There’s a false bookcase opposite the bar at Chez Moi, Tarek Debira and Patricia Ageheim’s Brooklyn Heights bistro, and every night after 6 p.m. it opens to reveal a stairwell leading to what used to be the restaurant’s subterranean prep kitchen, an area that at one time may have provided access to the Atlantic Avenue tunnel. Now it’s Le Boudoir (135 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-227-8337), an underground, multi-chambered speakeasy of gilded booths and stonewalled nooks. The bar’s interior design and the flavor profiles of its cocktails borrow aesthetic cues from Marie Antoinette’s Versailles hamlet. The beverage director is Franky Marshall, formerly of The Dead Rabbit, another bar that excels at defining the intimacy of a forgotten place and time.
While Debira had a hand in creating the upstairs drinks menu, he says that he and Ageheim were all too happy to surrender the downstairs program to Marshall: “Franky needs to have full control; she’s talented and the only way to let her express herself is to ask her, ‘What do you need?’ ” So within Le Boudoir, Marshall reigns over a menu of French-inspired cocktails like the Dauphin, which tempers absinthe with the sweetness and heat of almond milk, cacao nibs, and chile liqueur, served in weighty crystal and silver-plated glassware-cum–presentation pieces, guaranteed to make you feel every sip.
And there’s no rush here to finish your drinks. Debira and Ageheim never envisioned the downstairs as a holding area for an overcrowded dining room at Chez Moi, but rather as a unique environment long missing from their own neighborhood. “The space gave us direction, and opened up the possibility of what we wanted to do,” says Ageheim, who also admits opening up that space wasn’t so easy. They were unaware the bar’s back rooms even existed, and at first exposed pipes coupled with low ceilings denied any air of hospitality. “We dug down two feet. A tall person could not stand up straight here before,” she recalls.
“We started, and when you have a dream and you have a vision, you say we’ll bear it, there’s a light,” Debira added.
There’s also a kitchen, albeit out of sight. The prep kitchen’s been relocated behind the mirrored bar (the owners assure it’s not a one-way glass) and a small menu of finger food like crispy frog legs and truffle croquettes complement savory cocktails like the Axel von Fersen, which makes a meal out of bourbon and applejack, with the addition of sesame, curry, and black caraway. That drink’s a nod to Ageheim’s own Swedish heritage and also to Antoinette’s Swedish lover at Versailles. It wouldn’t be a night at Le Boudoir if he weren’t there.