a selection of dishes at cafe la vie photo by lauren healey

First Look: Cafe la Vie inside the Le Meridien hotel in Clayton

A new restaurant offering European classics is debuting soon in Clayton. Cafe la Vie opens tomorrow, Thursday, Oct. 1, inside the Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton hotel (a Marriott offshoot) at 7730 Bonhomme Ave. and aims to provide a spot to escape the mundane and experience the good life, as its French name suggestions.

Helmed by executive chef Michael Frank – who has worked at Farmhaus and the now-closed Grand Tavern locally, as well as in kitchens around the country – the 7,400-square-foot restaurant offers a sophisticated yet approachable dining experience in a lush, mid-century modern setting.

“Understated elegance is a goal of mine,” Frank said. “We have simple, proud, delicious food that speaks for itself. We’re a scratch kitchen. Everything we do is from the ground up; we’re not taking any shortcuts. I tried to source the best ingredients I can and let them speak for themselves."

While some items are imported to bolster the European flair, many ingredients are sourced locally, including Buttonwood Farm eggs, Show-Me paddlefish caviar and Hemme Brothers Farmstead Creamery cheese.

For breakfast, guests can choose from signature, to-order items like avocado toast with marinated cherry tomatoes and fried shallots on nine-grain wheat, or a jambon (ham) and scrambled egg sandwich with sweet onion jam and Gruyere on a croissant served with breakfast potatoes. There’s also a selection of grab-and-go options like yogurt parfaits, overnight oats and pastries. Don’t miss out on a variety of Illy coffee offerings or the fresh-pressed juice from St. Louis Juice Press. If you’re looking for a little hair of the dog, try a Mionetto prosecco mimosa, or the canned bloody mary or Disaronno sour.

Cafe la Vie will not offer lunch to start (it will later be added if demand calls for it), but a happy hour they’re calling “sparkling hour” runs from 4 to 7 p.m. featuring six beverages – utilizing prosecco, club or tonic in collaboration with local 1220 Spirits – two of which will be non-alcoholic. There are also several wines and beers (including locals like Schlafly and Urban Chestnut Brewing Co.), as well as cider and seltzer. The small plates available during this time will include charcuterie, a fennel-sausage croquette, a cheese dip and more.

Dinner service will begin at 5 p.m. with options like a little gem salad or French onion soup to start, along with entrees like the Café la Vie burger on a brioche bun, and roasted chicken served with chestnut agnolotti.

There’s also a secret menu that guests will only receive if they ask for it. Disposable, rose-colored glasses come with the secret menu, which can only be seen when wearing the glasses. That menu currently has four craft cocktails, and the options will rotate, likely seasonally. For dessert, there’s a gelato cart that will feature about six gelatos at a time from the Hill’s Gelato di Riso, including locally inspired flavors like gooey butter cake made exclusively for Café la Vie.

“Our goal is to transcend the typical hotel restaurant experience and become a destination restaurant,” Frank said. “While we certainly want hotel guests to enjoy it, we want people from all over the St. Louis area to come spend some time here with us. The brand is all about classic elegance; it’s that Mad Men vibe, which is really exciting for me. Cooking this amazing, elegant food is really in my wheelhouse.”

Check out the slideshow below for a look at Clayton’s newest upscale restaurant.