Day parties, such as the XIV party now at the Colony, take advantage of warm… (Stephanie Magallanes,…)
The word "brunch" doesn't usually conjure images of overflowing magnums of champagne, dizzying house music and a designated driver. But that's how summer is shaping up.
A summer wave of Los Angeles hospitality, rooted in the ever-escalating standards of supper club service, is inviting you to burn the midnight oil in broad daylight with a fresh take on the weekend brunch: a celebratory meal that transitions seamlessly into a nightclub-style dance party, all before dusk.
In what has become an annual occurrence, the onset of summer brings a fresh crop of day parties to Los Angeles restaurants and clubs, including Bagatelle, XIV at the Colony and a promised new event at the new Hollywood hot spot Lure.
It wasn't Los Angeles that brought a debauched flavor to brunch, either. The term surfaced at the turn of the 20th century, most frequently attributed to a British magazine writer Guy Beringer. He longed for a meal between breakfast and lunch that would satisfy "Saturday night carousers." But that would suggest brunch is the antidote to indulgence. In the here-and-now, brunch would like to inspire it — and with a distinctly European flair.
"Where we come from and grew up in the South of France, it's very customary for friends to gather around an earlier meal and make an afternoon out of it," said Remi Laba of Bagatelle, the New York-transplant brunch party that precisely captures the new trend.
"We'd have a long meal accompanied by a rose wine, champagne and [it would] turn into lively conversation. Depending on where we were, it could be St. Tropez, a DJ would pop up."
Three guesses as to what happens next. In its Los Angeles residence, Bagatelle occupies the La Cienega Boulevard club space attached to STK. Clientele has been pouring in since May for Saturday and Sunday service, where within those walls a refined menu and dancing on banquettes aren't mutually exclusive.
"It's an amazing experience," said Bagatelle-goer Brian Griffin. "It's this fantastic blend of friends and strangers who get to have too much fun. Before 5 o'clock."
Bottle service is available, but no minimum is required, a policy that surely reduces pressure on the consumer and the intensity of the room. The dress code naturally swings upward too.
"Girls are in dresses and heels, guys take care of themselves, that's rare for a Sunday in L.A.," Laba said. And again, though the beats rage and customers can be found dancing on chairs, the club mentality is more mellow thanks to the customs of the hour.
"Men aren't as aggressive with single women because, again, it's not a nightclub," says Laba.
For the clientele, brunch can be more forgiving than prime-time weekend nights — bottle markups aren't as high, that eggs Benedict isn't nearly as wallet-crunching as beer-fed Kobe beef and the competition isn't as fierce for a cab home.
Ivar Avenue's former Cabana Club, recently reopened as the sleek Lure, plans to incorporate day programming into its weekends, to start at a date to be determined.
"It was never a question, of course we want the daytime market," said Eric James Virgets, managing partner of Lure parent Sunset Entertainment Group.
The supper club model demands luxury in food service, and then over-the-top entertainment and alcohol consumption. But the settings help change the tone: At Lure, topiary chandeliers, broad booths and an open-air patio bring sunshine and vegetation to the brunch time partyer. A similar indoor-outdoor setup helps power the summer feeling at the XIV summer sessions, still on Sundays but moved this year from Crescent Heights restaurant XIV to Hollywood's booming dance club venue Colony.
Revamped in Miami white (we're talking all white everything), the version at Colony doesn't feature food but piggybacks off the same ideal — a 5 p.m. start time allows for a sophisticated afternoon crowd to slide into an anything-goes evening. Well, almost anything.
"We usually have to tame down the party, as opposed to encourage it," Bagatelle's Laba said. "How far it goes is basically decided by the client. If someone goes on the table, we ask them to step down. The banquette and the chair is as high as it goes."
Naturally. Tables are for eating, no matter what the champagne tells you.