San Diego celebrity chef Malarkey takes over La Jolla’s Herringbone restaurant after selling it

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Herringbone, the upscale La Jolla restaurant that celebrity San Diego chef Brian Malarkey started – and later sold four years ago – is returning to ownership and will reopen next year as a “French-inspired” steakhouse.

Working with longtime partner Christopher Puffer, Malarkey said the new fine-dining restaurant – which will be called Le Coq (think coq au vin) – will be the duo’s latest restaurant project. News of their latest venture, first reported Thursday by San Diego Magazine, comes three years after the opening of Animae, an opulent Asian fusion restaurant in downtown San Diego.

Herringbone, most recently owned by Tao Group Hospitality, a global restaurant and nightlife company, is expected to close in early January, according to a formal layoff notice the company sent earlier this month to the company’s development department. state employment. Some 57 employees, including part-time workers, will lose their jobs as a result of the closure.

Malarkey said he hopes he and Puffer can reopen the restaurant on Herschel Avenue as soon as late July. The Puffer Malarkey Collective currently owns four other restaurants, including Herb & Wood in Little Italy.

“I’ve always loved this building,” Malarkey said of the 7,500 square foot space known for the six living olive trees that adorn the interior. “At this point in my life, we’re all focused on San Diego, so if we could have one more dream location, we thought, what could it be and agreed it was Herringbone. It’s very Herb and Wood-ish, and La Jolla is such a fun community to be a part of.

Malarkey said he and Puffer purchased an extended lease from Tao, along with the liquor license. The partnership plans to invest up to $3.5 million in the new steakhouse, including the cost of acquisition, Malarkey said. The menu, still in development, will feature their take on classic French dishes such as escargot, salad frisée with bacon and egg, and chateaubriand.

Several of the olive trees will remain, but Puffer will put his stamp on what will be sleek, modernist French design, said Malarkey, whose first restaurant job was at the now-closed Citrus in Los Angeles, run by the late French-born chef Michel. Richard.

“It will be caviar, truffles and lobster, and it will be fun,” he enthused. “The world is a little shy right now, but we want butter and flavor, big steaks and big glasses of wine and martinis, an amazing party in La Jolla. I was classically trained under the very intense pressures of a French kitchen.

They also plan to open up the restaurant further by moving the bar and restrooms that dominate the middle of the dining room, Malarkey said.

The restaurant’s name, Puffer said, was inspired by Julia Child, the famous cookbook author and TV personality “who brought classic French cuisine to our living rooms when we were kids.” She is widely known for many French dishes, including her coq au vin, from which the name Le Coq is derived, Puffer explained.

“So why French?” he said. “Because it’s something we haven’t done yet. No pizza or pasta will find its place in this menu.

Just two years after Herringbone opened – at a cost of $3 million – the Hakkasan restaurant group in 2014 bought a majority stake in the La Jolla venue and other restaurants owned by Malarkey, Puffer and then his financial partner James Brennan. Malarkey remained involved with Herringbone restaurants and his Searsucker brothers until 2018 when he parted ways with Hakkasan. Last year, Tao Group acquired Hakkasan, including its restaurant stakes.

Malarkey said he wanted to regain control of Herringbone over the past few years.

“I called Hakassan before he was sold to Tao. “And when Tao took it over, I got in touch with them and they were happy to give it to me. Their main focus is more Vegas and replicating the brands they have in Vegas. They’re also more into life nocturnal, and La Jolla is a neighborhood.

Just a few months ago, Tao launched its upscale restaurant concept, LAVO, located in the Gaslamp Quarter. The chic Italian restaurant occupies the former Searsucker restaurant space at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Market Street. It had been closed since summer 2020.

Tao spokesman Sam Ong said on Friday the hotel group had decided to sell Herringbone to “Focus on our core brand, LAVO San Diego.”

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