The exodus of well-heeled New Yorkers moving to South Florida has not only heated up the real estate market, but it also fired up some rarefied kitchens—such as La Goulue. The French restaurant debuted in Palm Beach in October 2020 as a near-clone to Antoine Camin’s popular eastside Manhattan bistro.
Wanting to see how this hotspot can thrive among Palm Beach’s trendy restaurant scene, I drive up for some Paris-by-way-of-New York gastronomy. Upon arriving, we find a welcoming and vibrant venue with romantic lighting that beckons passersby with its glow. The eatery has space for 138 guests and an open kitchen that features a wood-fired oven visible from the dining room, which is made inviting by soft leather seats and the expected white linen tablecloths. The street at the corner of Royal Palm Way and South County Road might lack cobblestones, but the French doors and the café tables that spill out under an awning and onto the sidewalk evoke the feeling of a neighborhood restaurant in the middle of Montmartre.
What La Goulue delivers is a convivial scene and refined preparations invigorated by a contemporary twist on cocktail service. With South Florida not exactly an epicenter of French cuisine, our waiter charmingly explains various offerings, including off-menu treats such as caviar. After his endorsement of Rhode Island oysters imported with a side of pickle sauce toppings, I give them a spin; they are notably fresh, with just the right amount of brininess.
When a restaurant features an item recognized as among the best in the industry, it’s hard to say no. Le souffle au fromage, an award-winning signature dish baked with gruyere and Parmesan and finished with white truffle oil, certainly lives up to my lofty expectations.
Moving on to the main course, the recommendations again are spot-on: We tuck into pan-seared jumbo scallops with crispy potatoes and a Meyer lemon hollandaise sauce, and sole in a sweet-savory sauce. The latter produces an unexpected reaction from the fish aficionado opposite me, who calls it “the best fish I’ve ever had.” She gives me a forkful. I have to agree.
In an age where practically every new restaurant tries to cater to the latest trends, it’s refreshing—and comforting—to experience a French restaurant offering a classic French menu while using its drink menu to provide patrons with a modern twist. A recently hired mixologist has added a fashionable flair with cocktails crafted with considerable artistry. With my dining companion’s preference for less-sweet drinks, the bartender efficiently produces a batch perfectly suited to her liking.
As an espresso martini enthusiast, it’s de rigueur to cap the night with the bar’s house blend of vodka, espresso and coffee liqueur. The martinis I proudly concoct at home will never again live up to the crafted blends of a skilled and inventive mixologist. Barely having room for dessert, we manage to share the crépes suzette—set aflame for presentation purposes—and profiteroles indulgently covered in chocolate sauce, which perfectly complement the espresso martini.
After a relaxing and fulfilling evening with top-notch service, it’s clear why La Goulue is seducing foodies with its scrupulously prepared Parisian cuisine in a lively—and, dare I say it?—transporting setting.