Discerning diners wanting to get a reservation at one of New York’s most exclusive restaurants were being driven mad. How was it possible that Fleming by Le Bilboquet was constantly refusing their requests?
Now they know, after a New York tabloid lifted the lid on the hot spot’s saucy secret: staff at the Upper East Side venue were Googling their guests, to see if they were the right fit for the restaurant.
Josh Vlasto, a spokesman for the 20-seater restaurant, confirmed that they do Google their guests.
Robert de Niro, Paul McCartney and Ivanka Trump have all been known to dine at the Provencal venue. But if your name is not familiar to the reservations team, you will be vetted.
“We want to keep the restaurant for special people only,” one waiter told The New York Post. “We want to maintain a certain environment for our customers, rich people.”
A second employee, who works in the kitchen, told the newspaper that anyone who tries to make a reservation and is not deemed "acceptable", after being Googled, does not get a call back.
Asked what made someone acceptable, the worker replied: “Rich.”
Mr Vlasto denied the two staff members’ claims, insisting that although they did Google their guests, it was not to confirm they were rich or famous.
“What the staff is claiming is absolutely not true and whoever said it is making it up,” he told the paper.
He did not expand on why the restaurant Googled its guests, before accepting their reservation. The Telegraph asked why, and is yet to receive an answer.
Reservations are made through the website. There is no telephone number.
The Telegraph attempted to make a reservation, in the name of a friend, but did not receive a response. Whether that was due to lack of fame and fortune, or the restaurant being full, remained unclear.
The restaurant was opened last year by billionaire mogul Ronald Perelman, the 49th richest man in America according to Forbes, and restaurateur Philippe Delgrange.
Mr Perelman enjoys buying restaurants – among those he has co-owned are Red Rooster in Harlem, where David Cameron and Boris Johnson dined together in March 2017, and the Blue Parrot in the Hamptons, co-owned with Jon Bon Jovi and Renee Zellweger.
His business partner at Fleming Le Bilboquet, Mr Delgrange, a suave Franco-Belgian restaurateur, also co-owns their flagship restaurant Le Bilboquet, two blocks south of the newcomer.
That restaurant was opened in 2013, with 100 seats, after a previous 35-seat incarnation closed in 2012.
Le Bilboquet, which attracted the likes of Hugh Jackman, Bill Clinton and Eric Clapton, was described by the New York Post in 2013 as “the snobbiest restaurant in New York.”
Mr Delgrange, 66, admitted that not everyone would be accepted to Le Bilboquet, but insisted it was to keep the ambiance correct.
“If you go to a restaurant like this, you dress properly,” he said in an interview several years ago.
“We’re not asking for much, just a minimum of respect. If someone comes here and is dressed well, they will never be rejected.”
And when Fleming Le Bilboquet opened last year, the team said they were proud to maintain the ethos.
“It will be more like the old Bilboquet,” said a spokesman. “Small and exclusive.”
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