The welcoming and light-filled dining room. Photo: Wes Rowe.
The Vegetable Garden; photo by Eric Wolfinger.
The bar of The European. Photo: Wes Rowe.
The back lounge of The European. Photo: Wes Rowe.
The dining room at Aveline. Photo: Wes Rowe.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to tour the beautiful ~AVELINE~ and its neighboring bar and lounge, ~THE EUROPEAN~, which are opening this Friday June 6th in the former La Scene in The Warwick San Francisco. It’s a fantastic downtown location, one that will especially appeal to theatergoers, industry folks who work in the area, and Union Square shoppers and workers. Chef Casey Thompson, who many of you will recognize from the early days of Top Chef, is overseeing Aveline, while The European is bar industry vet Adam Wilson’s baby (his 20-year background spans Australia, New York, Vegas, and most recently, Beretta).
The hotel (completed June 15th) and these two spaces were just massively renovated by the Dutch strategic design consultancy, UXUS. You’ll note Aveline has a lighter design sensibility, with a neutral and calming palette. There are two seating areas (one is closer to the open kitchen) with 60 seats in all (with four at a chef counter), two illuminated wine walls, tufted banquette seating in caramel, two kinds of chairs (including a very comfortable padded gray chair), and softly glowing teardrop pendant lamps and artwork (from Sarah Atkinson and Patrick Wright) that adorn the walls. There are also eye-catching honeycomb patterns in the marble tile and the woodwork above the wine walls. It’s stylish and visually interesting, and the Beaux Arts building itself is classically pretty, with arches and lots of light (the architect, Arthur Brown Jr., also designed Coit Tower).
Texas-born Thompson (she opened Shinsei in Dallas) has been living in Napa since her Top Chef appearance (her partner makes wine), and she has really enjoyed getting into the Wine Country lifestyle, cooking at wineries with gardens and pizza ovens (she says, “What’s not to love about being here?”). Thompson’s very personal cuisine style is New Californian, but she says it’s more travel-influenced than trend-influenced, and will highlight her relationships with local farms, artisans, and more (her French training and Southern roots will also be apparent). Thompson is 36, and as she puts it, she’s “hitting my culinary stride.” Her plating is elegant and dishes will be served on a variety of beautiful plates in different shapes, colors, materials, and textures. You can look at the creative menu here, which includes dishes like abalone with wood ear mushrooms ($27), succulents, and pepperoni, and fried chicken ($26) with kimchi powder and pickled vegetables.
Or you can sit at the kitchen counter, which won’t have a menu (chef’s choice!) and will feature cocktail pairings. There will also be a bar menu in The European, and while there is a burger, it won’t be your usual bar food, with “chips ‘n dip” of chicken skin “chips” with charred onion, smoked eggplant, and trout roe. It’s not all serious, though—there’s also housemade “Spam” with black grape jelly on Texas toast.
Since we’re talking about the bar menu, let’s jaunt across the hotel lobby to The European, which has a darker and slightly edgier look, and one that’s sophisticated too (it almost looks like a black lacquer box). There’s a concrete bar (with 14 seats), smoky glass, sturdy aluminum stools, and dramatic lighting (including some netted globe lights overhead)—if you count the seating in the back lounge, there are 35 seats in all. The back lounge features burnt orange tufted banquettes, gray tufted love seats, ottomans, patterned wallpaper, and neoclassical three-legged tables topped with black glass. It feels like a swanky study, with handsome touches like herringbone-patterned wood floors and filament sconces—you can pull the velvet curtains closed to block it off for private parties.
As for the cocktails, Adam Wilson is going to be serving cocktails expatriate Americans would have found in Europe during Prohibition (with a bit of an update), plus some other gems he has discovered in some rare books. Be sure to check out the “Now & Then” pairing, which features a contemporary cocktail served alongside a taste of the original drink in its vintage form. There will be some original concoctions as well, plus a number of lower-proof cocktails and aperitifs, and it ends up there will be a lot of Champagnes, including some special half-bottles. Here’s the cocktail list.
Aveline is open Sun-Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm. Weekend brunch is set to start in late summer from 11am-2pm. The European is open Sun-Thu 4pm-12am, Fri-Sat 4pm-1am. 490 Geary St. at Taylor, 415-292-6430.