Margot has no real signage, but that bright blue exterior is impossible to miss (Scott Lynch)
May 8, 2023
Margot, a lovely, saucy, wine-soaked newcomer in Fort Greene, is an instant delight
The restaurant is owned and operated by a trio of women, including acclaimed Parisian chef Alexia Duchêne
Maybe we’ve been listening to so much boygenius lately, but there’s definitely a bit of a supergroup vibe to the team behind Margot, a brand new restaurant that opened last weekend in Fort Greene.
Halley Chambers ran the Oberon Group, a hospitality outfit focused sustainability whose projects included such local Brooklyn favorites as Rucola, Rhodora, and June. Kip Green was general manager at the latter when she and Chambers first met, now some four years ago.
“Kip brings a lot of graciousness to the art of hospitality,” Chambers tells Brooklyn Magazine, “and we’re both really interested in how restaurants fit into the cultural landscape of New York City, specifically coming out of the pandemic, and what dining means in New York right now. So after several years of this conversation we kind of felt like it was time for us to try something new, and do our own thing.”
The crucial third member of the band is chef Alexia Duchêne, acclaimed in her native Paris for her “witty, worldly, off-beat cooking,” as Saveur Magazine put it, before she decamped to Fort Greene at the end of last year. Duchêne has some serious chops — her cooking here at Margot is confident and creative — but that doesn’t get in the way of her having fun.
“I always try to make food that’s very comforting,” says Duchêne. “I want it to be intriguing, with some things you haven’t tried before, but I also want people to feel a sense of reassurance when they eat, to play on things that remind me of childhood.”
As such, the menu at Margot has a lot of stuff going on, and all of it is good. Duchêne blends her chunky, funky beef tartare with a zingy huckleberry harissa sauce (an idea she came up with during a stint in Turkey), and covers the mound of meat in twigs of crisp parsnip.
The pleasantly chewy bean salad is laden with hunks of smoked eel, everything lurking beneath a cloud of neon green chive sabayon.
A small mountain of oysters awaits you down at the end of the bar, shucked by the half dozen, each flecked with a drizzle of guajillo chili oil.
Duchêne piles on the umami in her sweet potatoes to marvelous effect, pairing the tubers with an abundance of trout roe and a rich XO sauce.
And the showstopper meat dish, a luxurious pork neck, becomes a kind of surf-and-turf situation when you slice open the balled up chard leaf and out spills a fiery crab salad.
The menu will change frequently, but there will always be a couple of pastas — Duchêne was the sous chef at Pastorini, which she tells me was “the best Italian restaurant in Paris” — but don’t expect to see the classics. On Sunday some bright-looking egg yolk raviolo came topped with pomme puree. The cavatelli, moss-green from nettles, was home to a mess of cockles and bits of bitter roasted radicchio.
“I try to bring something fresh and new to the pasta,” says Duchêne. “I kind of break stuff, just playing around with food and not thinking too much about it.”
The desserts are superb, especially the vanilla sundae with miso fudge and peanuts, served soda-fountain style in a cute little metal dish. I would come here solo and sit at the bar just to eat this again. Cocktails run about $16, as do the wines by the glass, and, as you would expect from these June and Rhodora alums, there’s a lengthy list of bottles, many of which are below $75.
So is Margot a warm and fizzy neighborhood wine bar? A cheffy destination restaurant? An after-BAM, after-Barclays martini and oysters spot? A sexy date? A giggly group hang? A champagne celebration? Hell yeah she is. Margot, which Green calls “our imaginary avatar,” can hang with it all.
“We’re trying to be creative about what ‘being a restaurant’ really means,” says Green. “We’re trying to figure out the possibilities of where hospitality can fit in this larger landscape of New York culture. This project existed just in our heads for so long, and to watch it come to life this past week was so joyful. Watching a team come together and execute a vision of something and feel really excited about it. It’s a really powerful thing.”
Margot is located at 69 Lafayette Avenue, at the corner of South Elliott Place, and is currently open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
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