by Beth Treffeisen
Tucked into the crossing of Tremont Street and Clarendon Street in the South End, a new French wine bar, called Frenchie, has brightened up the space, creating a welcoming new gathering place for the neighborhood.
Walking in, guests are greeted with a wall length wine bar, open kitchen, white walls, marble floors, wood top tables and a view of the iconic Hancock Tower. Towards the back, a separate all-glass solarium overlooking a small South End garden is separates the restaurant with a black flower print wall.
On a typical night, restaurant goers are greeted by the all-French staff, a glass of wine, and small dishes that go beyond the traditional American idea of French cuisine.
Located at 560 Tremont Street, across from the Boston Center for the Arts, the restaurant, that opened at the beginning of the month was put together by first time restaurateur Sandrine Rossi and co-owner Loic Le Garrec from Petit Robert Bistro. The restaurant seats about 50 guests, keeping it on the smaller side.
“People are happy here,” said Rossi. “We have some people who have come back several times. We have received very positive feedback from the neighborhood here.”
Frenchie’s menu is from executive chef Alex Falconer, formerly of the award-winning Beacon Hill Bistro and Prezza. The food ranges from a charcuterie board, to oysters of the day, to Brussels sprouts with currants and black garlic aioli, to escargot toast served with herb garlic buttered over country bread.
Of course, they also serve favorites of steak frites, a sirloin steak with house fries and red wine onion and a lamb shank with crispy chickpeas, chopped herbs with lemon zest, kohlrabi and sweet potatoes.
Chef Falconer sources ingredients locally and sustainably whenever possible. The desserts and pastries are from the nearby Café Madeleine.
The wine list is divided into styles instead of varietals to encourage tasting, talking, and taking chances.
“We have small plates to share so that people can try different dishes,” said Rossi. “That way you can enjoy both.”
Rossi began looking for a place to open up her first restaurant this past January. Originally, Rossi said she didn’t even think she would land in Boston because of the high rents but took one look at this space and that was it – her vision came to life.
At the same time, Le Garrec was looking at the spot also to open up his own restaurant. Before they knew it, the broker set them up on a “business blind date.” After talking about their projects they decided to work together to create something different here in Boston.
“We got along well right away,” said Le Garrec. “Like love at first site.”
Le Garrec is a veteran of Boston and New York City dining scenes and has been the owner and manager of the restaurant chain Petit Robert Bistro for the past 13 years. He studied cooking in French culinary school and moved to Los Angeles about 20 years ago.
From there he traveled around the world, but always came back to Boston to make money as line cook. In 2000 he began opening the restaurant chain Petit Robert Bistro that spanned from locations from Cambridge to Newton. After closures, he now focuses solely on his South End restaurant.
“And now you have a little sister – Frenchie,” chimed in Rossi.
Rossi grew up in France as well, surrounded by her mother who managed a cheese and wine shop and a restaurant along with her father who co-owned a winery in Bordeaux. She has memories of cooking with her Italian grandmother who would make every meal from scratch.
She said she always had dreams of one day becoming a pastry chef or working in the food industry, but that was for later in life.
Before coming to Boston two years ago to be with her husband who works in the tech industry here, she was an environmental engineer in China. Before that she traveled for work to Ghana and studied literature and business in school.
“I’m only 29-years-old but I feel like I’ve already had a second life,” said Rossi.
She currently lives in the Back Bay and loves riding her bike or walking over to work. One day she hopes to continue her education in food and possibly go back to pastry school.
But for now, she wants to focus on her restaurant saying she still has a lot of creative ideas for it. She hopes that her restaurant will be the neighborhood-gathering place, to grab a drink, something to eat, and even talk politics.
“I love Boston and I want make this place better,” said Rossi. “Even a place like this can do that because it is a place that people can come with friends and enjoy.”