RIGA - The new Balzambars, across from the entrance to Old Riga's Dome Cathedral, is a place you go when you want to be seen. It attracts the type of people who glance in every other store window, not to see what there is to buy, but to check out their reflection and their strut.
It's the kind of place where it's fashionable for a woman to sip her cocktail alone, constantly shifting her wait to look more approachable, and where middle-aged men, who really shouldn't be in the company of such young and beautiful girls, are.
The bar's unreasonably loud music, almost always from a live DJ, by no means condones conversation. And why should it? Conversation involves focusing your attention on someone else, which is clearly a painful thing for these people to do.
To be blunt, Balzambars is vain. And I suppose it has every right to be so. The venue is freshly designed and so modernly stylish that no matter how hard you try not to give it the satisfaction of admiration, you find yourself doing so. And the same goes for the people.
You really must admire all of the effort, primping and money these creatures have put into themselves. You start to seriously consider if you should do the same. And then, suddenly feeling a tinge of self-consciousness glancing down at your unmanicured bitten nails and loose-fitting black pants, you decide to order a drink.
This is the point when things get better. After a satisfyingly strong cocktail - that is actually worth the 3-lat (4.50 euros) price - people start to seem friendlier. The murmur of conversation grows and more heads of gorgeous hair are tossed back in laughter. Instead of feeling intimidated by the presence of these pre-Madonnas, you start to feel somewhat cool drinking in their shadow.
After two drinks, you actually really start to like the place, from its pompously garnished Martini glasses to its too-cool-for-school" bar tenders. In fact you start to fall under the misimpression that you fit in with this crowd and that their wry smiles and shrewd glances your way are subtle acknowledgments of your existence. And while basking in these acknowledgments, you order another cocktail.
By this time you have decided that you are never going back to your favorite neighborhood bar, you are just too good. In fact, you are so above the "alus" thing. I mean, who does that?
And despite the glimmering disco ball begging for a purpose in life, music with an undeniably good beat and a perfect setup for dancing, you would never even think of escaping the candle-lit glow of your table to do so. Rather you just sit pretentiously swiveling your cocktail, decide it's about time you start smoking, stop eating pastries - in fact, stop eating in general - and start referring to people as "darling." You suddenly know what it means to be posh. And you like it. Thank you Balzambars.
Jaunais Balzambara Restorans
2 Dome Square, Riga
Open: 8 a.m. - 3 a.m.