Bagatelle helped pioneer Manhattan’s weekend “day club” scene during the last decade’s boom years. The formula was simple for luring its big-bucks brunch clientele of high-flying finance dudes, off-the-clock models, jet-setting Europeans and Big Apple celebrities like Ivanka Trump, Blake Lively, Derek Jeter, Ralph Lauren, Eli Manning and Spike Lee. That is, flirt and nibble on accessible Southern French cuisine and consume bottle after bottle of Champagne for the main course, all while the room’s scene grows increasingly, gloriously sozzled and the afternoon turns toward dusk.
But partners Aymeric Clemente and Remi Laba are looking to launch the L.A. branch of their concept, which officially opens today, by taking a different approach. The local outpost, a joint venture with the One Group, which owns steakhouse STK, resides in the former home of night spot Boudoir on La Cienega Blvd. It will purposefully be waiting a while before offering brunch, hoping to develop a reputation — unlike its East Coast sister operation — first and foremost as a legitimate gastronomic destination.
“I don’t even know if we are going to do the brunch in L.A. at all,” says Clemente, who, with Laba, opened another iteration of Bagatelle in St. Barts this past October (an expansion of the brand to Miami’s South Beach is also in the works). “But if we do it, it will be at least after three months. Look, we do have a certain image in New York. But here, we want to be seen as a real restaurant. We want people to see us for our food and our service.” Bagatelle’s L.A. menu — which includes octopus salad with pearl onions, hamachi crudo with kumquats and veal with honey poached cranberries — will be executed by Scott Quinn, who has been brought in from Bouchon in Las Vegas.
Rosé, another flashy Southern French concept perceived to be catering to the same crowd, at the same price point, on the same stretch of La Cienega, announced its temporary closure in January (only months after opening) for unspecified “renovations” after failing to catch on. Clemente did not indicate whether the direct competitor’s own business troubles might have factored into the partners’ subsequent positioning decision.
Not that the good-times St.-Tropez vibe will be completely missing from the local offshoot. “Of course, we will have our DJ,” says Clemente. “It’s Bagatelle.”