Vaucluse, which opened in late 2015, is part of Michael White’s restaurant group, whose flagship is Marea on the southwest corner of Central Park. Vaucluse, named after the region of France, serves classic French cuisine, steering away from the Italian food and silky pasta that made the chef’s reputation. Vaucluse is on the upper east side of Manhattan, a short stroll from Central Park. The dining room is in two sections, divided by a central bar. It is attractively decorated, with well-spaced tables and plenty of mirrors, and tablecloths contribute to pleasantly moderate noise levels.
The menu offers brasserie favourites, with the occasional more modern interpretation. The wine list has plenty of depth in France, with Andre and Michel Quenard Chignin Veilleux Vignes 2015 at $44 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for $21, Mount Eden “Domaine Eden” Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 at $92 compared to its retail price of $47, and Yvon Metras Fleurie Vielles Vignes 2012 at $140 for a wine that will set you back $64 in a shop. There were grander wines too, such as Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault Clos de la Baronne 2014 at $240 compared to its retail price of $148, and Domaine Francois Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre 2011 at $415 for a bottle whose current market value is $239.
Bread was made in the kitchen, a choice of multi-grain sourdough, the latter being particularly good: the crust was excellent and the texture was light and airy (15/20). Beef tartare was nicely presented and was properly seasoned, garnished with a few pickles (14/20). Gazpacho was also good, with plenty of depth of tomato flavour and was also accurately seasoned (14/20).
A “salad Nicoise” differed substantially from the usual interpretation, having no olives, anchovies, shallots but having seared tuna, carrots, potatoes and eggs along with radicchio, frisée and rocket leaves. It was certainly generous in size, with particularly large croutons, but the only real issue was that the dressing was slightly unbalanced, being too acidic (12/20). Oriecchette durum wheat pasta was nicely made, cooked accurately and served with San Marzano tomatoes and basil (14/20). For dessert, sour cherry upside down cake came with slices of plum, toffee and vanilla ice cream, This was excellent, the texture of the cake lovely and the acidity of the cherries just in balance (15/20).
Service was very good, our waitress being attentive and friendly. The bill at lunch, with just water to drink, came to $64 (£49) a head, taking advantage of the kindly priced prix fixe option at lunch ($36 for two courses) whereby you could order anything from the carte menu but pay the lower price. If you came in the evening and shared a modest bottle of wine then a plausible cost per person might come to around £70.
Overall I enjoyed Vaucluse. The room is attractive, the menu appealing, and the dishes that we ate were generally well executed, all delivered with no attitude whatsoever . It was also all at an affordable price, at a time when smart Manhattan restaurants seems to be getting pricier and pricier.