Mark Bright in front of his new baby. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
The bar (and groovy stools) at Les Clos. Photo courtesy of Les Clos.
The main seating area at Les Clos. Photo courtesy of Les Clos.
You’ll assuredly get a fresh pour at Les Clos. Photo courtesy of Les Clos.
Last Friday, I enjoyed a quick sneak peek of ~BRIGHT’S LES CLOS~, a wine bar, an all-day café, retail wine shop, and much more, hopefully opening around September 15th-20th, ABC permit pending. Mark Bright is well known internationally, whether you are drinking off his award-winning wine list at Saison (where he is a partner) or at the neighborhood-friendly Vinyl (he opened it with Kristopher Esqueda, the other half of their consulting partnership as Markris Wine Group), or you know him via his wine fund and brokerage, Bright Wine Fund, or you’re a client of his Cellar Master cellaring and wine management company. He’s a powerhouse of activity, connections, and deep knowledge, and it’s amazing to see how far he has come since he burst onto our local wine scene in 2004, when Rajat Parr hired him as the sommelier for Restaurant Michael Mina. Fortunately Saison is just a hop and a skip down Townsend to Les Clos, so Mark will be able to easily bounce between the two. (Well, when he’s in the country.)
Anyone who knows Mark knows how much he loves and lives for Burgundy, so it will be figuring prominently on the primarily French list (and the shelves) at Les Clos, from bottles from the ’70s to some selections you can’t find elsewhere. But you’ll also find frappato from COS (Sicily) and chardonnay from Kistler (Sonoma Coast), all available in 3-, 6- and 10-ounce pours—there will be 40 selections by the glass in all. You can order off the menu, try out a creative flight (served blind, and geared for those studying for their MS exam), or take a deep dive into the InVine list on the iPad, which will also feature some fabulous wines from Chablis, the Rhone, the Loire, and oui, Champagne. There are also five beers on tap, plus sherries, vermouths, and sake by the glass.
The GM, head sommelier, and a partner in Les Clos is Cara Patricia Higgins, who was the lead sommelier at Hakkasan. She has been running the operations of Bright Wine Fund and acting as cellar master of Saison.
Now, a big announcement about the project is that pastry chef Shawn Gawle, who has been at Saison since it was on Folsom Street, has left the restaurant and is going to be the chef of Les Clos. Some folks may not be aware his background covers both savory and sweet experiences, and lucky for us, his résumé includes L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in New York, so expect some amazing potatoes in SF soon. Heh. But we’ll also be enjoying some exquisite canelés, so we all win on that too.
His preview menu includes simpler dishes like oysters two different ways, charcuterie, cheese, and three different types of caviar (which they are basically breaking even on, so enjoy it), but the rest of the lunch and dinner menu features many of the classic and rustic French dishes you want ($12-$28), including frisée aux lardons, tête de cochon with gribiche and fried capers, bone marrow, moules à la provençale, roasted sweetbreads, and Parisienne gnocchi gratinée with Comté. It just makes you want to drink exquisite wine, right? What’s amazing is they aren’t even working with a full kitchen.
There will also be a fab breakfast every day, something lacking in the neighborhood (Mark lives almost across the street, so he knows), plus takeaway lunches and dinners you can heat up later. Also look for some special Humphry Slocombe flavors and sundaes, and items from Le Marais Bakery. While the place is meant to be welcoming, of course the dishes and presentations will be quality, from Heath plates to universal stem glasses by Gabriel-Glas. There’s a gorg orange La Marzocco espresso machine, with orange Le Creuset cups to match, and the coffee is from Sightglass.
The 1,200-square-foot space has two different live edge cedar bars—the farther one will be used for special education sessions and tastings—and the flat-screen TVs will show maps of Burgundy, but you might see some wine events and auctions on there too. The bar chairs look like a variation on the classic Eames lounge chair and are incredibly comfortable.
The main room has about 10 Parisian-style tables, and there’s a loungy area in the back with couches and tufted chairs, which is sure to become “sommelier corner.” You’ll see some fun lithos of the famous Willi’s Wine Bar (Mark says he came up with the name for Les Clos while he was there and drinking some Raveneau) and vintage maps, and there’s a lot of retail space in the back. On your way to a party and need a bottle chilled down asap? Boom, there’s a Wine Well Chiller. Want to show up with some caviar too? You can purchase that too (just don’t forget to call me, mmmkay?).
Whether you want to come by for a late breakfast, an afternoon glass of wine and a snack, or do it up for dinner, the all-day format will have you covered. Hours are looking like Mon-Fri 8am-12am, Sat-Sun 10am-12am. Follow along on Twitter for updates on the official opening date. 234 Townsend St. at 3rd St., 415-795-1422.