With COVID-19 restrictions finally easing up in D.C., longtime local sommelier Elli Benchimol is ready to unveil her anticipated Champagne and caviar bar tucked inside a historic Georgetown row home.
All-day Apéro opens Wednesday, May 19 (2622 P Street NW) near Stachowski’s Market in a quaint section of the city framed by Rose Park. Stylish pastries and espresso drinks served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. make way for a parade of bubbles poured by the glass and elegant French fare from 4 p.m. to midnight, with a kitchen that closes at 10 p.m.
The advanced sommelier, who’s led wine lists at Joe’s Stone Crab and Range by Bryan Voltaggio, tones down traditionally high price tags for the high-brow items headlining Apéro’s menu. For $50, diners can enjoy a glass of champagne with full caviar service (egg yolk, egg white, red onion, chives, crème fraîche, cucumber, capers), presented tableside alongside a box of savory waffles. The tab for a trio of deviled eggs and a glass of bubbly is $20.
The classy setup, flanked with shimmering gold accents and blue-toned walls and banquettes, seats 45 inside and another 16 across a leafy patio out back. Brunch is scheduled to join the mix on Sunday, June 5.
Consulting chef Paul Stearman, most recently executive chef of the storied Georgetown Club, spent the lion’s share of his D.C. culinary career with Robert Wiedmaier as chef de cuisine at French fixture Marcel’s.
Menus adorably attached to reclaimed wine box lids spell out an opening list of snacks (charcuterie, pickles in a jar); small plates (pâte, a soup of the day); mains (vegetable cassoulet); and desserts (affogato, canelé). Suggested pairings include a glass of Crémant with house-cured steelhead, dressed with crème fraîche alongside a warm waffle.
A wine list that largely swings French plays up grower Champagnes, which are made by the estate that owns the vineyards.
Tables show love for wine industry friends, featuring wooden tops lined with champagne cap contributions from herself and fellow somms she’s met over the years. Castaway corks come from bottles of bubbly guzzled by Lindsey Fern (Inn at Little Washington); Chris Coker and Winn Roberton (Bourbon Steak); and Michelle Defeo (president of Laurent-Perrier USA), to name a few.
Apéro adds to a scene-y drinking renaissance the neighborhood is experiencing as of late, which includes this spring’s arrival of luxe lounge Donahue and recently rebooted cocktail parlor L’Annexe.
Apéro’s opening team looks a lot different than it did last fall when the project was first teased out. Somms Felicia Colbert (A Rake’s Progress) and Christian Johnston, who was slated to man the menu, were named as partners with Benchimol at the time.