Bar Les Frres
Luxuriate locally at this charming Parisian eatery.
Opulence is a sure cure for the winter blahs. Marble tabletops, vintage armchairs and fine china edged with gold might not be able to change the wintry weather, but they certainly brighten the spirits. Bar Les Frères’ warm red walls and intimate coziness hint at a getaway to a Parisian brasserie, minus the cost of airfare and TSA hassles.
Owner Zoe Robinson drew her talented staff from many local restaurants, building a team that didn’t need the usual grace period to work out service glitches when it opened in early November. Consequently, Bar Les Frères feels as if it has been in this corner of Clayton for a long time, just waiting to be discovered.
The setting can easily lure customers into ordering something decadent, and it won’t hurt the pocketbook here as much as it might elsewhere. The menu tops out at $23 for filet mignon with a red wine reduction. Blinis with caviar and crème fraiche, plus a glass of wine from the afternoon specials list, come in around $16.
Our visit came during the restaurant’s first week, which meant the kitchen was liberal withcomplimentary samples. First was the amuse bouche—garlicky tapenade with crostini—followed by a crusty roll with walnut butter. Then, ostensibly because there was still some bread left, a delicate porcelain cup of vichyssoise appeared. Bar Les Frères spices its version of the traditional cold, creamy potato-leek soup with just the right amount of nutmeg. Our server mentioned the extensive testing each dish on the menu underwent in order to make the cut; in his opinion, there’s not a “clunker” on it, and we tend to agree. Most of the fare shows a strong French influence, from the mussels to the caramelized apple tart—keeping with the theme Robinson selected for her third restaurant (its name means “the brothers” in French). The prolific restaurateur can easily flit back and forth across Wydown Boulevard from the new space to its Italian sibling, I Fratellini (also meaning “the brothers”). Her chic, modern Bobo Noodle House stands apart, both in concept and location, near Washington University.
Les apéritifs et digestifs
The cocktail menu is designed in anticipation of guests who come early (for aperitifs) or late (for digestifs) after their main meal, and is divided accord-ingly, with before-dinner choices like Campari on the left and after-dinner options like Grasshoppers on the right. Classic cocktails reign supreme. That’s not to say the experienced bartending team can’t mix it up with exotic spirits—it’s just that they choose to do so by resurrecting libations like the 1960s Pink Squirrel (crème de noyaux, white crème de cacao and heavy cream).
Robinson entrusts her customers (and dishwashers) with antique glassware. The delicate stems are picture-perfect against both of the restaurant’s backdrops: the zinc-topped bar overlooking a wall of mounted deer antlers, and the white marble tabletops scattered about under the watchful gaze of gilt-framed portraits in a mix of regal and whimsical styles.
The servers’ recommendations for wine tend to be spot-on, so unless you are tied to a particular grape, it’s worthwhile to experiment with a glass of something new. After all, opulence is all about ditching the everyday routine and living for the moment. Live it here.
Bar Les FrÀ_res
Bar Les FrÀ_res
Photo credit: Jennifer Silverberg