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FOOD + DRINK

Translating an Iconic Figure into a Restaurant Concept, NYC's Brigitte

FOOD + DRINK

Translating an Iconic Figure into a Restaurant Concept, NYC's Brigitte

A meeting of the South of France and Brazil in the Lower East Side

by David Graver
on 14 March 2018

There's an exuberance to the corner of Canal and Ludlow. Its neighborhood—a confluence of the LES, Chinatown and Two Bridges—has seen high-profile additions like the Metrograph join NYC staples like Bacaro. Dimes, Forgetmenot and Kiki's form a triangle of quality and reliability. Without the trampling of tourists, there's something so charismatic to these restaurants, their proximity to one another and the preserved (perceived) New York-ness of it all. New to the ranks, Brigitte occupies the aforementioned corner, glowing out behind two walls of glass windows. During summer those windows will open up completely and an outdoor terrace will welcome guests from lunch onward every day. In the meantime, there's a negroni on tap. The restaurant is one month into the debut of a well-received brunch menu. And the food, both day and night, is as bright and delightful as the decor. As the name infers, the restaurant's inspiration is one iconic French actress; more specifically it's the time Brigitte Bardot spent living in Búzios, Brazil. And it's quite interesting to understand how the concept became a Mediterranean restaurant.

When Anthony Coppers, Chef Thomas Besnard, and Scott Alling began considering their own restaurant, it was as a natural extension of their decade-old catering company Convivium Catering. After much success, Chef Thomas desired a showcase destination—a restaurant of their own and one that could also house the catering operations. Coppers, a Belgium-American, saw it as an opportunity to bring people together over food with the potential for a greater experience. They began to consider concepts and a menu and set the process into motion. Now, months after its opening, Convivium has already outgrown the intimate space that houses Brigitte—having recently landed the VIP catering contract for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child—and what remains is a venue that's elevated and thoughtful but accessible and fun.

The trio brought in Caio Maggi as an additional partner, who proposed the concept in an accidentally comedic fashion. "I don't know if you know her," Coppers recounts of Maggi's exchange, "but we have this really cool French actor who lived in Búzios for a few years, following her Brazilian boyfriend. Her name is Brigitte Bardot." Coppers was struck by the time Bardot (who was very much an icon of the South of France) was living elsewhere. "We knew we wanted our menu to be Mediterranean but this gave us something more—this touch of Brazil. While we mixed these two, we also focused on the characteristics of Bardot's personality at this time: independent, strong-minded, spontaneous," Coppers explains to us. A gregarious man of many talents—and also the founder and Chief Creative Office of experiential design firm Gradient—Coppers and partners set out to build the menu, decor and environment.

Coppers called upon longtime collaborator Jeffrey White of EAU to imagine the restaurant's interiors. Together, they maximized the building's space with bright marbles, cozy seating arrangements, window options and a handsome bar-top. Plants sit and hang in many corners, breathing extra life into the space, and one very South of France photo anchors the rear wall. Bossa nova tunes filter through the air.

Coppers feels like the logo embodies the environs, or acts like a punctuation mark to it all. "It was very important to us because it had to represent the sunny side of France and also the sunny side of Brazil. The font is more of what you'd find at a traditional French bistro. The leaf behind it represents that additional sun that's shining in."

Of course, nothing matters quite as much as the menu. From the (gluten-free, vegan) flourless socca chickpea crepes to their tomato and gruyere tart (with dijon mustard and poppyseed crust), Mediterranean flavors play the dominant hand. New Zealand lamp chops and paprika-dusted octopus anchor the main course options, along with a delectable steak and butterflied hen. The brunch menu features many favorites, but the choice to serve crunchy fingerling potatoes instead of french fries (across the whole menu) an understated standout. "Our menu is all sharable," Coppers continues, "but it's different in that we didn't want to be another shared-food restaurant." This was where they hope to strike spontaneity, with unexpected flourishes of flavor arriving with each dish.

"There's a side of our decor that's a little elevated, but I didn't want people to perceive us as snobs invading the neighborhood. Our menu is reasonably priced and our service is casual. We want to service the mix of people in the neighborhood, and we are," Coppers concludes. It's a corner of NYC that they've all known; chef Thomas even worked at the location before. The team wants Brigitte to be the center of their universe, the first of many things to come. Right now, it's certainly worth a visit but we know first-hand that the restaurant, like its inspiration, has secrets and surprises that will reveal themselves in time.

Images courtesy of Dimanche Creative

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