Eatery brings elegant culinary touches to menu, decor

Bardot, a chic new Village eatery, opened its doors on the corner of Harvard and Bonita Avenues for the first time this week. The new business replaces the longstanding Harvard Square cafe, which closed in 2012.

The beloved bistro might be a part of the city’s past, but a couple of the restaurant’s familiar faces have returned to revitalize the popular Claremont corner spot.

While Harvard Square’s famed front patio still remains, Bardot is a far cry from the old establishment. Nearly two years of renovations now reveals a glitzy new interior with a large square bar at the restaurant’s center and ‘60s- and ‘70s-style decor throughout.

The patio isn’t the only thing familiar. Bardot is the brainchild of Chef Alain Fournier, who returns after originating Harvard Square in 1991. Though he moved on a few years later to focus his attention on Cafe Allegro in Upland and La Verne, where he continues to serve hungry patrons, the French culinary enthusiastic is happy to be back in his old haunt in Claremont. Joining him in his new venture is friend and co-owner Philippe Catherine, also a former employee of Harvard Square.

“There are a lot of feelings and emotions for all of us associated with this location,” Mr. Catherine said. “All of the partners and people involved in the makeup of this company did, at one point or another, work here at Harvard Square. We are hoping to emulate the good vibes we had working here at that time.”

The pair also plans to bring back a little of the building’s history. Before becoming a restaurant, the space served as part of the Village Theatre, built in the 1940s from the estate of silent-screen legend Harold Lloyd. While the theater is a thing of the past, Mr. Fournier and Mr. Catherine plan to harken back to those days with silent black-and-white films to be projected on the wall outside once weather becomes more stable.

The title of the restaurant also fits into the cinematic theme, named after the famous French bombshell Brigitte Bardot, for whom both entrepreneurs fostered childhood crushes.

The inside lives up to its name—sleek high-back booths lend the restaurant glamor along with other elegant interior touches like the vintage-inspired wallpaper and specially-made water fountain in front. In fact, every aspect of Bardot was made to custom-fit the restaurateurs’ vision of a hip, yet refined dining space.

The menu caters to the same vision with a selection of small plates, sandwiches and more ritzy main courses with prices ranging from $6 to $38.

“We hope to appeal to someone who wants to have a quick lunch or is on a budget, but by the same token cater to people who want to go out for a special occasion, three- or four-course dinner,” Mr. Catherine said.

A couple Harvard Square favorites return to the menu, the Warm Oriental Chicken Salad and the Chicken Burger Harvard Square. Other French favorites will remain on the menu, but Mr. Fournier says he will concentrate on a more eclectic type of cuisine at Bardot that he calls “California fusion,” incorporating American, Latin American and Asian dishes.

“It gives you a little more freedom culinarily,” Mr. Fournier said. “Instead of sticking to the same old cuisine or age-old recipes done over and over, we can infuse a little creativity.”

One of Mr. Fournier’s more recent  masterpieces is Duck Taco a l’Orange, an orange-marinated duck confit with salsa quemada, onions, cilantro and orange zest on a corn tortilla for $6. Another creation is Colorado Lamb Chops, placed on a grilled mint Jalapeno quinoa with white raisins, flash-seared cherry tomatoes and lamb jus for $38.

His family fostered his artistry in the kitchen, developed over the last 40 years as a chef, at an early age. Mr. Fournier says his family still remains adept at making ordinary dishes extraordinary.

After receiving his foundational skills in France and what Mr. Fournier admits was a considerable amount of hard work, the cook moved to the United States where he worked in Los Angeles before venturing into the entrepreneurial realm with the opening of Harvard Square. He looks forward to continuing his culinary tour de force in Claremont.

“Cooking is about passion, and there is a certain satisfaction out of pleasing the people you serve,” Mr. Fournier said. “It brings flavor to life.”

Bardot, located at 206 W. Bonita Ave., is open Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. A weekend brunch is in the works, but plans have not yet been solidified. For more information, call (909) 621-2255 or visit them on Facebook.

—Beth Hartnett


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