It's a sunny afternoon in South Beach and less than a block away, people are frying in the sun, but you'd never know it.. Inside it's dark, except for neon lights, and people are dancing. It could be 10 p.m. or 2 a.m., but it certainly doesn't feel like brunch.
This is Bagatelle's famous weekend party. The restaurant/lounge, with locations in New York, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, St. Barts, and St. Tropez, opened earlier this month on South Beach with gorgeous chandeliers, pop art curated by Opera Gallery, and an extensive Champagne list. The only thing missing was their infamous brunch with a reputation of being both opulent and decadent.
This past weekend, the brunch tiptoed in on cat paws, only to launch in full swing for WMC weekend. With stories of Supergirl serving Champagne and a non-stop stream of people dancing on their banquettes, I was invited to experience the much-storied festivities for myself.
I'm seated around 3 p.m., and the room is lively. All around, groups of well-dressed people are sipping on giant shared cocktails, festooned with colorful bendy straws. A DJ plays a best-of set list and people are swaying in their seats. Then, as if on cue, at around 3:30, black curtains are drawn, blocking out the midday sun as the volume gets pumped up, just as my own oversized cocktail, a twist on a French 75, arrives at my table.
Yes, there is food. A tortilla with goat cheese and chorizo ($19) was satisfying and a BBB&B Burger, topped with ham, cheese, and a fried egg ($27) was well cooked and enormous. Sure, that's a lot for a burger. But keep in mind, you're paying for the show. And what a show it is.
Bagatelle's brunch is a cross between a night in Vegas and interactive dinner theater. Bartenders dance, pour Champagne, and spray liquid nitrogen in the air for effect. Magnums and Jeroboams of Champagne (ranging from $290 to a shock-and-awe-inspiring $9,650) are brought to your table by Supergirl or The Incredible Hulk. It's quite a show.
It's also everyone's birthday, or so it seems.Table after table is gifted with giant ice cream sundaes topped with sparklers as bottles pop. It's what I can only imagine Chuck E. Cheese would be like if it catered to the 21-and-over set.
You needn't blow your entire trust fund for an afternoon of partying. Bottles of Champagne start at a more-affordable $90 and you can just as easily sip on a $16 glass of sangria and get the same effect.
And, while only the people willing to plunk down their gold cards for a magnum or better get Supergirl, everyone has the chance for a selfie with Ricardo, the lighted mascot who dances on tables and hands out glow sticks. Everyone wants to hang with this Happy Faced playboy, and I predict the hashtag #DancewithRicardo will be a new sensation in the weeks to come.
In the midst of all this action, Francois Latapie is making sure everything runs like a well-oiled machine behind the scenes. The director of operations for Bagatelle is charged with making this party run smoothly. He tells me that after months of working on the project, he's very happy with the first brunch. "For months I pictured people in here enjoying the afternoon. The day has finally come and it's wonderful."
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At 5:30, the party is in full swing, as Supergirl flies over to another table with more Champagne. I wonder how on earth the restaurant manages to turn over the restaurant for a busy Saturday night dinner service. Latapie assures me that this is no problem.
Sure enough, 15 minutes later, Frank Sinatra croons New York, New York as the black curtains open, spilling sunlight into the room. Servers drop checks almost simultaneously onto tables and within 15 minutes, the room is cleared of guests, who laughingly way make their way out into the real world to take disco naps before starting their Saturday evening.
Bagatelle's brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Reservations are strongly suggested. Bring a group and at least one birthday girl or boy.