As a chef who’s been known to wear her white jacket over a black dress and thigh-high, hot pink Balenciaga boots Angie Mar, had more than food on her mind when she decided to open a new French restaurant on West 12th Street. She was thinking about style and aesthetics, too. “I very much live by what [British chef] Marco Pierre White says,” she explains, seated in the refined, white-walled space a few days before welcoming diners last week. “To have a really great restaurant you need three things, and they have to be in a very specific order: ambiance, followed by service—only then is it followed by food.” As Mar opens Les Trois Chevaux, the ambiance will be marked not only by plush velvet banquets and the Waldorf Astoria’s original chandelier from 1931, but also an ample dose of fashion. The staff will be dressed in uniforms by designer Christian Siriano and jackets will be required for men. (Vintage YSL blazers are available at the host station for those who miss the memo.) Per the restaurant’s website: “Blue jeans, shorts, and sneakers are strictly prohibited.”
“My father was very old-school and it didn’t matter where we were, the man put on a blazer to go to dinner,” Mar says of her late dad, adding that growing up, the trips she took from her hometown in Seattle to New York with her family called for her fanciest dresses and faux fur jacket; dinner at an upscale restaurant was always on the itinerary. “I miss that.” While Mar doesn’t want the restaurant to be “uptown stuffy” she’s unapologetic in her belief that fine dining is an occasion to respect and therefore dress up for. “I feel that even pre-COVID, New York slipped into this very casual atmosphere where you can just walk in anywhere wearing yoga clothes and it’s accepted. I lived in Southern California for a really long time… if I wanted to roll around a city in my yoga clothes and flip-flops, I would still be living in L.A”
Arrive at Le Trois Chevaux—named for the moniker Mar’s father and uncles gave her and her two brothers as children, “the three horses”—and you’ll be greeted by a hostess wearing slim black trousers and an ink blue pussybow blouse. Bartenders will be dressed in crisp white shirts and navy vests, and servers in ivory jackets and velvet bowties. “I thought about a lot of people that I really wanted to work with, and Christian just made the most sense,” she says. “He’s a dear friend and I find his clothes to be so wonderful, so inclusive—so hip, but still classic with a nod to craftsmanship.” The two became close when Mar was running the Beatrice Inn next door, which she bought in 2016 and was forced to close last year amid the pandemic and an “exorbitant” rent increase. Siriano was a regular.
“I think she has impeccable taste,” the designer says of Mar, who sent him photos that reflected the look and feel she was aiming for as they dreamed up the uniforms: a Bianca Jagger portrait by Helmut Newton, a teenage Jacques Pépin, Katherine Hepburn. Designing the looks was a departure for Siriano, who is best known for womenswear and red carpet dressing. “It’s something I always wanted to do, and this was the perfect opportunity,” he says. Like Mar, Siriano views dressing up as a crucial part of the fine dining experience. One of his favorite nights in New York ever, he says, was a six-course meal at the Michelin-starred restaurant Daniel when he was 22. “I think we put something nice on and our whole aesthetic changes, our whole vibe changes,” he says. “Why not do that to go to dinner?”
As Mar built Les Trois Chevaux, she looked to storied French restaurants from New York’s past such as Lutèce and La Côte Basque. Both the space and the menu are a stark contrast to the dark, underground Beatrice Inn, where Mar became known for a meat-centric menu that included massive dry-aged steaks and duck flambeed table side. The dishes were a bow to the rich history of the space, which originally opened in the 1920s as a speakeasy, and over the decades became a lively late-night haunt for celebrities and New York’s social set.
“When you have a place that is so steeped in history, that is so iconic to the city, it’s both a blessing and a curse,” says Mar. “It’s a blessing to be the steward… it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be bestowed that honor. But at the same time, it’s also a curse, because you are bound to that history. Honoring it didn’t allow me to start from a blank slate like I am now.”
Mar enlisted Brenda Bello and Joel Medina from BWArchitects to design a restaurant bedecked with marble countertops, vintage vases sourced from Hong Kong, and seating fashioned with sentiment. “We chose the deepest color of midnight blue for the banquets because it was the color of my father’s favorite sweatshirt he used to wear,” Mar says. “It was really important to nail the ambiance and to have this be a really gorgeous place that people could come and lose themselves in for a few hours.” Artwork includes a painting by Pépin—a good friend and mentor—and a Banksy print of well-dressed rats. “Everyone said I couldn’t hang rats in my restaurant, but they’re wearing tuxedos,” she says. “It’s fine, they’re dressed for the occasion.” Floral arrangements by Raul Avila—known for his work at the Met Gala and other high-profile events—will change twice a week. Avila was drawn to Les Trois Chevaux for Mar’s “ability to achieve sensory perfection,” which he’d observed at the Beatrice Inn. “My hope is that those dining completely forget that they are in New York City for a moment and escape to what they recognize as French terrain,” he says.