Much has been romanticized about Marie Antoinette, the fashionable young Queen of France who was beheaded in 1793 at the age of 37. Sofia Coppola’s 2006 feature film on the subject, starring Kirsten Dunst, was perhaps the most audacious representation in pop culture, but the fascination started long before and continues today. Just this week, French experts decoded letters that suggest she had an affair with the Swedish count that tried to help her escape from France, Axel de Fersen. Who doesn’t love a royal scandal?
Now, a new bar beneath the restaurant Chez Moi in Brooklyn Heights pays tribute to the one place where Marie could escape from the public’s ever-criticizing eye: Le Boudoir. Located off the queen’s bedroom in the Palace of Versailles, one entered the boudoir through a passageway hidden by a bookshelf. The team behind Chez Moi and Le Boudoir, Tarek Debira and Patricia Ageheim, re-created the secret entrance, and borrowed much of the decor from the palace.
It all started when they took over the space, and learned that the old Atlantic Avenue subway tunnels were concealed behind a basement wall. “The person that gave us the space said don’t go there,” recalls Debira. “But of course we did.” And good thing — after a few beers and swings of the hammer, they discovered two small but beautiful vaulted brick rooms. Once they landed on the Marie Antoinette theme — which plays on the Chez Moi idea of cozy comfort (translation: “My Place”) — the real fun began.
Unlike Chez Moi, which is all reclaimed wood and industrial finishes, Le Boudoir veers feminine, with custom banquettes, reproduced 18th-century oil paintings and pink sconces sourced from actual castles in France. Other materials came from Etsy, Craigslist and eBay, including an original monogrammed doorknob from Versailles.
The cocktails — which Debira calls “the real star” of the show — were conceptualized by beverage director Franky Marshall, formerly of The Dead Rabbit and Clover Club. There’s the “Guillotine” with mescal, scotch and honey, the “1793” with toasted sunflower seed infused rye and oloroso sherry, and an absinthe cocktail with chili liqueur, coconut almond milk and cacao nibs.
Still, Marshall says she wanted drinks that “would peak the curiously of a cocktail person, but also be accessible for people that aren’t that into cocktails. I didn’t want to alienate anybody.” To that end, there’s also beer on tap and a selection of French and organic wines. Bar snacks, if you can even call them that, include truffle mushroom croquettes, frog’s legs and garlic and parmesan French fries.
Complete with live jazz music on Monday nights, the whole space feels very much like a secret hideaway for date night or a rendezvous with a confidante — which is the point. “The boudoir was the one place where [Marie Antoinette] could feel at home,” says Ageheim. “She was a property of France, so that became her secret little place.”