It’s always nice to see a labor of love come to fruition, especially when it’s an oyster and absinthe bar channeling the 1860s.
Boasting a decor that faithfully recreates the stark rustic elegance of the 19th century, Maison Premiere, in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is highlighted by zinc, marble, glinting brass and, of course, a myriad of antiques (wooden chairs and mahogany tables to reclaimed floors, sconces and even a pull-chain toilet).
Masterminded by Josh Boissy and Krystof Zizka, the old friends—who originally met waiting tables at Manhattan's Buddha Bar—took a trip to New Orleans and were immediately inspired by the rich history that seemed to emanate right from the streets.
”We love New York, but we wanted an inspiration to come from a different place,” says Boissy. ”We saw all this incredible architecture; there was history in the walls, in the brick, in the windows—you could feel it.”
Zizka and Boissy visited Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, named after the French pirate Jean Lafitte who helped Andrew Jackson defeat the British. ”We had this fantasy idea that maybe this could have been a place that they were all hanging out in—Jackson, Mark Twain, big American figures of that time,” says Boissy. ”We really wanted it to be everything we dreamed about, to take people to another place and time.”
Boissy and Zizka divided their duties down the middle. Boissy helmed the design portion, traversing up and down the East Coast, combing through flea markets and antique shops for authentic fodder.
Zizka, meanwhile, pored over hundreds of books and photographs, devouring information on New Orleans’ history and culture. He also studied the art of serving oysters and concocting authentic cocktails.
The centerpiece of the space is the marble horseshoe bar, whose design was plucked right out of a Parisian absinthe bar the friends discovered on a jaunt to France.
On one side, guests can quaff specialty drinks as they perch on well-worn, wooden stools beneath chain-lashed orbs of light; on the other side, revelers can slurp down a selection of 22 oysters that sit in a three-tiered display.
The bar is divided by an enormous glass-paned wall stacked ceiling-high with sparkling bottles of liquor, sterling silver ephemera and long-stemmed glasses.
Boissy says the space was created with the burgeoning Brooklynite in mind, celebrating local artisans and introducing new libations that have yet to find their way into the mainstream.
”Manhattan is washed out with money; all the artists have been moved out of the city,” says Boissy. ”The city has become so commercial and based on tourism and chains that we wouldn’t be interested in ever doing anything there. Brooklyn is the future of New York art and talent. It’s exploding right now.”