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BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Philippe and Maud Bonsignour have been building a reputation for fine food in the West Village. And “building” is not just an abstract term in this case.
The Bonsignours pretty much constructed the entire interior of their latest French bistro and gastropub, Bakehouse, completely from scratch.
Doffing his black toque, Philippe, taking a brief break from the kitchen, and Maud sat down for an interview recently at a table at their new eatery, at 113 Horatio St., just east of the West Side Highway.
“I was the general contractor, the designer. I’m the chef — everything,” said Philippe.
Speaking of the tables, Philippe built those too, along with the wooden bar. Maud and their two children, Enzo, 15, and Eva, 14, also were hands-on — painstakingly sanding down the boards for the tabletops and the bar.
The whole place has a woodsy smell, not surprising since the walls are blanketed with an eclectic mix of small boards.
The chairs, which were salvaged, were stripped of their varnish by Philippe — a lengthy process, he noted — so they would have the right color to blend in with the rest of the place’s light wood tones.
It’s that kind of attention to detail and quality that seems to imbue pretty much everything in Bakehouse, which opened in December.
The Bonsignours live on Bleecker St. Philippe, 43, who is half-American and half-French, grew up in both New York and France. He attended culinary school in France and has been cooking since he was 15. Maud, 37, is from the Basque region of France.
Their families were friends and the two met in Versailles, where her parents had a restaurant. Maud fondly remembers when she was 9 and Philippe was 15 and she would go over to the budding chef’s house to eat his freshly baked cookies.
They married 16 years ago. Today their relationship remains flavored by food.
At Bakehouse, she said, “I’m the front person. He’s the back person. We really complement each other.”
Philippe opened Bonsignour on Jane St. 20 years ago when he was 23, and it fast became a Village institution. Twelve years ago, he sold it to the day manager, Danilo Romero, who has since carried the torch.
They also have the 11th Street Cafe, where again, Philippe built the whole interior himself. At one point, he also had a gallery.
“This is my fourth business in a four-block radius,” he noted.
Their kids grew up playing in the Bleecker St. Playground. Enzo is currently a student at Bard High School and Eva attends Beacon High School.
Whenever possible, Bakehouse’s food is local and organic. They bake all their own breads, including their croissants, which the culinary couple proudly proclaim are nonpareil.
“This is something we worked on a lot,” Philippe explained as he presented a couple of délicieux-looking specimens.
“There’s proper lamination — not greasy,” he said, referring to the crescent-shaped pastries’ buttery sheen. “The ends are really crunchy — good for dipping. It’s light.”
These carefully crafted croissants won’t wilt, even on the most humid New York City summer days.
Is it safe to say these crunch-consistent croissants are the best in the Village?
“Yes,” Maud offered.
“I would almost dare to say — in the city,” Philippe declared.
Bakehouse is also a wholesale provider of breads to local restaurants and hotels like Tavern on Jane and Soho House.
Another signature item is their Bakehouse Burger ($16). It’s made with beef from Pat LaFrieda Meats, caramelized onions, ricotta and Havarti cheese, all topped off with a special Bakehouse brioche — a very eggy-tasting bun. This reporter can attest that the end result is magnifique.
There’s much more to Bakehouse, including its French onion soup Lyonnaise ($9), steak au poivre ($31) and its “spirit-forward” classic cocktails, like an egg sour (containing an egg white).
Right now, the place has a very local clientele. This is partly because Bakehouse is a bit off the beaten track, but also because the Bonsignours have a neighborhood following. Overlooking the river, however, does offer the benefit of beautiful sunsets.
They’d like to boost their nighttime business, but Maud stressed they want to keep Bakehouse’s neighborhood feeling and don’t want anything out of control.
“If you come to brunch, there are 20 strollers lined up inside here — and that was needed,” she noted. “It’s great for families for the day and adults at night. I feel like we’ve become the extension of the living room for a lot of people.”
Bakehouse bistro and cafe, at 113 Horatio St., is open Sun. to Wed., 7:30 a.m. to 12 a.m., and Thurs. to Sat., 7:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. For more information, call 646-559-9871 or visit bakehousenyc.com .