live performances by musicians such as Lillian Boutte, James Rivers and Leroy Jones, is one of the bastions of jazz music's French Quarter comeback, Fiske says. "(The Quarter) also has Irvin Mayfield's (Jazz Playhouse) and (the) Jeremy Davenport (Lounge), so it has really become a triangle for young and older people to come down and experience the pleasure of our local musicians," he says.
With its muted forest green palette, wood paneling, leather wingback chairs, curtained booths and lamps with red shades, the club's atmosphere is conducive to sensory pleasures afforded by the music, food and drink menus. This year, Cheryl Charming took the helm as head bar chef, crafting a new menu around the exacting ideals she's developed over her 31 years as a bartender. "I did want the menu to bring back the classics," says Charming, who has written 14 books about cocktails. "I said, 'If you want to be known as a martini place, let's go back to the beginning in 1852.'"
The drink menu is a book in itself, one that gives a history of cocktails dating from the 1700s to present. To enhance the authenticity of the cocktail experience, Charming bought vintage glasses from thrift stores. "That gigantic, conical martini glass everyone is used to seeing wasn't mass-produced until the late '90s," she says. "When (customers) touch that (vintage) glass and bring it to their mouth, it's like they're stepping back in time."
Fiske compares The Bombay Club to 1940s supper clubs. "What's old is new. This is really the only full-time supper club — the food complementing the beverages and entertainment," he says. "It's kind of a reinvention."
During her bartending shifts, Charming likes to play Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe movies. "We have the sound turned down, and of course there's live entertainment. And then, (customers) are drinking from vintage glassware, so it all goes together, what they see, hear and taste," she says. "It is kind of a nice, retro, throwback supper club."