L'Espalier

The Back Bay's fine-dining institution
VERIFIED LUXURY
L’Espalier has long been considered Boston’s best French restaurant. This Four-Star fine-dining restaurant and Back Bay institution moved from a 19th-century townhouse to a tony spot adjacent to the Mandarin Oriental in fall 2008 but managed to hold onto the bulk of its intimate charm.

Dining at L'Espalier brings you back to another era (when men still wore coats and ties to dinner) and chef/proprietor Frank McClelland's over-the-top prix fixe menu only embellishes the experience. The dishes are made up of seasonal, French-influenced, traditional New England recipes like butter-poached Maine lobster with braised pork belly and corn off the cob.

Tasting menus can be amped up with caviar courses and selections from an overflowing cheese cart, and the monster wine list puts up plenty of stellar bottles. The service is impeccable: you're given plenty of time to luxuriate over your meal, but as soon as eye contact is made or an eyebrow is raised to signal a need for assistance, a member of the L'Espalier staff will appear to heed your request.
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Our Inspector's Highlights
• Those who can't commit to a multi-course dinner can experience McClelland's masterful food by settling into the Salon, which serves an edited selection of small bites and cocktails. Also available? The cleverly named cheese flights — from "Soft and Gooey" to "That Stinks!," you’ll be introduced to fine fromage you won’t find elsewhere.

• The eatery has its own farm. Expect to taste produce, eggs and poultry from the restaurant's Apple Street Farm which is in Essex, Mass.

• The L’Espalier cheese cart is known as one of the best in the world. No matter how full you may be, save room for this legendary cheese course.

• Each guest is presented with a small gift from the chef as you leave the restaurant. One recent item was a brown butter and autumn spiced madeline — the departing gifts change daily, but they are generally small enough for you to digest. 
Things to Know
• L’Espalier’s prix fixe dinner menus range from $98 to $208. First courses for lunch start at $21, the five-course Degustation Tasting Menu is $68 and the Chef's Tasting Menu is $108.

• The chef’s tasting journey is a presentation of multiple courses designed to give you a flavor of the kitchen’s prowess at French cuisine. There is also a chef's table option available for parties of two to four people that puts you in direct contact with the chef. 

• There is no bar at L’Espalier, but there is a salon. The lounge-like concept is a comfortable room where you can lounge on a sofa or settle into a cushy armchair and order cocktails from the wait staff.

• Reservations are a must on weekends and busy travel times in Boston (think graduation weekends or during the Boston Marathon). If you don’t have a reservation, you will likely not be seated.
The Food
• The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, with the a la carte menu available at lunch only.

• At dinner, diners choose either a five- or eight- course menu. The eight-course menu includes a cheese course and is a seasonal degustation—a farm-to-table treat—with a vegetarian option.

• Recent menu options include poached halibut with new potatoes, little neck clams, pickled kohlrabi and bacon; roasted Buck’s Farm pork rack with green chickpeas, ricotta gnudi, artichokes, nicoise olives and espelette; and hot chocolate shuffle with marshmallow ice cream and toasted marshmallow.
The Look
• A marble tiled foyer leads into the Salon, where a periwinkle blue area rug complements the room's dark hardwood floors. The modern lounge has soft and inviting booths. The excellent lighting is thanks to an awe-inspiring clean-lined chandelier.

• Floor-to-ceiling windows, unveiling lively Boylston Street below, illuminate the largest of the three dining rooms. Larger parties are comfortably accommodated and seated in luxurious cushioned chairs with dark mahogany accents. Plush fawn-colored carpet underfoot leads seamlessly into the Crystal Room.

• The Crystal Room is the centrally located dining room bordered on three sides by a striking steel bar wine case that is enveloped in brilliant sheets of glass. Be seated alongside the wine display in one of the olive satin-lined banquettes, or across the dining room in one of two lush mauve booths.

• Take a quick peek of the impressive sterling kitchen on the way to the library, nestled in the rear corner of the restaurant. This romantic space is perfect for a special dinner for two or an intimate business meeting, and is cleverly decorated with books of various shades of cool blues lining its shelves. Tall shelves lead the eye up toward exposed dark wood beams overhead, adding a rustic finishing touch to this warm dining room.
Getting There
774 Boylston Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02199
TEL617-262-3023