Note: Just four months after opening night, chef Craig Hopson and creative director Frank Roberts left the restaurant, citing “creative differences.” Just a month earlier, a New York Post article described the place as a “playpen for millionaires.” Whether it can retain its cachet without Hopson or Roberts remains to be seen.
A high-gloss restaurant opens in midtown, with white tablecloths, glistening chandeliers, a mirrored staircase, a grand piano, rose petal wallpaper, Jean Paul Gualtier fabrics, plush suede seating, and a décor modeled on Coco Chanel’s Paris apartment.
The question here is not whether the chef, Craig Hopson, can run a kitchen worthy of such a luxurious setting. He more than proved himself, first as Terrance Brennan’s chef de cuisine at Picholine from 2003–07, and then at Le Cirque from 2008–12.
No, the question is who exactly will be the core constituency for a restaurant so resolutely contrary to every current trend. I’d love to see it succeed, but I’m not blind to fashion, and cheerleading from this blog doesn’t matter.
The Central Park South ecosystem has not been friendly to restaurants. It’s a place they go to die, or at best, to be forgotten. In the last decade, only Marea has opened in this neighborhood, and been both a critical and commercial success.
If Beautique wants to be taken seriously, a few easy fixes are in order. It certainly looks shady when, less than a month after opening, the online menus are revised to omit prices. They have nothing to be ashamed of. For the neighborhood, it is not really that expensive, with appetizers $14–19, entrées $29–39, side dishes $9, and desserts $12.
On a menu that pretends the last ten years never happened, there’s no tasting menu, no snacks, sharing plates, or large-format entrées for two. Not that I object to any of this, but I can well imagine the critical reaction.
As I recall, the 200-bottle wine list was fairly priced in relation to the food: a 2005 Château du Grand Bos (above left) was $86, a shade under 3 times retail, and the staff decanted it. But why is the list not online? Just because the décor is from another era, does not mean the technology must be.
Frank Roberts, formerly of Rose Bar, is the general manager here. One might assume that he superintends the cocktail program, and it’s a good one (even if expensive, at $19 a pop). There’s a mixture of slightly-tweaked classics (Bellini, French 75) and house recipes.
The appealing bread service (above right) came with hummus, but there was no amuse bouche, which a restaurant of Beautique’s apparent ambitions ought to have.
Although everything is capably prepared, there’s not much critic bait on the menu—the sort of dishes that set pulses racing from their descriptions alone. A Crab Flan ($19; above right) is one of the exceptions, with chunks of pork belly in a malt caramel sauce. More typical is a soft-shell crab ($19; above left) appetizer: first rate and technically correct, but you’ve seen it before.
You can’t go wrong with the Scallops ($32; above left) with a foie gras sabayon, shitake mushrooms, and turnips in a diablo sauce. A Lamb Mixed Grill ($38; above right) was served five ways, of which three stood out (bacon, sausage, and chop).
The pastry chef is Jiho Kim, formerly of Gordon Ramsay at the London. His work here is superb, assuming his Mascarpone Custard ($12; above left) is any guide.
The design by Marc Dizon and Valerie Pasquiou is stunning. You already knew that. There’s a comfortable bar, two dining rooms (we were seated in the smaller “oval room”), a private dining area, and a spacious lounge that was not open when we visited.
Despite the luxury design, the basement space can feel a bit gloomy when empty, as it was on the early side of the dinner hour, on a Wednesday evening. By the time we left, it was a bit over half full, and felt more energetic. The service is a bit retro: I can’t remember the last time outside of France that I was called monsieur, but the staff are relatively unobtrusive. Dishes are presented without the slightest explanation, and that is that.
The decision to open a restaurant that practically ignores contemporary fashion is obviously deliberate. I don’t mind it at all, though I suspect many will. If Beautique wants to revive the service model of another era, there shouldn’t be any half-measures. Put your prices and wine list on the website, and take credit for offering something that no one lately has done.
Beautique (8 W. 58th Street, west of Sixth Avenue)
Food: Old-school luxurious French-influenced cuisine
Service: Polished and unobtrusive
Ambiance: A series of rooms modeled on Coco Chanel’s Paris apartment