Last night, I had the opportunity to eat at Bastille Kitchen, a restaurant on Melcher Street in Boston. It had gotten good word-of-mouth reviews from friends, and was very much on my list of places to try.
49 Melcher Street, Boston
nearest T stop - South Station
The decor, the location in the old warehouse district across Fort Point Channel and the layout of the interior space all work very well. Attractively remodeled to highlight hints of the building’s industrial past, the exposed brick walls and the high ceilings are comfortably lit to provide both a sense of space and intimacy. The restaurant has two main areas, an upstairs bar and dinner seating area, and a downstairs lounge area. My group sat upstairs, and I was only able to glimpse the downstairs.
The food was tasty, but I would describe it as conventional French and formulaic. I chose steak frites which is always a very reliable choice, and certainly not an place where a chef can show off any skills. Others at the table had short ribs Wellington, a very rich and deliciously tasty fare, scallops, and a grilled sole. Each dish was flavorful and enjoyable, but entirely predictable, and something you’ve eaten before. This is food that is supposed to satisfy, not surprise, and that’s exactly what it did. In that sense, it’s a middle of the road experience, reliable but exceedingly familiar. Unchallenging.
The wine list was not extensive but had a reasonable mix of offerings, almost all of them French, that complemented well items elsewhere on the menu.
The restaurant felt full but not crowded which made their inability to seat us at a full table for our 8:30p reservation a little perplexing. To be fair to them, we booked for 3 but showed up with four, but it seemed odd that their only option was to have us sit at a high bar table. Perfectly comfortable, but a reservation is a reservation, and by Boston terms, 8:30p is reasonably late for a seating even on a Saturday night, all of which should have given them more options.
Couple that with and inexperienced wait staff and a hefty ticket price, and it starts to get annoying. The overall service could use a little help. Our waitress seemed eager to get us to order food, but then would disappear for a long time after the food was ordered. There wasn’t a flow to any of it, or frankly a pleasantness, and the delicate touch of how to make customers feel their presence is both enjoyed and appreciated was lacking. It seemed as though she had been told to get her tables through and out as quickly as possible. Given the cost of the meal, that’s not a good strategy.
Overall, I would say that I enjoyed it, but was not impressed. It underwhelmed me. Still, I can imagine that if you're one of the many young people who flock to this city for finance or tech or university, Bastille Kitchen is the right mix of ersatz fancy and entirely approachable to make for a fun night out. The lounge area keeps rocking till the wee hours, which is a bonus. But if you’re not in that crowd any longer (and I’m not), it’s a bit of a let down, only because it’s not as sophisticated as it wants to give off on first impression. No sin in any of that, but still, it ain’t inexpensive either. Go and enjoy, and you will, but wear only your middlebrow hat. That will fend off unwarranted disappointment too.