Outlet 360: Bistrot Bagatelle
Though Bistrot Bagatelle was founded in New York by business partners Aymeric Clemente and Remi Laba, the concept seems tailor-made for the Dubai demographic — food aficionados who like to party.
Operations manager Frederic Tenton says: “It’s a fun festive restaurant where you have your dinner and then the ultimate goal is to stay and enjoy the night.”
Bistrot Bagatelle’s design was inspired by a typical Haussmanian apartment with details such as the mouldings, wall sconces, crystal chandeliers, leather banquettes and the all-white interior which allows light to reflect around the room.
Tenton describes the space as: “French-inspired, homey and comfortable. It’s almost like you’re stepping into a 1920’s Parisian salon. We want people to feel at home.”
Most Bistrot Bagatelle venues feature a bar in the dining room, but here they created separate spaces with just under 100 covers in the restaurant and 70 in the lounge. This was done in order to keep the bar alive once diners leave the dining room and also allows for a space where guests can smoke without bothering diners in the main room.
The fit out was done by Atlas and Callin Fortis from Big Time Design Studios, a boutique design firm based in Miami, designed the project. Bistrot Bagatelle’s local partner was Creative Clinic. The design agency had worked with the same operator on other projects like Catch Dubai.
The entertainment programme is a big part of the Bistrot Bagatelle experience: “Tuesday night is our French night and then on Thursday and Friday we have a resident DJ. On Saturday we have a jazz night that we’re going to launch in the season. We’re thinking it’s going to be Bagatelle Unplugged so it’s going to be very chilled,” says Tenton.
“The goal is for every guest to come and enjoy themselves. We have the advantage of being able to push the music where you can have a great dinner and you can party and dance so this venue allows us to have that extra push of fun.”
Bagatelle has had a busy summer with a Monaco opening and the launch of seasonal venues in Ibiza and St Tropez. Are there more locations on the cards? According to Tenton: “That is something that the brand owners are yet to decide.”
The food comprises Mediterranean flavours but there are global touches and nods to where the brand was conceived. Bistrot Bagatelle’s head chef, Timothy Newton, explains: “There’s a French base obviously. It’s a French restaurant but it was created in New York so I think there has to be a bit of American influence whether it’s hiring me, or for example, we have the foie gras sliders. Foie gras is a big French product and sliders are an American concept so we mix it up. I’m a classically trained French chef so I do like to keep the classics on the menu.”
Still, taking into account the competitive nature of Dubai’s dining scene, some adjustments have to be made. Newton says: “There are four or five dishes that came from the brand but we wanted to try and adapt them because the Dubai market is a little tougher than the rest of the world. I think it’s because there’s less people and so when something new opens up, they automatically flock there. We had to change and adapt to keep up with places like La Petite Maison and La Serre.”
Along with the atmosphere, Newton says that there are certain dishes that keep their regulars coming back: “Tuna tartare is definitely one of them. We also have a whole smoked sea bass which is amazing. The truffle chicken which is one of the brand’s signature dishes and the truffle gnocchi.”
While Newton is careful to hang on to the dishes that people love, a lot of work goes into ensuring the menu stays current. Newton says: “That’s the difficult part. We change the menu a lot. Sometimes we’ll change it once a week. It just depends. We’ll do a 25 to 30% change four times a year. We like to keep it current. We do a breakdown of the dishes people like and then we don’t remove those. So we keep the core but we try to keep everything new.”
The penchant for reinvention is facilitated by the restaurant’s location. For Newton, being based in Dubai means that he has very few limitations when it comes to ingredients. He explains: “The thing in Dubai is that I don’t think you need to care about seasonal too much. Everyone says ‘oh it should be seasonal’ but we have Australia, South Africa, we have the US, and we have Europe that we all get product from. It’s great to have all this access to produce.”
In terms of design, the chef admits that they aren’t reinventing the wheel in the kitchen but points out a few elements that he’s fond of: “They wanted to close the window but I said ‘keep it open please’. I think it’s the first kitchen I’ve worked in that has natural sunlight. It makes a difference.”
The back-of-house space is relatively small for the size of the restaurant but Newton doesn’t seem to mind: “I like small kitchens. There are 22 to 18 chefs and four kitchens porters. We cram it in there but it’s good. This is more of an American-style pass and I can see everything. Nothing leaves the kitchen unless I’ve seen it,” he concludes.