Here's the answer to an ongoing mystery in Lower Merion:
What's becoming of the former bank building that housed Primavera Pizza Kitchen in downtown Ardmore, which closed in June after about a quarter-century at Lancaster Avenue and Station Avenue?
Justin Weathers and Joe Monnich – riding high with Stove & Tap in Lansdale and the side-by-side Al Pastor and Bella Vista in Exton – are turning it into a classic French brasserie called The Bercy, after a neighborhood in the 12th arrondissement of Paris. (This might be quite the Seine.)
Monnich can parlez with the best of 'em, as he is a former executive chef at Parc on Rittenhouse Square and is a former chef at Dandelion. Before partnering with Monnich, Weathers spent five years as a top manager with Starr Restaurants. (The partners' Starr connection explains the local buzz that insists, incorrectly, that Starr is behind the restaurant.)
Weathers, hoping for a November opening, says Monnich will take a rustic approach to the cooking, including throwback dishes such as steak frites, duck a l'orange, tarte flambée and French onion soup and a large raw bar. There's a wood-fired oven as well as a rotisserie already in the building.
Designer Barbara Boulange is taking advantage of the foyer, the high ceiling, and the open mezzanine for the 240-seater. "The bar is going to be a focal point of the energy," Weathers said. It will be a 40-seat horseshoe that "we really want to be a community gathering place." The dining area will take advantage of the 20-foot-high windows.
Weathers acknowledges that high prices for liquor licenses are a high barrier to entry to the Lower Merion dining scene, but he's hoping "to fill a void of the large destination spot that you night see at, say, Parc or on Rittenhouse Square." They also see it as an approachable, family restaurant.
"Primavera Pizza Kitchen was very busy when it opened," Weathers said. "But you can't be a one-night-a-week spot."
He's also aiming for a stellar wine program, including a large wine-by-glass list and cellar. Cocktail program will lean toward solid execution of the classics, such as negroni and mai tais.
Downtown Ardmore, whose stars include Tired Hands Brewing and its offshoot, Fermentaria, happens to be in the thick of a restaurant expansion, what with the new Latin seafooder Pala'a, a Peruvian restaurant on the books, and the future Ripplewood Whiskey & Craft, Bam Bam Seoul Kitchen, and Shack in the Back on the way down the street.
Zommick McMahon Commercial Real Estate handled both sides of the transaction.