Bagatelle: St. Tropez Comes to South Beach

Restaurant chain Bagatelle has opened a South Beach location at 2000 Collins Ave., giving Miami's beautiful people another place to sip champagne in a fairy-tale setting.

With locations already in the tony cities of New York, Los Angeles, São Paulo, St. Barts, and St. Tropez, Bagatelle was fated to come to Miami. What's different about this spot is the fact that it's housed in the soon-to-open Villa Bagatelle Hotel, with rooms ranging from a relatively reasonable $279 per night to $1,629 for the two-bedroom Bagatelle Villa Suite, complete with a private roof deck and ocean views.

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Bagatelle is owned by Aymeric Clemente and Remi Laba, restaurateurs, promoters, and club owners who strive to bring the South of France's blend of sophistication and debauchery to their restaurants. That means Sunday brunches in New York and Los Angeles are filled with DJs, drinking, lots of dancing, and -- if you believe Yelp reviews -- a club-like setting featuring giant drinks with straws to share, bottle service, and sparklers. Strangely, the Miami Beach outpost is not open for the famous Sunday debauchery -- at least not yet, but it will be offered at a later date.

The 144-seat indoor/outdoor space features beige and white furnishings accented by pop art curated by Opera Gallery. A stone-top bar is touted as "ideal for the fashionable, beautiful, and leaders of industry," but Laba says the restaurant is meant for everyone. "We are a restaurant first, and that means we focus on serving great South of France dishes in a fun-loving environment where the service is on point and doesn't discriminate between the locals and the passing jet setters. We also make sure to be well priced and very welcoming at all times, and this is what I believe locals are looking for. They are seeking restaurants where they can build a relationship, come often, be recognized, have a great meal, a good time, and not leave with the feeling the check was too steep."

Laba says his restaurants are as much about atmosphere as food and service. "In my opinion, you can't single any of them out. If you forget one of them, you have an incomplete restaurant. We believe that our success so far has been linked to the fact that we always made sure to link great food and service to a memorable atmosphere based around joie de vivre. We are not about to move away from our core values."

Asked about the infamous brunches, Laba says they've been a huge success. "Good music, good food, and good cocktails usually are the ingredients of a great party. To this recipe, you add the great personality of our staff and you have a memorable time. We believe the best part about brunch is feeling that you are in St. Tropez for a few hours. You are transported overseas in a matter of minutes without having to leave South Beach."

Though the restaurant sounds like a party machine, Laba says he doesn't believe in velvet ropes, although he admits there's a door person "in the welcoming sense of the word." There's also a very serious chef helming the kitchen.

Matthieu Godard is the executive chef of the Miami branch of Bagatelle, and his resumé is impressive. The chef graduated from the food and beverage program at the Hotel School in Rouen in Northern France. He spent seven years working within Daniel Boulud's organization, including a stint at the three-Michelin-starred Daniel. So it's no surprise that Godard's kitchen turns out pricey and decadent standards like black truffle pizza ($22); caviar (market price); a whole truffled, roasted chicken for two ($69); and a 24-ounce Chateaubriand for two ($145).

Godard says he was looking for a new and exciting challenge in Miami -- and the Bagatelle Company was there. "Things happen for a reason." The chef says his experience in extreme fine dining is an asset to his role at Bagatelle. "I want our customers to know that they are going to enjoy our food."

If it seems like Bagatelle has a dual personality, it does, in a most calculated way. As Laba puts it: "Anyone can find something they love at Bagatelle. We are a restaurant before anything. You want a great meal, we are here to provide just that. We can be loud for sure, but we can be romantic and quiet as well. The restaurant has multiple personalities, and depending on the time of your reservation, you can experience our different character traits. Don't come just for the party; come for our food first and our famous Bagatelle smile!"

Bagatelle Miami is open Sunday through Wednesday from 6 p.m. to midnight and Thursday through Saturday from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. That famous Sunday brunch is coming soon.

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss