Whisper Patrick Avice du Buisson in my ear and I'll follow you anywhere. The destination last week was the newly opened Le Peep and Ombi (pronounced "oom-bi") Bar, both of which were designed by Avice du Buisson, who is a partner with David Powell in the design firm Polifilo. That the two businesses share the same space on Elliston Place made it more convenient, though a tad perplexing. Standing on the sidewalk that fronts the building (on the site where TGI Friday's long stood), one is apt to cock the head to one side with that quizzical look dogs get when they're confused. The only way to satisfy your curiosity is to walk inside and immerse yourself in the delightful surprises that unveil themselves at every turn.
The concept is not as ambiguous as it seems. The partners in the Belle Meade Le Peep, which opened five years ago as an independently owned store in the Denver-headquartered franchise, wanted to open another location and felt the Elliston Place areain the midst of multiple medical campuseswas underserved for breakfast and lunch. The Belle Meade store serves only breakfast, lunch and brunch, but the owners thought the folks who visit the Rock Block to see live music might want a place to get a bite before or after a show, so they would serve the Le Peep menu into the evening.
At the same time, they had a wild hair to open a bar that would offer a more sophisticated drink, environment and menu alternative to Gold Rush and Exit/In. "It was challenging," partner David Cleveland says. "We loved the space and location and wanted to create an environment that is cool, upscale and interesting, yet also a comfortable space with comfort food. We wanted to bring in the evening and bar crowd, simultaneous with the Le Peep menu."
Enter Avice du Buisson, who surveyed the raw space, then presented his global vision to the partners. To the right is Le Peep restaurant, which seats about 80 in a clean, spare room with an emphasis on wood. To the left is Ombi Bar; the front lounge area uses concrete, granite, steel, aluminum and glass to create a contemporary yet elemental space, bridging indoor and outdoor with floor-to-ceiling windows between the lounge and patio that roll all the way up when the weather permits. The bar leads back to the open kitchen, which is fronted by a stunning copper bar with seating for dining. A steel mesh curtain delineates each side without isolating either.
Anthony Bates, opening chef at Virago, has created a menu of starters, entrées and sides that perfectly complements the mission of contemporary but comfortable. Cheese and olive platter, skinny fries with dipping sauces, honey-lime grilled shrimp and hand-cut onion rings in tempura batter are among the starters; entrées include roasted chicken, filet mignon with peppercorn demiglace and cilantro-seared salmon. Libations include 14 different martinis, and an inclusive list of red and white wines, with 21 available by the glass.
Lunch is already busy, and an interesting and diverse cocktail and late-night crowd is building; the indoor/outdoor table may soon require reservations. Words cannot adequately describe Avice du Buisson's latest design creationall the more reason to visit Ombi Bar/Le Peep to see (and be seen) for yourself.
Le Peep Elliston and Ombi Bar, 2214 Elliston Place, 320-5350. Hours: 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. (bar open later); 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. (bar open later); 6:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Sun. Breakfast is always available.