Opened in 1998, Lucques boasts a pedigreed partnership in Executive Chef Suzanne Goin, who previously was chef de cuisine at Campanile Los Angeles, and Co-Owner Caroline Styne, former manager of Jones Hollywood. Now 14 years later, Lucques has been heralded as one of the best restaurants in the US under Goin’s direction and commitment to the freshest ingredients available. It is no surprise that this commitment follows its way through to the bar and is executed with passion by Christiaan Rollich bar manager for Lucques and Tavern restaurants.
Rollich develops his drinks with use of culinary arts and cocktail principles and adds elements from the farmers’ market or the kitchen pantry to elevate a classic cocktail. This farmers’ market methodology leads to using fine spirits and fresh ingredients to create seasonal and unique drinks. Like a chef in the kitchen, the consistency of each blend is recorded to ensure premium flavors with each glass.
”A chef in the kitchen is not just whipping stuff together with a dirty apron and licking the spoon [saying] “oh isn’t that wonderful I don’t know how I did it— they have training and technique.. they create recipes and refine them and write it all down, step by step, not just ingredients but how tos and that’s how we operate in the kitchen and the bar”
Matt Duggan, Lucques General Manager says of Rollich’s approach to drink development. Rollich continues his bar education by learning from Goin and the sous chefs and extrapolates on the techniques they use. “Christian likes to be in the kitchen, he likes to go back there with the mortar and pestle, with the knives, with the blender” Duggan says of Rollich’s fondness for culinary art which is confirmed by Rollich “I spend more time in the kitchen than in the bar at this point.”
The process of how items get on the menu is also in line with Rollich’s philosophy on farmers’ market mixology. Bar offerings are developed seasonally, often he will work with the kitchen together not only to see what is in season but where the best of that fruit or vegetable is available.
Lucques Sunday Suppers becomes the stage of testing in the development phase, which lends itself well because its menu changes weekly. The long running and “ever changing and always tied to the produce of the season” prix-fixe brunch menu serves as a testing ground for the week’s ‘special cocktail’ that gets imprinted on the chalkboard above the bar.
“Do people like it, do we change the name, do we tweak the ratios?” Are all questions that get asked after this service and from then it moves on to menu or off. When asking Rollich for the source of inspirations for such drinks, he likens it to how people play an instrument and ‘they grab it and they just play.’ This natural passion for food and drink makes him in tune with his senses and he partners what he thinks tastes well to create an on beat beverage with the right pitch.
Rollich sees the bar as an extension of the restaurant. “Ultimately every drink has to be a drink that Suzanne would like to make if she was a bartender and she in turn becomes our customer with every drink” Rollich says of his final products.
The decision to bring the elements farmers’ market approach to the regular bar classics was not really a decision at all. It is part of the DNA of the restaurant, as Rollich explains, that Lucques has always had this element as a compliment to their menu, but “definitely stepped it up a notch” or “maybe two notches.”
Since its inception the bar began with always using fresh lemon juice or fresh lime juice and now the drinks have different layers going and different ingredients and are more labor intensive cocktails.
This is coupled with the special relationship that both the kitchen and the bar have with their local growers. Working with who they affectionately call ’the heart of the farmers’ market: Peter Schaner and James Birch.
“They grab stuff from other local farmers and they come in and chat with us. They hang out at the bar and we all help them unload the truck, we are handling the produce and they are discussing with us the origins of the fruit or vegetable and what is coming up in the field”
So there is a unique and close relationship with the farm that is based on inspiration and continued learning. “The philosophy that wine is food translates further for us to what comes from the bar is food” Duggan says and ‘We are just trying to keep up with the example that she (Goin) sets.’
Lucques 8474 Melrose Ave
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Neighborhood: West Hollywood (323) 655-6277 .
Photos: PLATFORM et cie.