Brace for another bold move from French chef Gregory Marchand in 2014. Marchand's tasting-menu-only neo-bistro Frenchie has been one of the hottest tables in Paris since its opening back in 2009. Capitalizing on that success, the Frenchie team opened a wine bar, Frenchie Bar a Vins, in 2011, and then opened a takeaway lunch spot, Frenchie to Go, in 2013. But, for 2014, Marchand tells Eater that his next big project will be a revamp of Frenchie that aims to give diners more choices and to bring the kitchen into the dining room.
"We're already working hard right now on trying to find exactly what we want it to be, what we want to offer, what is our identity now," Marchand says, adding, "Now, I'm taking a step back and I'm just realizing that Frenchie is not quite what I would like it to be."
We want to give freedom back to people.
The changes won't be revolutionary, Marchand says, but the big idea is to reinvent Frenchie and bring it into the next five to 10 years of its lifespan. And that involves getting rid of some of what he calls the "constraints" of the restaurant. In his new vision for the restaurant, Marchand says to expect a little bit more flexibility when it comes to the menu. "Right now you have a full tasting menu with no choice, which can be good, but I want people to start choosing a little bit," he says. "Maybe not everything, but having a thing to say in what they want to eat. So that's the direction. We want to give freedom back to people."
[Photo: Official Site]
There will also be some cosmetic changes to the restaurant. There won't be much of a change in the dining room — and Marchand says "the spirit will be the same" at Frenchie — but the plan is to completely redo the restaurant's kitchen. He and his architect haven't settled on any details for this revamp yet, but Marchand explains that they're thinking of either putting the pass in the dining room or making it so that he would be plating food in front of guests, "just making it a little bit more special" for them. Marchand says he anticipates the renovations will take about a month, so the tentative plan is to undertake them during the Summer holiday and reopen in September 2014 with the new formula.
The plan is to bring a little bit of the wine bar's spirit to Frenchie.
So why make these changes now? Well, Marchand explains that opening the wine bar had a little something to do with it. When Frenchie opened in 2009, everything moved so fast that not everything was planned out. Opening the wine bar, Marchand explains, opened his eyes to what he really wanted for Frenchie. There, diners can eat as much or as little as they want rather than stick to a rigid three-course menu. "That's how I like to eat," he says. "I think that's what people want, too." And so the plan is to bring a little bit of that spirit into Frenchie.
Of course, an important question: How will all this affect reservations at the nearly impenetrable Frenchie? Well, unlike the wine bar's freedom from reservations, Marchand still hopes to offer guests the ability to reserve a table at Frenchie in its new iteration. However, the dining room revamp might take away two covers and Marchand is considering reducing the two full services down to more like one and a half services. But it'll still be possible for determined diners to nab a table. Stay tuned later this week for an interview with Marchand about how to get one of the most coveted tables in Paris.