I never knew what I missed out on by not dining at the former Bonne Soiree restaurant in Chapel Hill.
Husband-and-wife team, chef Chip Smith and wine expert Tina Vaughn, opened Bonne Soiree in 2006 and closed in 2011 when The Courtyard development on Franklin Street changed direction.
That decision was my loss — or rather, my stomach’s — as I learned earlier this month when I dined at The Simone, the couple’s new restaurant in New York City. The Simone opened on the Upper East Side in late October and even got a mention by Florence Fabricant in The New York Times.
When the couple owned Bonne Soiree, Smith said, “We realized fairly quickly we had the classic Upper East Side restaurant, only it was in Chapel Hill.”
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According to my dining companions who were Bonne Soiree regulars, The Simone is very similar to Bonne Soiree. It is a cozy, intimate space with only 34 seats. Chip’s food is the same artful execution of timeless French dishes. Tina’s handwritten menus remain, as well as her bubbly table-side persona and killer wine acumen. (I learned that the way to dine at The Simone is to choose your courses and let Tina choose the wine pairings.)
In a small world way, Bonne Soiree is the reason they are now at The Simone. Renown wine importer Neal Rosenthal introduced the couple to their business partner, Robert Margolis, a successful restaurateur whose parents had dined at Bonne Soiree.
About their latest venture after five years in Chapel Hill, Smith said: “We’re up here doing our thing. We certainly couldn’t have done it without having been there.”
What does Smith want everyone to know: “My address, so they can send me barbecue and Duke’s mayonnaise.”