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Back on the Bilboquet

Thursday, July 19, 2018

 


                                                      Fleming at Le Bilboquet

 


 


The dining empire of Le Bilboquet’s Philippe Delgrange and Le Billionaire Ronald O. Perelman sustained another growth spurt this week when Fleming by Le Bilboquet quietly opened for friends of the owners in an unmarked space at 27 East 62nd Street.  AVENUE dined there on Wednesday night, and is delighted to report that Delgrange and Perelman have cooked up more proof that the new restaurant row in the Lower East Sixties is among New York’s finest foodie destinations.  Another jewel has now been added to the crown that already boasts such gems as Avra, Rotisserie Georgette, Philippe, Le Veau d’Or, Jade Sixty, Il Mulino, Fred’s at Barneys, Serafina, Il Mulino, and La Goulue.  


Occupying a storefront in a building owned by Perelman’s McAndrews & Forbes conglomerate, Fleming is named for a school that once occupied its premises before moving to the West Side and closing in 1991. Perelman had bought the building two years earlier for just under $9 million.  He’s named the restaurant after the school, where his wife Anna Chapman was once a student.  Perelman also supervised the decor, which resembles the intimate, clubby Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy, and provided the simple, linear drawings that decorate the beige walls.


The restaurant  is run by Delgrange, who’s been in the business since he was a teenager, and worked at the nightclub Regine, and Madison Avenue’s OG bistro Le Relais before striking out on his own.  His first Le Bilboquet, named for the child’s toy with a ball on a string that must be caught on a spike or in a cup atop a short stick, was also a tiny, clubby place with less than three dozen seats. Operating a block away on East 63rd Street for sixteen years before it closed in 2012, it reopened (backed by Perelman, whose home and office is nearby, as well as Eric Clapton and Steven Witkoff) in a space about three times bigger, in 2013.  Though it is on the regular rotation of New York’s social set and visiting celebrities (while also serving as Perelman’s regular lunch room), it was an open secret that the personable Delgrange, a table-hopper par excellence, missed the smaller space, perhaps even more so after a Le Bilboquet branch opened in Sag Harbor and become a summertime sensation.


Delgrange was sitting happily with guests at Fleming at 10 PM on Wednesday night, and the joint was jumping with diners still arriving despite the late hour (although it wasn’t late at all by the standards of the original Le Bilboquet, which was renowned for its raffish, young crowd as well as its famous cajun chicken).  Fleming’s second-nighters were pretty and polished and ranged from twenty- to seventy-somethings.


The small Provencal-flavored preview menu includes artichoke beignets, an heirloom tomato and goat cheese salad, a circular fluke tartare made crunchy with bits of asparagus and spiced with mint, charred broccolini, octopus with charred eggplant and toasted pinenuts, and a foie gras and chicken liver mousse with peach mustard.  The pasta highlight is a Risotto cacio e pepe garnished with summer truffles. And main courses include poached halibut with fennel, seared cod with garlic aioli, roast chicken with chicken leg confit and wagyu beef tenderloin.  Entrees range from $26 to $45. 


But our favorite touch may be the bowl of match boxes sitting beneath the “no smoking/no vaping” sign in the bathroom.  Vive la France!


For the moment, you need to know someone to eat at Fleming.  But between Delgrange and Perelman, they know just about everyone who’s anyone, so if you’re reading this, that likely includes you.  


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