Sometimes a passion project falls into place so seamlessly that it feels like fate. For restaurateur Ed Kane, that project is his newest restaurant, Explorateur.
This new French restaurant in Boston, located on the corner of Tremont and Boylston Streets, celebrated its grand opening with a star-studded party on Aug. 27, featuring an appearance by Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Exploratuer, which opens to the public on Monday, has a pretty sweet set-up, as it was built inside in the historic Masonic temple overlooking Boston Common.
“There’s something a bit spiritual about it,” says Kane, the impresario behind Big Night Entertainment Group and restaurants like Red Lantern, Empire, and several Foxwoods venues. After a nearly two-year negotiation, Kane joked, “It could’ve just been a CVS.”
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Built in 1898, the building houses meeting halls and the administrative offices of several Masonic entities. Despite the ludicrous and sometimes nefarious conspiracy theories swirling around Freemasons, Kane found an open-minded community interested in bringing more exposure to the building and livening up the corner.
Explorateur’s location is not only a restaurateur’s dream, but its space is too. After a friend tipped Kane off on the building’s hidden potential, he arranged a tour—and discovered an expansive multi-room, ground-floor property gathering dust for a half century.
The restaurant’s debut marks another milestone in the ongoing efforts to revitalize Downtown Crossing and surrounding areas, and Explorateur will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner menus featuring California-French cuisine. After spending some time roaming through California on motorcycle, Kane loved how even an Italian restaurant managed to have its own local flair.
Focusing on fresh produce and modernity, chef Jacob Mendros, former chef de partie at L’Espalier, has honed a menu of familiar French classics including Nicoise salad, steak au poivre, roast chicken and escargot—and that’s just dinner. Morning commuters can stop for a variety of French pastries, breads and coffee courtesy of La Colombe Coffee Roasters, while sit-down diners can feast on dishes like avocado toast (there’s the California for you), croque monsieur or a goat cheese omelette. Pre-made sandwiches will also be available to grab and go.
Guests coming through the main entrance will land in the café, featuring multiple library-style tables (and brass lamps) for eating and working.
“People go to cafes to work and can’t even get a seat,” says Kane. “This will feel a little more civilized.”
The café opens into a generous dining room and bar area. And while some French restaurants tend to go overboard with a smoldering aesthetic, Explorateur strikes a lighter note with original stone masonry, a palette of blonde woods, olive leather sofas and brass flourishes.
“We wanted it to look like an Old World European-style café,” Kane says.
In another month, construction will wrap on Explorateur’s Library Room, which will be “very dark and ritual-looking, like it existed for the Masons before,” according to Kane. The room will serve as a library-workspace by day and house private parties by night.
“It doesn’t even seem possible that I’m building a restaurant here, but I just happened to have the concept to fit the space,” says Kane. “I want this to be a place where people come three, four times a week.”
If you go:
Explorateur, 186 Tremont St., explorateur.com