Carving out a cozy 40-seat niche in the bistro scene, La Gauloise (2 Clarkson Street, 212-675-5535), Georges Forgeois’s seventh French-inspired dining spot in New York City, opened this week.
“Yes, another bistro,” says Forgeois, whose restaurants include Café Noir, Le Signe, and, more recently, Clarkson. “I just love them! What can I say? For me, I create a place I want to go to. Where you can chat. Where there’s good food and a good vibe. I like to be comfortable. I want you to walk in, relax, and have a good time.”
At the helm is chef Rebecca Weitzman, ex–Cercle Rouge and -Clarkson, and she’s creating a menu of, mostly, classics: steak frites ($28), Coquilles St.-Jacques ($28), and moules frites ($18), as well as a ravioli of the day, drawing on her background in Italian cooking, notably at ‘inoteca.
“The food here is traditional, but it’s more fun and playful too,” says Weitzman. “We have frogs legs, and veal cheeks — oh, and rabbit, provençale-style, braised in white wine, with olives and rosemary. I want things to be seasonal, fresh, and bright.”
Packed with character, the small yet airy space has lemon-yellow tin walls and a solid wooden bar that’s perfect for an aperitif. The furnishings come courtesy of Forgeois’s own antique collection, acquired from over 25 years of dedicated flea-market hunting. “I love to search,” he notes. “Especially when I go to Lille. The market there lasts for three days, and all night. Sometimes it’s four in the morning, and you stop and have a beer, then you go on looking!
“I have a truck and I load it up with things that relate to bistros, because I’ve always loved them. Mirrors, old chairs, pictures, maybe tables, a foosball table that’s in the bistro now, anything. And I keep them in my house, or in my garage upstate. So when I fell in love with this space, I had everything! I just dug in my collection.”
Sidewalk tables and a pétanque court will open in April. “Brunch and pétanque!” exclaims Forgeois. “A good combination, no?”