I’ll admit I get neighborhood envy. How could I not? I live on the Upper East Side. And while we’ve admittedly made strides with the addition of Ristorante Morini, Rotisserie Georgette and the like, we have a long, long way to go.
So you can imagine how jelly donuts I was to hear about the new French marketplace that is Le District all the way down in Battery Park. And don’t even get me started on the other, nearby food hall phenomenon Hudson Eats with a Black Seed Bagel, Mighty Quinn’s and Little Muenster. Sigh. When will someone throw me a bone and open a fancy food court in my ‘hood?
Needless to say, I rushed down to check out Le District in all its glory. It’s divided into various “districts,” including a Market District (for bread, wine, meat, cheese, & chicken), Garden District (for fresh produce), Cafe District (for coffee & pastries) and a Restaurant District. Upfront is a patisserie with oodles of freshly baked macarons, tarts and fancy French sweets along with a candy department, from famous French import, Le Cure Gourmand. Le District boasts a slew of stations, including a Creperie, Boulangerie with baguettes, croissants and I could go on, Charcuterie, and Rotisserie. (There’s even a florist shop, appropriately named Le Fleuriste!)
My favorite of all is the fromagerie with a slurry of standout cheeses from all over the world, but I’d stick with the French offerings if I were you. There’s also a spice section, riddled with specialty seasonings, like fines herbes, and gourmet salts. You can grab something prepared, like a juicy roast chicken fresh off the spit to-go, or sit and eat at one of their communal tables, which were all bustling the Tuesday night I was in. (The market is open until 10 pm, which is a major bonus for those looking to do their food shopping in the evening.)
Looking for a new happy hour destination? You might consider Le Bar for cocktails and a light bite, or settle into a table at Beaubourg for a proper bistro meal. I dragged my husband from the Upper East Side downtown to Le District for dinner at Beaubourg because we love all things French, especially bistro fare the likes of escargot, steak frites, and tarte tatin. Beaubourg is a funky looking bistro with sky high ceilings, gold banquettes, china blue chairs, and slate floors. The shiny wood tables have clever slots to tuck a tablecloth into and one of the walls is trimmed in white subway tiles with a vibrant blue pattern, which does wonders to liven up the room.
Braised Lamb Shoulder
The wine list list is short and sweet with some very solid options by the glass and bottle (the best of which are French naturally!). You might consider starting with some raw bar options, like oysters or a Petit Plateau, layered with shrimp (so so), clams, oysters (solid), and Whelks, while you take in the charmed Hudson River view. The menu is spackled with hard-to-find French classics, like Pike Quenelles (nearly impossible to track down aside from Le Grenouille), Frog Legs Fricassee, and Tournedos Rossini.
I’m a sucker for French-style mussels, so I threw in an order of Moules Mariniere. Out from the kitchen come plump, fresh mollusks in an herbaceous white wine broth that you’ll want to slurp off your spoon. They’re sided by crispy, golden fries, which are just as good. I only wish the rest of the menu was as good as the mussels. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. A special of Shrimp a la Plancha, nestled on a bed of Ratatouille, was appetizing, though nothing to write home about. And the slowly braised Lamb Shoulder was left braising in the oven a tad too long, rendering the meat dry, and the carrots, celery and potatoes in the mix lifeless.
I had high hopes for dessert. There was an entire patisserie upfront to take advantage of, after all! Sadly, the Creme Brulee was lackluster and definitely not torched to order, because the burnt sugar seal had no snap, no crunch to it whatsoever. And our Tart, paved with fresh raspberries over lemon-lime custard inside a soggy pastry shell, was a snooze. Boo hoo.
As my husband so eloquently put it, “Dinner at Beaubourg isn’t worth running downtown for, but the rest of Le District is pretty sweet.”