Weekly pre-fixe menus have become a restaurant staple, but at Le Central, the chefs have added their own personal touches. Each menu is inspired by the home region of one of the employees, a nod to both the authenticity of the restaurant’s French cuisine and the feeling of community it cultivates. The Olivier menu, for example, is in honor of the management’s newest member, who hails from the French Alps of Savoie. This is the land of cheese, walnuts, morels, and veal; so fittingly, the menu starts with an arugula salad with goat cheese and walnuts. On other weeks, diners can enjoy meals inspired by server Pascal’s home of Bezier in the Languedoc region, pastry chef Dominique’s childhood in Southern Brittany at the mouth of the Loire Valley, and charcuterie chef Phillippe’s roots in the German-influenced Alsace region. In addition to the prix-fixe offerings, the à la carte menu is populated with French staples such as house-made pâtés and moules frites—the classic combination of sweet black mussels and salty french fries. Homemade sausages, duck, and trout are bedecked with indulgent touches such as gastriques and brown butter. Pastry chef Dominique whips up sweets in house, including colorful, airy macarons and a croquembouche: a tower of cream puffs that traditionally serves as the dessert at French weddings. The warmly lit dining room gives off the feel of a Provençal cottage, with natural wooden beams, exposed brick, and traditional wooden furniture. Diners can also enjoy dinner on an enclosed patio, with rustic wooden touches and strings of white lights that twinkle at night.
Inside what 5280 Magazine describes as a "125-year-old dining room with original mosaic tile and a sparkling chandelier," restaurateur Robert Thompson and his expert staff have re-created the cuisine and atmosphere of old-school Parisian bistros and brasseries. With locally sourced ingredients, artisanal cheeses, and in-house charcuterie, Chef Sergio Romero and his culinary team craft French cuisine that 5280 Magazine, in its 2011 Best New Restaurants feature, lauded as "light, fresh, and remarkable." French classics such as escargot, steak frites, and a savory crepe of the day complement a selection of cocktails made by mixologist Colin Dart. Diners can savor each bite while nestled into oversized booths or contemplating infinity on the outdoor patio.
From the beautifully composed salade Lyonnaise, a tangle of frisée, crisped potatoes and bacon lardons haloed with a fried egg, to the parting confection of chocolate mousse gateaux drizzled with caramel, Bistro Vendome – located in its own alcove just behind the hustle and bustle of Larimer Square – oozes with informal French bliss. The classic atmosphere includes antiqued mirrors, hardwood floors that creak and squeak, bistro tables and tapestry-clothed wooden chairs, offering up an unbridled sense of romance. As does the patio, a charmingly leafy respite that, during the warmer months, is flush with kaleidoscopic flowers. The small bar area is an ideal setting for a late-night rendezvous and a glass of French bubbly, or weekend brunch, when kir royales run through the veins.