I had forgotten how much I love the Central West End in the summer until a few days ago. I was walking around the area one evening with friends and the patios were full of people enjoying dinner and drinks. Performers were playing music on the street corners and everyone seemed to be enjoying the abnormally cool summer weather. I decided I couldn’t let another great St. Louis night pass by without heading down to this neighborhood for dinner.
I chose Brasserie by Niche and easily made an online reservation less than 24 hours in advance. We were quickly seated on the outdoor patio which spans the length of the front of the restaurant. All of the doors were open to the restaurant allowing a nice breeze to pass through. Tables inside were covered with red checkered table cloths and brown parchment paper giving it the feel of an upscale but casual French café. From our table, we could hear a cellist playing across the street which added to the atmosphere. Another couple dined outside with their dog at their feet. I have to say that I love nothing more than a restaurant that allows dogs (and even provides water bowls).
The menu was divided into several sections including amuse-bouche (literally translated as mouth amuser), salads, hors d’oeurves, cheeses, du jour dishes (daily specials), main courses, and sides. There were several traditional French dishes on the menu such as croque madame (ham, cheese & egg sandwich) and escargot but also several other non-traditional choices. They offer a selection of French wines, specialty cocktails, beer, scotch, and bourbon. My husband ordered a Perennial Saison de Lis and I chose Ramble On, a specialty cocktail with gin, lemon, raspberry liqueur, and grapefruit garnish with caramelized sugar. I enjoyed the tart cocktail but the uniqueness and thought put into the garnish is what made the drink.
Individual warm, fresh baguettes with chilled butter were brought out while we waited for our food. For a starter we chose the yellow tomato tart with both cherry and heirloom tomatoes, basil, and goat cheese on the side. The warm tart was made over a thin, crispy crust and was the perfect size for sharing. The tomatoes were extra sweet and tasted like they were picked that morning. While I was tempted to order the trout, I couldn’t come to a French restaurant and not order mussels and fries. I can’t say that they were better than the mussel at Planter’s House but they were good. You could really taste the actual flavor of the mussels through the simple broth of herbs, crème fraiche, and white wine as opposed to other broths that tend to overpower them. They were perfectly cooked and the portion was just right. I also appreciated that they cleared my bowl of shells half way through and left me with a new one. The side of fries were amazing. They were thin, crispy, and exactly how I would choose a fry to be made. My husband ordered braised beef served with glazed carrots and bacon lardons over a potato puree. He is not typically a bacon lover but he said that it went really well with the super tender beef.
We decided to be adventurous with dessert and chose the Far Breton with crème fraiche and prune ice cream. This traditional French dessert, similar to a custard with fruit mixed in, was served in a small tart dish. While I was nervous about the prune ice cream, I found that it was much less scary than I anticipated.
When I think of French food, I picture a stuffy restaurant with a complicated and intimidating menu. However, I really enjoyed everything about this meal, from the music playing across the street to the food and the service. The laid back atmosphere makes Brasserie a place that is good for a night out with friends, a first date, or a celebration.
Brasserie is located at the corner of Laclede Ave and Euclid at 4580 Laclede Ave St. Louis, MO
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