Food & Drink

La Goulue is Ready for its Deuxieme Redux

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Eight years ago, the noted New York restaurateur Jean Denoyer closed the second incarnation of his French bistro La Goulue, the Upper East Side society fixture which introduced casual French dining to New York in 1973.

At the time, there was no popping of Dom Perignon. The restaurant’s unexpected demise was the result of an astronomical Madison Avenue rent hike. It both baffled and saddened the now semi-retired 76-year-old Frenchman. There was no way, he sighed then, that he could ever match the new $6 million annual asking price for its lease. Loro Piano now occupies that space.

“I will be back,” Denoyer, who also owns the Manhattan bistros Orsay and Brasserie Ruhlmann, vowed that day. And finally, come December 11th, like a French Phoenix rising from Gauloise ashes, Denoyer—and two partners, one-time maitre d’ Craig Pogson and Chef Antoine Camin, who once earned La Goulue a Michelin star—will reopen at 29 E. 61st Street, steps away from Barneys, The Regency, Graff’s New York headquarters, and the posh Julien Farel Salon & Spa.

Its somewhat larger size aside, don’t expect much change for today’s digital age. Denoyer—a connoisseur of decor who can unearth a priceless antique at the Marché aux Puces or discover a bevy of century-old beveled mirrors at an auction of old New York Irish pubs—took with him every single door, Art Deco dining room table and chair, light fixture (yellow, nicotine-tinged, art nouveau domed sconces signed by Majorelle with blown glass by Daum), and deep wood paneling. He even packed up the brass luggage racks which summon up the Orient Express. Not to mention the Toulouse-Lautrec lithograph of the Moulin Rouge depicting the famous cancan dancer La Goulue.

In French, goulue means “glutton.” Denoyer and Co. predict that the Upper East Side’s well-heeled and well-connected will hunger afresh for La Goulue’s unique ambiance, after years without this beloved spot where the fashionably faithful could kick off their heels and just chill. Pogson says they’ve received over 4,000 emails from former clients anticipating its homecoming.     

La Goulue was always something of a club–but without a membership fee. Members included Cècile David-Weill, Alex Hitz (“The Beverly Hills Cookbook,”), Annette de la Renta (her late husband Oscar was an aficionado), Nancy and Henry Kissinger, Jamie Niven, former CNN anchor Felicia Taylor, as well as Mick Jagger, Jude Law, Serena Williams, Yoko Ono, Calvin Klein, and Grace Jones. Jackie Onassis would sit huddled in a plush corner banquette with her sister, Lee Radziwill while Catherine Deneuve chatted up Sydney Poitier.  

The place dripped of style and manner but without the foreboding French haughtiness. The jeweler Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia hosted a weekend lunch club for friends like Chinese Porcelain Company owner Pierre Durand, journalist Bettina Zilkha, and shoe designer Vanessa Noel. “I’m hugely excited that La  Goulue is reopening,” says Noel. “Those beautiful, snowy weekends enjoying a soufflé and watching the fashion crowd come and go. The Upper East Side hasn’t been the same.”

With the exception of a few French vegan dishes, expect the reappearance of La Goulue’s signature fare: authentic French comfort cuisine such as its sublime truffle soufflé, its inimitable frites (they undergo a five stage cooking process), exquisite white truffle risotto, hearty cassoulet, and infamous profiteroles or oversized pink macaroons.  Pogson also promises something unique in uptown restaurants:  affordable wines.  

“I am one hundred percent confident they will all return,” says Pogson of its devotees. At the very least, hotel concierges and flight crews will be requesting its ever-popular take-out: boxed lunches of homemade beignet of duck foie gras, steak tartare, and luscious cheeses for private jets readying to take off to Europe, Aspen, or St. Barth. An ethereal testament to the jet set’s affair d’amour with La Goulue.


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