Though initially conceived as a fine-dining venue, Bibliotheque may have suffered an identity crisis over the years as it vacillated between club, restaurant and bar, never quite settling on one. But a face-lift under the new management of the Mademoiselle Lily group aims to bring Bibliotheque back into the limelight.
Bibliotheque, located in Sampoerna Strategic Square on Jalan Sudirman in South Jakarta, has maintained its classic look, dominated by towering bookshelves crammed with books creating a look and feel that some people have compared to the fictional Hogwarts library of Harry Potter fame.
“Where else can you find an establishment as beautiful as this in Jakarta?” said new CEO Eric Guilbert, gesturing around the space proudly.
Guilbert has achieved much in his 22-year food and beverage career, which has spanned the globe.
While Bibliotheque has retained some of its most notable features, Guilbert took time to carefully redesign the layout of the venue and refurnish the restaurant.
An avowed perfectionist, the changes are both precise and practical. The height of the bar stools has been altered to ensure that people feel comfortable while resting their hands on the bar, and the wooden railings on the second floor have been lowered.
“I want [people] to feel like they’re a part of the crowd down here,” Guilbert said of the changes to the upper level. “They won’t find it hard to see what’s happening downstairs and people will notice them as well.”
Another vital change has taken place in the kitchen. Guilbert has formed a new team, working behind the scenes to increase serving capacity and to present new and exciting delicacies to its patrons.
He didn’t hesitate when it came to selecting an executive chef to lead the team. To elevate the restaurant’s French culinary offerings, he appointed former colleague Zulkarnaini Dahlan, an Indonesian chef who started his career at Riva restaurant in Jakarta, where Guilbert also worked years ago.
Nicknamed Chef Jules, the 33-year-old grew to excel in French cuisine while at Riva, and has worked at high-profile restaurants in Singapore, including L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, an Asian outlet of celebrated chef Joel Robuchon.
Together, Guilbert and Chef Jules have created an intriguing menu that incorporates French, Italian and some Asian influences.
I had an opportunity to experience what the new-look Bibliotheque has to offer. The smoked salmon, in particular, rose to the occasion. The salmon is cured, marinated for 48 hours, smoked using Bibliotheque’s own machine and then personally sliced by Chef Jules. He tops it with capers, red onions and cream cheese, and then sprinkles chives to make this already pretty dish stand out even more.
One certainly must respect the time and effort it takes to prepare such a dish, but even without knowing the whole process, the appreciation comes naturally after tasting it.
Another dish worthy of mention is the escargot. Chef Jules uses the traditional method of buttering these French specialities, but then adds some of his own style. First of all, he puts two escargots inside each shell (giving you a generous serving of 24 escargots in one order) and then fills the shell with a parsley butter that you sip from the shell while savoring each snail. Bread that is tucked under each shell becomes drenched with the drippings and completes the experience.
Aside from serving up these lovely French treats, Bibliotheque invites customers to try a fine cigar. The place’s humidors show they mean business on this front and Guilbert, who happens to be a cigar aficionado himself, stores some of his own favorite Cuban cigars here.
With these detailed changes being introduced, Bibliotheque is hoping to start a new chapter and flourish once more.
- Featured in JAKARTA GLOBE on May 31, 2012 edition -