First Impressions: Beaubourg

Like any menu, the one at Beaubourg, inside Brookfield Place’s Le District, sets expectations: You’ll find bistro classics like steak frites and a croque monsieur, but for the most part this isn’t Keith McNally–style French. It’s fancier, fussier. Even those of us with more than a passing knowledge of French cuisine might have trouble keeping up with the Perigourdine sauce, the cumin gressin, the ratte potatoes, the brunoise printanière….

That sort of talk can be a real turn-on, if you can deliver on it—not just in the quality of the cooking, but also in the service and the atmosphere. An Italian restaurant that aims high and misses can come off as charmingly happy-go-lucky; a French restaurant has less wiggle room.

The two spaces at Beaubourg are attractive, especially the bar, and both will benefit greatly when the windows facing North Cove Marina are no longer blocked by construction fencing.

Beaubourg appears to aspire to the same league as Racines NY and North End Grill, but it lacks their sophistication and finesse. Messing with a classic dish—such as leeks en vinaigrette—is acceptable, if you make it better. The deconstructed leeks were topped with peanuts, scallions, chives, and lettuce…? The croutons in the frisée aux lardons were mealy, and the dressing lacked bite. The onion soup had an appealing richness, but the Gruyère shouldn’t just be melted—it should be browned and bubbling and oozing over the rim. Cod cooked à la plancha and served with ratatouille was flavorful, but it was as oily as it looks in the photo below.

Also like Racines NY and North End Grill, Beaubourg has a menu that’s determinedly unfriendly to vegetarians. It’s never a good sign when “pasta with vegetables” is the only non-salad option and, worse, the vegetables aren’t specified. This is an issue at Le District, too. There’s no defense in saying that French food isn’t veg-centric these days, because it is.

The good news? Over the course of my three visits, the service improved dramatically. The first server was hapless to the point of performance art. The second visit, for lunch in the bar area, went well until the end. Asking if you can clear my table while I’m still chewing bread (with more waiting on the bread plate) is a faux pas; asking two more questions—how was everything and would I like dessert?—while I keep chewing away is worse. We only reached bottom, however, when the server wiped the crumbs off the table with his bare hand. On my third visit, the server was knowledgeable and he got the job done, but our exchanges still felt awkward, something that simply shouldn’t happen at a fussy restaurant, French or otherwise, as often as it happens at Beaubourg.

I consistently left thinking the place just needs more time to settle in. The plywood is coming down soon, if it’s not down already. Let’s hope the extra capacity that comes with outdoor seating doesn’t undo the progress the restaurant has made so far.

Beaubourg is inside Le District at Brookfield Place, 225 Liberty; 212-981-8589;

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  1. Sounds like any food establishment owned and operated by the Poulakakos family. Bunch of items on the menu they can’t deliver on. Instead, one is served some slop on a plate. Reliably mediocre service. And there’s always some sort of nephew or a cousin of Harry’s operating the credit card machine in the back.

  2. It is such a shame Brookfield , or shall I say BPCA, didn’t pick a true restauranteur, not just a mediocre pub group, trying to go upmarket. They had an opportunity to do something great, in a neighborhood that desperately needs a great restaurant.

  3. I echo the comments about the lackluster service. Having dined in the bar area for dinner twice now, both experiences were laughable! I contemplated asking to speak with a manager to provide feedback but quickly surmised that they were likely more focused on the tourist crowd versus sustaining a cult neighborhood following. Total bummer!