Last year’s news of forthcoming absinthe bar Belle Epoque was met with excitement, in large part due to two names attached to it: Laura Bellucci, SoBou’s former head bartender, and Hayley Vanvleet, the opening chef at Curio. After months of anticipation, the French Quarter lounge is set to open on October 17.
Belle Epoque is described in a press release as an “extension” of the historic Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street, considered to be the oldest bar in New Orleans. Months-long construction transformed the former back room into a speakeasy-style lounge featuring historic restorations of the original bar and water drip absinthe fountains. Sylvia Thompson Dias, the designer behind beauties Cavan and Longway Tavern, consulted on the interior.
Expect a French tapas-style menu from Vanvleet, who in addition to Curio has cooked at Meauxbar, Peche, Cochon Butcher, and most recently Gris Gris. A prior release listed sample dishes of French onion pot pie, foie gras-stuffed chicken wings, and oysters with absinthe mignonette, but further menu details have not been released.
As bar director, Belluci aims to make absinthe approachable with versions of drinks like a frappe (usually absinthe, mint or simple syrup, and soda water) and an absinthe-based apricot zombie (typically pineapple and orange juice, apricot brandy, and rum). The fearless will also be able to order traditional absinthe service.
Belle Epoque and the Old Absinthe House are owned by Rue Bourbon, Yousef “Jober’t” Salem Al Adwan’s hospitality group. Salem bought the Old Absinthe House’s lease at 240 Bourbon Street in 2002 from Tony Moran, whose namesake restaurant once dominated the space.
A 2009 lawsuit against Tony Moran’s Restaurant alleged that owners including Salem wrote paychecks that bounced, withheld overtime and tips, made employees work off the clock, and failed to promote employees based on race. After years of litigation, the parties reportedly negotiated a settlement.
On Rue Bourbon’s website, Salem says that with the opening of Belle Epoque he “hopes to create a deeper appreciation for the history of absinthe and the Old Absinthe House.”
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