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After a week of previews — including one with the cast of 7th Heaven and a party attended by Rachel Zoe and Mandy Moore — Jessica Biel’s kid-friendly restaurant Au Fudge opens on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood on Friday. The whimsical eatery is a partnership between the actress and five other co-founders, including her stylist Estee Stanley (who also dresses Lea Michele and previously collaborated with Biel’s hubby, Justin Timberlake, on HomeMint).
The restaurant is a wonderland for children as well as parents. Up a secret spiral staircase there’s an actual treehouse, filled with shibori-dyed floor pillows and other eclectic textiles from St. Frank, a San Francisco purveyor of home decor from around the world. Instead of taxidermy busts, there are stuffed busts of a unicorn and other creatures. (They’re also given names and are featured in the storybook about Au Fudge, written by partner Kimberly Muller, debuting on Friday too.) There’s an arcade, adorably tiny toilets, an all-white patio and a playroom staffed by au pairs (until 8 p.m.) where kids can do crafts, dance and play.
“It took me a year [to design],” says Stanley. “I wanted it to feel like you were coming over to my house; I wanted it to feel inviting, not like you were going to a restaurant. Most restaurants aren’t comfortable, but we wanted it to feel super cozy and inviting.” She spent countless hours searching for the food and gifts they sell in the front market, too — everything is organic, environmentally friendly, sans dyes, and not already sold nearby. The gold glitter paint in the spiral staircase is nontoxic and was specially mixed by Biel’s cousin, who is making gallon paint cans for them to sell.
For adults, there’s also a gorgeous marble bar with a Champagne-centric wine list and a sophisticated yet playful mixology program. It’s even open until the wee a.m. hours. The food, created by chef James King, is all seasonal, organic, locally sourced, sensitive to many allergies and preferences, and inventively plated. Burrata and tomatoes come on a ceramic painter’s palette, vegan salads are served in clawfoot bathtub dishes and mac and cheese is presented in a pink pig bowl.
Biel says the menu has been a work in progress that involved at least 20 different tastings with the partners. Although the actress says she had certain things she definitely wanted on the menu, “I didn’t get any of it. Because we have so many cooks in the kitchen, a big committee, if you get overruled then you get overruled,” says Biel. “Like for example, I wanted a seasoned curly fry or waffle fry. Ixnayed. They wanted the thin, like, McDonald’s fry. Also, we might have something like this, a poached egg sandwich. I just love a Florentine so much, but it might be on our brunch menu.”
But Biel has a plan: “I feel like I’m going to give it some time and slowly, maybe when we get successful, I’ll say, ‘OK, it’s time for the curly fry.'”
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