The story of Bagatelle begins in a Paris suburb, at Le Norte patisserie, to be precise, with the ambitions of a soon-to-be entrepreneur, Philippe Zerbib. Having grown up in Bogotá, and studied at the Liceo Frances, Philippe wanted some hands-on experience in the French capital learning how to perfect that which his fellow countrymen hold so dear, in their arms: a baguette.
But where to find soft buttery croissants, fresh coffee and those emblematic long sticks of bread in a place like Bogotá? Philippe consulted his parents (his father of Algerian French descent) and decided he would return to his native city, to start an authentic French bakery café. The choice location would be a small venue on the Calle 95. The breakfast selection at Bagatelle drew in their first clients and to grow the business venture, Philippe decided to introduce a “plate of the day” for the hungry, and growing business community in the capital’s north. “Our clients were very sensitive to our ambience,” claims the owner regarding the lofty décor of his flagship café. Having started back in 1997 the first Bagatelle in Chicó, Philippe looked for a second venue, near the heart of the city’s expanding business district, Rosales. With a garden patio and a window decked with petits fours, the Rosales Bagatelle caught on quickly, especially as a meeting place for business brokers and politicans.
With lunch offerings such as steak au poivre, fish and chips, and fresh salads, Bagatelle quickly established itself in the city as a place for healthy affordable food. But it never surrendered its French soul; a place where Colombian ingredients and invention came to together with a European flair.
Bagatelle counts with four city-wide locations as well as one in the satellite community of Chiá – open on weekends for the community and Bogotá weekenders, touring with the family, and in search of a brunch in a green country setting. Philippe also hopes to be able to open a restaurant this year within the new El Dorado airport; so far lacking in offering travelers fair-priced dining.
Last month, the Rosales venue moved less than a block away to a spacious corner property on the Calle 70A No.4-99. With a sunlit terrace and shelves lined with freshly baked breads, the new venue keeps the Bagatelle essence of being both bakery and café while looking to promote soups and wraps, breakfast cereals as well as, a combination of lunch menus for those pressed for time. “People are very busy these days,” states Philippe as his restaurant bustles with activity. At the main glass counter some clients are busy choosing crunchy round breads, others enjoying bowls of fresh fruit.
Bagatelle strives to be a local coffee shop with an international appeal. Sitting at a table beneath the graceful tree which covers the courtyard of their Retiro venue, one quickly feels removed from the rush and pressures of life in this ever so time conscious city. Even though choice locations play an important role in the expansion of the Bagatelle brand, much of their success, comes back to the basics: treating cus- tomers in a respectful and courteous manner, and the baking up the best in bread, cake and cookies.