Daniel Boulud opens Le Gratin at the Beekman Hotel

Images of Bill Milne

It’s a little head-spinning to realize that nearly eight years ago we first saw what was to be the gastronomy of the future and fabulous hotel The Beekman, in the Financial District not really trendy New York. Certainly, the star power duel of legendary restaurateur Keith McNally and celebrity chef Tom Colicchio promised to pit the epicurean trend-hunters of Gotham against the big spenders of Wall Street. The hotel and restaurants officially opened their collective doors in August 2016, with all three being showered with praise.

Colicchio still rules the hotel courtyard of the temple. But Mr McNally tragically suffered a debilitating stroke in 2017, forcing him to step down from frontline management of his hotel empire. But the latter’s Augustine restaurant remained such a sublime representation of his philosophy (New York-style French cuisine, evocative design, with the famous and fabulous sitting contentedly side-by-side with the mere mortal), that he continued to be hugely popular, until COVID finally shut down in 2020.

But now the many Michelin stars Daniel Boulud took possession of the space, and its new Gratin is surely the most relaxed he has allowed himself to be. The French culinary master grew up in Saint-Pierre-de-Chandieu, about 30 km from the gastronomic holy land of Lyons – and here he brings the best of his traditions to 5 Beekman Street, 3800 miles away.

“Le Gratin is a special name for me, he enthuses, which reminds me of many symbolic dishes from my childhood, overflowing with love and soul. It also connects me to the traditional bistros and corks of my hometown, with a menu inspired by certain classics of Lyon cuisine.

It also promises to recreate the warm ambiance and inviting service of those same corks, which is not an easy thing to achieve in the highly anticipated Stock-Market-City-NYC neighborhoods.

It also means offering elevated versions of the French worker (worker) kitchen with sophisticated Gotham palettes. Although we can honestly think of few things we’d rather dine in the big city than the likes of Crab Marie Rose, Moules Frites Sauce Poulette, Gourmet Pâté en Croûte, Steak Tartare A La Parisienne, Magret de Canard au Poivre Vert, or Rosemary Grilled Rib of Beef with a generous portion of calorie-rich béarnaise – all of which feature on Le Gratin’s hearty and quite authentic menu. DB even serves his mother’s (surely famous) Gratin Dauphinois Comme Marie, a potato gratin with cheese and cream, for that special family touch.

The striking interiors, with traditional bistro chairs, a painted coffered ceiling, and Art Nouveau-style globe chandeliers, remain mostly intact. It’s almost enough to make you feel like you’ve been taken somewhere in the Old Lyonexcept for everyone talking about their stock portfolios and the latest episode of Succession.

So yes, this is the perfect Daniel Boulud restaurant for these anxious times, born from the precious memories of youth, comfortable and comforting, but just fabulous enough to remind you that it is truly a product of the contemporary DB ethos. And honestly, even if we are in fact ready to travel these 3800 miles for a very good Pâté de Campagne au Poivre Vert, the arrival of Gratin certainly makes everything much easier.

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