“For 25 years, Union League Cafe has offered a taste of Paris in downtown New Haven. Now the upscale bistro is emulating the tradition of France’s sidewalk cafes with its new outdoor seating.
Stroll down Sherman’s Alley adjacent to the restaurant’s building and you’ll find La Terrasse, Union League’s new terrace area, which debuted in mid-July. La Terrasse offers seating for about 36 people at umbrella-shaded bistro tables and banquettes, bordered by boxwood planters and flower boxes containing colorful vegetation and blooms.
The restaurant has added a special menu for the outdoor space, bringing the French custom of apéro stateside. Union League’s general manager Romain Turpault describes it as a late afternoon or early evening social ritual, a gathering with friends for drinks and light snacks before a later dinner.
‘[We created] something more like an aperitif menu, with smaller bites, and really treat it like we do in France,’ he says.
Union League’s Terrasse menu, available starting at 2:30 p.m. (5 p.m. on Saturdays), presents a variety of raw bar selections, bar snacks, cheese and charcuterie boards and more substantial plates, paired with classic aperitif-style cocktails and wines.
Apéro bites ($3.75 to $10.75) feature marinated olives, spiced nuts, saucisson (dry cured pork sausage) with baguette and butter, miniature croque monsieurs and duck rillettes with sourdough toast.
Bouchées, or larger bites ($7.75 to $25) include mussels, steak tartare with housemade chips, red snapper crudo and a warm lobster roll. Raw bar items feature clams, oysters, jumbo shrimp, steamed lobster and house smoked salmon, as well as caviar service.
Apero classique cocktails ($9 to $14) are light, pre-dinner sippers, spotlighting Lillet Blanc, Campari, pastis, Salers and other spirits. Other signature cocktails ($13 to $16) include the La Vie En Rose, with lemon-infused vodka, hibiscus shrub and strawberry lemonade, and a gimlet with Boyd and Blair vodka and cucumber shrub.
Beer drinkers will find a mix of European and American brews, including New Haven’s own East Rock pilsner, and the menu naturally offers a list of French white, red and sparkling wines by the glass and bottle.
The restaurant’s classic a la carte lunch menu and prix-fixe options (two courses for $20.75; three courses for $27.75) are also available for outdoor dining, as well as its dinner menu, starting at 5 p.m. La Terrasse will be open through the fall as weather permits.
Turpault and chef de cuisine Guillaume Traversaz say they hope the more casual offering might attract new diners who may have previously viewed Union League as a special-occasion destination.
‘People imagine us as a fine dining experience, really fancy,’ Traversaz says. ‘It’s a special restaurant and we’re really proud of what we’re doing, but with this concept, we’re trying to put on something more laid-back, with the same quality.'”
-Excerpt courtesy of The Hartford Courant, “Say bonjour to Union League’s new Paris-style patio,” by Leeanne Griffin, August 16, 2019. (top) Image courtesy of the Hartford Courant, “La Terrasse offers open air dining outside Union League Cafe,” photo by Lindsay Bukowinski, August 2019