Back in the 2010’s, the boozy brunch du jour was Bagatelle, a French-ish restaurant in Meatpacking known for devolving into table-dancing debauchery. Maison Close, a French spot in Soho, follows the same blueprint.
In this warm, Belle Époque-inspired space, you’ll see a slightly different version of Donatella Versace at each blue velvet booth, cosplaying 19th century Parisian decadence behind vases of tall white feathers. Not one of them will have anything other than oysters and escargots on the table. Arrive fashionably late, and you can join them for a fun night out at one of Maison's booze-fueled cabaret parties. But come just for dinner, and you’ll eat some truly terrible food you’ll wish to forget the morning after.
Whether you’ll enjoy the scene at Maison Close or not is ultimately based on how much you desire to do shots with Wilhemina’s latest roster. Parties happen on the weekends in the late afternoons and then again after 10pm. At brunch, the antics get going around 3pm, when they close the curtains and waiters in bright red bellhop costumes dance around the dining room and entertain you with everything from magic tricks to burlesque. Champagne showers and sparklers are deployed on the scene until enough people start dancing with them. It is indeed a bacchanalia, though one conceived by some very cheerful try-hards.
The high-octane circus is worth experiencing at least once, even if just for the people-watching. But should you pass on the drunken shenanigans and opt for an earlier dinner, there won’t be enough to distract from the fact that your red snapper is unseasoned and overcooked, your pâté tastes freezer-burned, and your tough, flavorless dessert could inspire a children’s book called “The Saddest Clafoutis.” The quality of the food is more fit for a $40 bottomless brunch deal, but that same waiter who made your dollar disappear in his whimsical magic trick will now take 82 more in exchange for a parched, rubbery Dover sole. This second trick is neither magical nor charming.
But the food is besides the point—something to push around your plate while listening to some rich guy drone on about his days at Phillips Exeter before you can ditch him during the party. As the night goes on, the scene fills out with fashion industry people who all seem to know each other. You can have an entertaining night out here—just skip dinner and come for drinks after 10pm. The food itself is so flawed, we’re left wondering if the heavy French accent on our waiter was even real.
Gnocchis aux Champignons de Saison
Biting into one of these big, dense, flavorless potato balls feels a bit like eating Play-Doh that’s been left out for a couple hours.
Belle Sole Meunière
Having lost all of its flakiness by the time it gets to the table, the sole arrives with a slightly dry, rubbery texture. The pool of butter underneath does little to revive it.
Tartare de Boeuf au Couteau
This tartare is relatively harmless, though it lacks freshness and we could do without the overload of slightly bitter herbs. If you need a snack between drinks, you probably won’t notice its shortcomings once you've had enough champagne.
Escargots à la Bourguignonne
Seeing as escargots are essentially just vehicles for a lot of butter and garlic, these are a safe order. They're not too chewy, and they're soaked in a tangy tomato parsley butter.