There is a little bit of magic that happens each weekend at Tavern: just before the brunch rush arrives and the sun has reached its peak, the subtly elegant atrium is flooded with gentle, soft light, and it is quiet. In this moment, you can nurse a strong cup of coffee slowly, under the shade of an olive tree, and share in a conversation held barely above a whisper. There is plenty of space and a palpable sense of calm - and amongst Tavern’s lush, comfortable surroundings, it feels like pure luxury.
Eventually, the sunlight will begin to intensify, and with it hordes of hungry brunchers will wander in: extended families with kids, sophisticated couples, old friends, groups of young socialites. Before you finish your coffee, the room will be full, and a parade of decadent avocado toasts will begin to file out of the kitchen. Suddenly, Tavern will have transformed into a lively, communal celebration of what makes a late Sunday brunch so special: delicious food and drink, shared leisurely with good companions.
Since its opening eight years ago, Tavern has become the essential Westwood brunch spot, luring locals and celebrities with the promise of fresh pastries, expertly-crafted salads, and lemon ricotta pancakes. The driving force behind this mainstay is none other than the superhero duo of the Lucques Group: chef Suzanne Goin and sommelier Caroline Styne. The pair joined forces back in 1998 when they opened Lucques, a much-acclaimed restaurant that almost 20 years later continues to hold a top spot in Los Angeles’ fine dining scene. Their next collaboration, a.o.c., opened in 2002, and Tavern followed in 2009. Today, Goin and Styne’s reach extends far beyond fine dining - they’ve opened several casual-dining spots called The Larder and a wholesale bakery under the same name, they’ve taken over the food and beverage program at The Hollywood Bowl, and they host the successful L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade fundraiser every year. That’s not to mention the multiple James Beard awards, the award-winning cookbooks, the winemaking, or the fundraising dinners prepared for the Obama family. If you’re feeling a little under-accomplished after reading this paragraph, you’re not alone.
If you’ve had the opportunity to visit Goin and Styne’s other restaurants, Tavern will feel somewhat familiar - the duo’s impeccable taste shines through in the restaurant’s elegant styling and polished service. The olive tree in the atrium recalls the cozy gardens of both Lucques and a.o.c., and the menu and wine list reflect Goin and Styne’s shared commitment to sustainability. Goin’s signature French-meets-California style is present as well, with a menu that deftly pairs vibrant local produce with decadent cheeses, freshly made pastries, and plenty of butter. What’s unique to Tavern is its three-in-one concept: at the front of the space is The Larder (the casual grab-and-go café), in the center is a dark and intimate bar that hosts daily happy hours, and at the back is the glamorous atrium with its more upscale offerings.
We were lucky enough to experience Tavern in all its Sunday-brunch-glory from a coveted corner seat - a comfortable, tufted perch perfect for a bit of people watching while devouring the string of brunch delicacies that made their way to our table. It all began with a little something to drink, and with such a robust beverage menu, we were hard-pressed to choose. For something healthy and bright, we enjoyed The Cali from Juice Served here, a vibrant citrus blend with pomegranate and tangerine oil. When choosing a cocktail, our knowledgeable server pointed us in the direction of the Astronomer, a delightful combination of fresh strawberries, amaro, and aperol that was bubbly, bright, and even a little unexpected.
Tavern’s brunch menu offers a few variations of fully-loaded toast, a brunch trend that we can't imagine we'll ever get sick of. We started off with the Peanut Butter & Banana toast, an old-school flavor combination that recalls warm memories of childhood. Tavern’s version begins with a lightly toasted and buttered seeded sourdough that is topped with a generous layer of creamy peanut butter, a river of fragrant honey, thick slices of banana, and a sprinkle of salt. For added crunch, whole roasted peanuts are sprinkled on top. As simple as it sounds, this dish is somehow complex - it's elevated comfort food at its finest.
Because no Los Angeles brunch is complete without it, there should be no surprise that a big, beautiful slice of avocado toast appeared at our table. Piled high with salty prosciutto, hefty chunks of avocado, halved soft-cooked eggs, soft pillows of burrata, and bright green harissa, this is certainly one of the sexier avo toasts we've encountered. The thick slice of sourdough bread is a crisp vehicle for the dish's indulgent toppings; its edges lightly charred and its center brushed with a hint of oil. There's a reason why this dish comes with a fork and a really big knife: this is not a pick-it-up-and-eat-it kind of avo toast. You'll need to come at it with some strategy to achieve a well balanced bite every time, but your efforts will be well worth it.
We're suckers for a good hollandaise, so we knew we needed to try The Tavern "Benedict." The quotes here correctly indicate that this version is a little bit unconventional - instead of an english muffin, Tavern's version starts with a thick, buttery slice of brioche that almost melts in your mouth. On top of the bread is a layer of gooey, melted gruyere, a handful of fresh greens and herbs, and slice upon slice of soft, salty prosciutto. Two perfectly poached eggs are layered on next, then the whole affair is bathed in a deluge of hollandaise - and this is not just any hollandaise. Tavern's version is brightly acidic; the unexpected tang of fresh lemon offering an exciting contrast to the sauce's rich, buttery texture. This combination of flavors is the ultimate in decadence - which is really what a good brunch is all about.
Finally, there was the Sweet Tea-Brined Fried Chicken - a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast if there ever was one. A hearty portion of crispy fried chicken is served atop a homemade biscuit with buttermilk gravy and a sunny-side up egg, and in true Suzanne Goin style, is finished off with some fresh greens and herbs. The chicken is perfectly seasoned with a crisp, light breading that saves this dish from being too heavy (those aforementioned greens help, too). The gravy is also lighter than you might expect; subtly herbaceous and even a little bit acidic. The base of the dish - the biscuit - is buttery, crumbly, and a little bit sweet, offering a simple counterpoint to the stronger flavors and a perfect vehicle for scooping up any leftover gravy.
With impeccable service, artfully-crafted food, and quiet, comfortable sophistication, Tavern has carved out an identity as an essential brunch destination in Los Angeles. Its lively atmosphere provides a perfect opportunity to see and be seen, or to gather and linger with your favorite people over an elegant brunch feast. The commitment to quality and consistency that Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne have made themselves known for over their almost twenty years of collaboration shines brightly at Tavern - a place that now feels just as essential to the fabric of L.A. as its owners do.
11648 San Vicente Blvd
Brentwood, CA 90049