The Bacchus Management Group (The Village Pub, Spruce) has really done it this time: now open in Atherton is their latest project, SELBY’S. Open in the former Chantilly, the location has been home to fine-dining restaurants since 1937, and the swanky style feels like a throwback to that era. The group spent over two years on the project, and it shows in all the exquisite details.
Interior designer Stephen Brady, who designed Spruce, took inspiration from Hollywood’s glamorous dining scene of the 1930s and 1940s. The 10,000-square-foot space has two levels, with room for 48 in the main dining room, and 40 in the bar and lounge. There’s also a private card room, with room for 8 (you can dine in there and then a felt topper for the table comes out when it’s time to play cards—they can also hire a dealer for you); the balcony room seats 40, and there’s additional seating for up to 70, with many private dining options.
Walking through the original doors, you’ll note luxurious touches like forest green mohair walls (they provide great acoustics, and founding partner Tim Stannard tells me they have bought all the green mohair that exists in the world, for the moment), tobacco saddle leather chairs, black paneled wainscoting, and some stunning lighting, including a custom chandelier by Magnus Schevene. The welcoming design is eclectic, both modern and vintage, and is meant to make you feel like you want to linger. The Bacchus team is known for their top-notch service, only adding to the desire to stay awhile.
The bar is such a looker—I felt like I was having a cocktail in Manhattan—with three arches inlayed with gold foil, a white Carrara marble bar top, and wraparound leather chairs and bar chairs. There are over 110 American whiskies, and ask about their Blanton’s barrel reserve. There’s also an extensive selection of eau de vie from Austria, and select Chartreuse too.
The artwork is a seminal part of the décor, featuring original artwork by Rob Delamater of Lost Art Salon, who also curated over 175 pieces of vintage and contemporary artwork, hung salon-style throughout the space (I particularly fell in love with the large pieces by Bay Area abstract expressionist Jack Freeman hanging by the dramatic white marble staircase).
Many of you know what a fanatic I am for vintage restaurant history, menus, and ephemera, so I was pretty smitten with the entire dining experience they have crafted here. Bacchus executive chef Mark Sullivan really enjoyed researching vintage dishes, and has updated them with a California seasonal lens (and lightness). I’m calling it Cali-Continental, and it’s elegant without being fussy, luxurious without being gauche. Some media outlets have fussed over the Black Label $50 burger (with Époisses and black truffle), but I think that’s missing the point of the menu. (And, by the way, if you want a burger, the Selby’s burger is just $21, served with Comté.)
Starters include a lobster consommé with seafood mousseline ($19); a Russian salad (based on the recipe for salad Olivier, which dates back to the 1860s at the Ermitage in Moscow), lightened up with seasonal vegetables from SMIP Ranch and a creamy dill dressing, $17; and if you feel like splashing out with a friend, get the cured Hokkaido scallop with Kaluga caviar and cream with verjus, shallot, and yuzu ($75), perfect with a glass of their Champagne from Sanger, an exclusive here in California.
I was happy to see carpaccio Cipriani ($22) on the menu (prepared tableside)—when was the last time you had carpaccio? Some burnished Gruyère popovers will hit the table, hang onto one until the end of your meal so you can surreptitiously scoop up sauces like beurre rouge. Oh, and the china! The Ginori porcelain dishes are so beautiful, what a treat to dine off of such lovely china.
Mains include an elegant and lightly cured halibut ($41) adorned with little scales of thinly sliced potato, and you’ll want it with a side of Robuchon potatoes (there is nothing creamier on this earth), $17.
The duck is what got chef de cuisine Jason Pringle the job—here, it’s dry-aged for 17 days, and served tableside as a roast crown of duck for two ($98)—the exterior has a fantastic seasoning. Order the La Tur Robiola ravioli ($19) to share on the side, they were charmingly inspired by Lucca Ravioli (RIP). You’ll also see a variety of prime steaks from Holstein cattle, dry-aged exclusively for Selby’s by Flannery’s Beef. Plus sauces (bring on the béarnaise)!
Dessert from executive pastry chef Janina O’Leary (previously Per Se and Del Posto) is fantastic—the midnight chocolate cake ($13) with salted caramel and fudge sauce is best in class (she uses Valrhona chocolate, and there’s also olive oil in it). I’d travel here just for it and eat a slice at the bar, I’m not kidding. Beautiful mignardises at the end of the meal, like peach Bellini bonbons!
Of course wine and spirits director Andrew Green has pulled out all the stops with Selby’s. The cellar has one of the most substantial opening wine lists in the United States, including 3,000-4,000 wines from first-class producers around the world, and focusing on vintage Italian, Spanish, French, and California wines. (They’re gunning to acquire their third Wine Spectator Grand Award.)
There’s also some really fun tableside action with their Martini Cart (you can see it in action in my post on Instagram), serving two variations of “The Coldest Martini on the West Coast,” a classic martini and Vesper (they use frozen spirits only, without shaking or stirring, so it’s potent!).
Enjoy more pics here and here. Dinner nightly 5pm-10pm. Book your table soon (yes, even if you live in SF, you’re going to want to come down to the Peninsula for this experience!), and hey, tech bros, leave the Patagonia at home for a change, would ya? 3001 El Camino Real at Selby, Atherton, 650-546-7700.
The elegant exterior of Selby’s. Photo: Ed Anderson.