Say Bonjour to Batifol, Petit Robert Bistro’s New Cambridge Sibling
The "true Parisian brasserie" is bringing a certain je ne sais quoi to Kendall Square all day long.
Greater Boston has a new French restaurant, but it’s just one piece of owner Loic Le Garrec’s plans to bring more French food to the area. Batifol, now open in the former Abigail’s space in Kendall Square, will eventually have a sibling French bakery next door and a French market in the former Bergamot space in Somerville. But even just on its own, Batifol will meet a lot of needs, eventually operating all day, every day, for breakfast, weekend brunch, weekday lunch, and dinner. (As of press time, brunch, lunch, and dinner are up and running, with Batifol opening at 11 a.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends. Breakfast will begin soon.)
“It’s a place that you can always come,” says Le Garrec. “The idea is to be open all the time with no stopping, and we’re trying to have a price point for everyone. You can come in and have a moderate lunch or dinner; you can treat yourself really well with our wine selection.”
Le Garrec is no stranger to French restaurants, having cofounded local favorite Petit Robert Bistro with Jacky Robert in 2005. The duo rapidly grew the brand to five locations, but these days only the one in the South End remains. Le Garrec is the sole owner; he bought out Robert in 2015.
In a lot of ways, Batifol is “pretty much the same” as Petit Robert, says Le Garrec. “We’re proud to show our culture, to show what we can offer in France, and the concept is a true Parisian brasserie. That’s why I love to work with [head chef] Cyrille Couet, because his food is very traditional. He trained in France for many years, and he’s opened so many restaurants in Boston; he’s very, very talented.”
So, if the concepts are similar, why use different branding rather than opening another Petit Robert? “I don’t want to be a chain,” says Le Garrec, referring back to Petit Robert’s explosive growth in its early years. “That was way too much, way too fast, no structure. You live and learn. We realized quickly that we were competing with ourselves. [Plus] it’s super fun to create new things; it’s more challenging. I’m expecting most of my clientele [from Petit Robert] to come here too and check it out, so it has to be new and fresh. We’ll show people that there are many ways to do a steak frites, you know.”
Speaking of steak frites, Le Garrec is particularly excited about Couet’s take on it at Batifol—“the [green peppercorn] sauce is just a tiny bit creamy; it’s perfect”—but the whole menu is “very fun,” he says. It’s a mix of familiar French classics (boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin) and some dishes that draw inspiration from elsewhere (cashew-crusted red perch in a Thai-style red curry, a ceviche of the day). “We can’t forget where we come from, but we can make it fun,” says Le Garrec.
And it does seem like a fun time for Le Garrec, or at least a busy one, as Batifol is one of several new projects on his plate. Across the courtyard from Batifol, there’s a space that has long housed cafes (Barismo, and before that, Voltage Coffee & Art); more recently, it has been a COVID testing site. It’ll eventually become “a true French bakery,” says Le Garrec. “We’re going to bake our own bread, croissants, pain au chocolat.” He expects it to open around summer 2023, maybe spring.
Meanwhile in Somerville, he and the team have also taken over the former Bergamot space on Beacon Street, where they’ll open a French market—“like a small Eataly, but French,” he says. There won’t be any service there, not even coffee; it’ll strictly be a market, selling some of the team’s own prepared items, like coq au vin and baked goods, plus French products like jams and mustards.
For now, though, catch Le Garrec and the team at Batifol in Kendall Square, serving charcuterie boards, escargots, salade niçoise, and lots more, alongside plenty of cocktails and wine, a few beers, and some intriguing spirit-free drinks.
“We really want to create a fun atmosphere,” says Le Garrec. “We train our staff to always be very welcoming, always pleasant, always saying yes. We really want to take care of our guests like they’re family.”
291 Third St., Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-945-0345, batifolcambridge.com.