Alain Allegretti opened La Promenade Des Anglais at the end of last September, in the former Bette space in Chelsea. This marked the chef's return to the New York City dining scene after the kind-of-mysterious shutter of his first solo project, Allegretti, the year before. While La Promenade Des Anglais was in many ways a reaction to the mistakes of Allegretti?a more casual setting and a more eclectic menu, at a lower price point?Allegretti and company recently rebranded the restaurant as Bistro La Promenade, going for a more traditional French bistro style that, he says, is a simple case of giving the people what they want.
What made you want to dive right back into the New York dining scene? New York has just a fantastic food scene, and I think my talent and my food are kind of decided by the guest. So it was very important to me to come back, to be in the city, and compete with the other chefs.
How'd you spend that year in between? I think when you come out from whatever you'd call it, like a failure, the first step is to understand why your restaurant wasn't successful as much as you were hoping it would be. You make decisions, you make changes and so forth, and you start working on your next project. So when I closed Allegretti, I was always in discussion with LDV?who are my partners today?in order to come back. But [we had to] make sure we took all the time we needed to make sure we had the perfect concept, the perfect location, and everything. Finding a location in New York City is not easy, you know. So when we had all the ingredients in the recipe, it was time for me to reopen.
How'd you find this space? It was a lot of opportunity. The people know me in Chelsea, so it was kind of a great opportunity for me to come back in the area but in a much sexier and appealing location than 22nd Street in between Fifth and Sixth.
Were there any lessons from that Allegretti experience that you applied here? Absolutely, absolutely. First of all: don't set the level too high. My background is a fine dining background, all my life. [But] obviously if you want to open a neighborhood, casual restaurant, the food needs to be at the same level as the restaurant. Allegretti was too fancy, too elegant, too fine dining, for probably the worst street in New York City. But when you have a pedigree like mine, you think that because you have a nice culinary background and customers that follow you, that everything is going to be fine. It was fine for a certain amount of time?they came once, but they were like, "Okay, that's not for us." So you learn through that.
Is that why you've adopted a lower price point? Absolutely. Keep it as great a value for your customer. And even here, we started with a different approach and now that we have been a year in, we know exactly what our direction is, what our patrons are looking for. We're going to change a little bit from what we were going to do in the beginning, even if at the beginning it was like very casual and whatever. But I think they are looking more for a real French bistro. So this is the direction that we're going.
Specifically, what are those changes? I think the main focus for the new year is to show the real direction of this restaurant, where we're like a real French bistro.
So no more burgers? That will be coming off. [We] have more real bistro types of food on the menu. The real stuff: the escargot, some blanquette de veau, some boeuf bourgignon. Like real deep flavor. This is the type of food I was born and raised with, I have no shame in doing it. I think it's just fabulous and will match very well with the identity of this place. And also the demand of our customers, which is the most important thing for us.
Let's talk about your opening here. How'd that go? It was the kind of opening where it was very smooth. Especially after this place [Bette] was closed for four years, it was in very good shape and everything was working properly so we didn't have any major stories. We were very lucky, on time, so it was all good.
Obviously you've said you're changing the concept because of customer feedback. But in general, how do you think La Promenade was received this first year? I think that we've been very well received from the press, and also from the neighbors. But again, what is important is that the press only comes one time.
But the reviews live on forever. Yes. But still the most important thing is that you have to please your customer. This is your base supporting you every day. And again, after a year, we know exactly what they are looking for, what they want and what they are hoping to see.
How did the review process go? Was there more or less pressure this time around? Well again, you're coming back from a failure, [so] you want to come back really showing off. But also, this wasn't a place that I was hoping to get a three star review. Every review we got was exactly what we were expecting. In the end, the entire team did a fantastic job and we were very pleased.
So who are your customers? Who's coming in regularly? Well you know, the beauty of this neighborhood is like we are very close to the High Line, so we see a little bit of the tourists. We have the neighbors. And I have my network of guests that have been following me around now for the last 12 years, 13 years that I've been in New York. So I have a strong base that are still coming?not as much as I'd love them to, you know what I mean? Obviously [for some] coming down from the Upper East Side is quite a trip. But as long as I see their faces and everybody else's faces, I'm happy.
So what can I say? It's a very funny dining room. You have a really great mix inside the dining room, which is fabulous.
What are you most proud of from this last year? I really think I'm proud of every single moment from this last year. The team, the effort that we all put into this place so that it could be a successful place. From my partners, from the team, from myself, we are very pleased.
Does it feel like it's been a year? Being honest? Yes. I feel like it's been a year. I'm very happy that this year is over and that I can move forward. It's like having a boat that you have to take out of the port. And now you really feel like you're in the middle of the ocean and you can really embrace your place, embrace your patrons, and do what you have to do to make sure the boat is going in the right direction.
· All Coverage of Alain Allegretti [~ENY~]
· All Coverage of La Promenade Des Anglais/Bistro La Promenade [~ENY~]