Brooklyn’s newest speakeasy not only has a French flair, inspired by the secret boudoir of Marie Antoinette in Versailles, but it also has its own archeological secret inside. Le Boudoir is accessed through a fake bookshelf within the restaurant Chez Moi on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights. The place is designed in a French Rococo-style with custom-made furniture and decorative pieces from châteaus in Europe.
The lower level space was once used as storage and the owners had heard tales from an owner who lived upstairs about access to the fabled Atlantic Avenue tunnel, said to be the world’s oldest subway tunnel. This tunnel carried commuters on the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad (now Long Island Railroad). One evening after some drinks, the owners took a sledgehammer to the wall and uncovered two well-preserved spaces from the long-closed off tunnel.
Inside Le Boudoir
These spaces are behind the main room of Le Boudoir, itself lowered several feet from its original state during construction. One of the Atlantic Avenue tunnel spaces, with the feel of a grotto, is barrel vaulted and made of brick and stone. It’s a former coal room where you can still see the round ceiling hole where coal would be dropped down from street level, though they’ve added a decorative cover that fits exactly. The stonework is still stained by the coal, a detail the owners tell us they’ve left deliberately. Another space has been converted into a unique bathroom – don’t miss the old-school wooden toilet inside.
The renovation plan for Le Boudoir went through both the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Department of Buildings since the building at 135 Atlantic Avenue is landmarked.
The coal hole, with a new decorative cover
While you’re at Le Boudoir, take in the nuanced cocktails by Franky Marshall with names like the Guillotine, Air Balloon, Dauphin and Intruder. We tried these and delicious yet-unnamed cocktails that will soon be on the spring menu. French bites include fois gras torchon, crispy frog legs, truffle mushroom croquettes, charcuterie and cheese. There’s also live jazz by well-known musician Tony Tixier from Paris, who also curates the rest of the music programming at Le Boudoir.
New Yorkers will remember the tours of the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel given by Bob Diamond, where you’d literally hop down into a manhole near Trader Joe’s. Those tours were shut down but you can get a glimpse of a portion of that tunnel today through Le Boudoir.