If you hate clowns, paying $70 for chicken, and loud sirens, Bagatelle is not for you
I’ve lived in Miami for 25 years, so I've seen some shit. I danced with Mickey Rourke at a nightclub called Snatch when I was in high school. I've called the paramedics for strippers who'd passed out on yachts. I’ve been involved in a light arson case. But I have never seen anything like what I saw at Sunday brunch at Bagatelle.
I asked my friend Stephanie to join me for a little ladies brunch at the ritzy South Beach restaurant known more for its atmosphere than its food. If you’re a Real Housewives of New York fan you’ll remember Bagatelle as the place Ramona Singer visited when she ditched LuAnn’s hotdogs-at-sea day.
I called ahead to find out what time the place gets popping. “You’ll want to get here at 3. That’s when it gets good,” the hostess said.
When I arrived, Bagatelle was relatively tame save for the ambient lighting and techno music. The space was white and airy, with lots of light pouring in. We were seated at a table that was connected to the DJ booth. That’s when I started to get a little worried. I’m knocked up and just wanted to grub on some good food. I didn’t want to shake my very large, pregnant ass.
Stephanie closed out her tab at the bar and sadly told me, “I just paid $60 for two glasses of champagne and an orange juice.” In the orange juice’s defense, it was garnished with a slice of orange, like it was cannibalizing itself, so it was fancy. At that point I knew we were in for a long, expensive meal.
I opened the menu and tried to act super chill about the fact that their breadbasket was $18. Because I have no regard for money, I ordered the breadbasket. A metal cage containing two stale mini croissants, two wet apricot pastries, and one dry muffin arrived at the table. Stephanie cannot eat gluten, so I was forced to devour the entire basket.
Stephanie ordered a tomato salad, which was thrust unto the table in a hasty manner because our waiter had more important things to do:
After the appetizers, everything went dark fast. I don’t mean in a figurative way. I mean in a literal way. The big, bright windows were covered in thick blackout velvet as the lights completely went out in the restaurant. I had a forkful of $24 tomato salad on my fork that I could no longer see.
Then the sirens came on. And for the next hour and a half, the sirens never stopped. From behind me a barrage of odd characters emerged from the wings of the restaurant. Next to me was a man dressed as a flying squirrel. Across from him was a woman in a zebra onesie wearing a Marie Antoinette wig. And because maybe the restaurant is also a Pokémon Go Pokéstop, out came Pikachu. It was like the Disney character breakfast on acid.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any weirder, two men wearing horrifying Pennywise clown masks jumped up on the bar and started hosing everyone down with dry ice.
Before we go any further, there are two things you need to know about me: I hate clubs and I hate clowns. I started to sweat uncomfortably. It was loud, it was hot, I was covered in smoke, and I couldn't see my goddamn tomato salad.
Our appetizers were cleared away, and we tried to read the menu, which was difficult because of the strobe lights. If you suffer from seizures or coulrophobia, do not go to Bagatelle.
Everyone in the restaurant was now out of their seats, gyrating on the dance floor next to me. I didn’t realize I was seated on the dance floor, but alas, I sure was. I tried to stand up to get to the bathroom but was almost knocked over by a procession of waiters carrying a woman in a Supergirl costume holding a bottle of champagne with sparklers in it.
Stephanie went to find our waiter to ask if we’re allowed to order more food. We really weren’t sure. No one was eating. By 4 p.m., Bagatelle was a full-fledged nightclub.
She located our waiter and tried to order, but because of the strobe lights she accidentally poked him in the eye. Because of the music he couldn't hear her. Because of the clowns I was crying.
It was at this point in the day (was it day? was it night? I became disoriented from the sirens and gyrating waiters) we finally received our entrees.
Stephanie ordered a $70 whole chicken with roast potatoes, mushrooms, and cipollini onions. I ordered the $28 coquillettes au jus, jambon et emmental. Which is a fancy way of saying mac n’ cheese with ham chunks. Now, I need to warn you, these aren’t very good food pictures because I was photographing the dishes under strobe lights—not exactly optimal conditions.
We ate about six bites of food, which comes to about $16.33 per forkful. Cool.
Something about the combination of heavy French food, strobe lights, and techno music was making me nauseated. I needed to see the light of day. Stephanie offered to settle the bill while I escaped from this brunch-cum-disco hell.
Although Bagatelle was the weirdest place I’ve ever eaten (not counting Rainforest Cafe, RIP) it was kind of charming. Sure, the food isn’t great, and sure, the music sucked, but it is the perfect club for a pregnant lady. I was able to eat a mediocre meal on the dance floor, and I guess that was worth the price of admission. And indigestion.