Dining with Hemingway

July 23, 2020, Heather Lindsay Sell, ShoutOUT® Tampa Bay

Disclosure: Through my relationship with Doubletake Marketing & PR, I was given the opportunity to visit The Left Bank Bistro and was provided a complimentary meal in order to provide my honest opinion on the entire experience. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own and based completely on my own thoughts, experiences, and taste buds.

The people that I liked and had not met went to the big cafes because they were lost in them and they could be alone in them and be together.” Ernest Hemingway, The Moveable Feast

Have you ever wondered what life in 1920s Paris was like? Strolling along the Seine. Slipping into a café on the Left Bank sipping cocktails and chatting with greats like Josephine Baker, Ernest Hemingway, or Pablo Picasso. Back to a time and place where creative greats like these met to mingle, collaborate, and share ideas.

The Left Bank Bistro’s concept is to recreate that circa 1920s feel in their restaurant, paying homage to the cafes, conversations, and greats of that era. 

Black & White Photos

The Bistro was lovingly brought to life in 2018 by Denmark native, Susanne Byram. When Susanne discovered the empty property nestled in the Crescent Heights neighborhood 3 years ago, she immediately envisioned a French restaurant. Her dream was inspired by her love of the 1920s Parisian cafes on the Left Bank in Paris where writers, artists, philosophers, painters and creatives converged. She wanted it to be an experience filled with great service, delicious food, and robust conversation, just like the cafes from that time period.

Guests dubbed the “Monkey Room” because of the monkeys in the wallpaper

Built in 1922 and originally a home, the building where the restaurant resides took a year-and-a-half to renovate and transform into the bistro you see today. The back of the house was extended to create more dining space, along with the southern-style wrap-around porch and the open-aired back patio. The windows in the restaurant are the original 1920s windows salvaged from the renovations and the wood removed from the flat hardwood ceiling were crafted into the tabletops throughout the restaurant. Absolutely loved this!

Bar with blue backlighting of vintage Left Bank map

Entering the Bistro, I couldn’t help but delight in the aesthetics and cozy feel of the open-spaced room and setup. Nothing stuffy or unwelcoming here. Crisp black, white and blue French colonial décor throughout; a lounging area in the foyer replete with leopard-printed couches, chairs and throw pillows; old black-and-white photos of people such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Baker adorning the walls; hand-printed wallpaper in the restrooms and side room (ask about the room dubbed by guests as the “Monkey Room”), and spirited jazz softly playing over the speakers. The ambiance definitely echoed Paris.

Being invited to dine while chatting with the owner, Susanne, was such a treat. I love the 1920s era that always reminds me of flapper dresses, speakeasies, and artistic greats.

Drinks with Piaf

Specialty Cocktail Menu

Cocktail time. Though there’s a full-bar on-site, I highly recommend you check out the specialty cocktail menu with named drinks such as the “The Piaf” (coined after Edith Piaf) or “The Bechet” (after Sidney Bechet). And if you’re stuck on what to order, ask the bartender, Brent, for some suggestions. I fell into that dilemma, so after Brent asked me a few questions on flavor and drink preferences, he recommended “The Baker”; a modern twist to the traditional Sidecar and named after French dancer and singer, Josephine Baker. Flavorful, savory, and potent.

Appetizers with Picasso

Full disclosure: I’ve not eaten French fare before. So I was just as excited to try something new that had been on my wish list for quite some time. I was not disappointed.

Duck Foie Gras

When were sat at our table, Susanne ordered a bevy of their popular appetizers. The first being the Duck Foie Gras. I can’t tell you exactly what I experienced, though “Oh my goodness, I’m in heaven” did cross seem to flit across my mind as I took my first bite. The pan-seared duck was splayed on a bed of arugula and sauced with a cherry gastrique. The sweetness of the cherry definitely balanced the rich, savoriness of the duck. The meat was tender, moist, and temptingly tasty. 

Crevette Meuniere

Another treat, was the grilled shrimp, called Crevette Meunière. Six large shrimp grilled were served quenched with a classic lemon butter herb sauce. I was completely surprised how much I enjoyed the shrimp, simply because I’m not much of a shrimp person. I think the difference was the freshness and how it was prepared; it didn’t taste “seafoody” or fishy. And the lemon butter herb sauce drizzled on top was superb and not overwhelmingly over-seasoned.  

Dinner with Hemingway

Duck Confit

The dinner entrées of Duck Confit and Zucchini Roulade were astounding! The Duck Confit entrée is a half duck with braised green cabbage, celiac puree, and a red wine gastrique. The duck was unbelievably tender and when scooped up with the cabbage puree made my mouth rejoice. Is this really duck? Not gamey at all. In fact, very mild and appetizing.  

Zucchini Roulade

The Zucchini Roulade actually shocked me at how satisfying and filling a vegetarian meal could be. Plus, the presentation of colorful vegetables was a delightful feast for the eyes. The zucchini was wrapped around the garbanzo beans, saffron potato, Swiss chard and covered with a tomato cream sauce. Seasoned to perfection. Great news too! Not only is it vegetarian, it’s also Gluten-free. Like several of their other appetizers, entrees, and desserts.

Dessert with Colette

Creme Brulee

Speaking of dessert, I just had to try their Crème Brulee with fresh strawberries. A vanilla bean custard with a torched caramelized sugar crunch on top. YUM! Something that’s just so satisfying about the crunch. And their version was delightful!

Things to Know Before You Go

Related to COVID-19 safety measures. The Left Bank Bistro adheres to CDC guidelines for cleaning their facility and social distance spacing. Their staff wear masks and kitchen staff wear both masks and gloves. Hand sanitizer is available at each table and the specialty cocktail menus are printed daily then thrown away after a single-use.

You don’t need reservations, though they are available; walk-ins are fine. And take-out is also an option if you’d prefer eating at home. Happy hour is daily and chef specials are offered weekly. Brunch is served during the weekends.

As things eventually return to normal, Susanne plans to bring back the weekend DJ at Bistro, as well as featuring artists and authors monthly. Keep an eye on The Left Bank Bistro’s Facebook page for updates.

The rooms, patio, and restaurant are available to rent for private occasions.

The St. Pete Eats: A Cookbook, featuring dishes from more than 30 local restaurants is also available at The Left Bank for purchase ($20).

The adjoining property, The Market at Left Bank, is also a neat shopping experience. Visit before or after dining to check out some truly unique items and purchase gifts. Specialty vendors have shops setup with distinctive things like vintage furniture, soaps, paintings, home goods, clothing, tchotchkes, and more.

Gertrude Stein Has Left the Building

Hat’s off to French-trained Chef J for his artistry and creativity in a most memorable meal. And a heartfelt thanks to Susanne Byram for hosting ShoutOUT®. It was an amazing and scrumptious experience and one I look forward to repeating again soon and sharing with friends. Additional thanks to Terri Hall, Doubletake Marketing & PR, for coordinating this amazing experience.

ShoutOUTers, let me know if you’ve already had a chance to experience the bistro or after you go and be sure to share your favorite dish or drink in the comments below.

More information:

The Left Bank Bistro
1225 Dr. M.L.K. Jr St. N St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Email: management@theleftbankbistro.com
Phone: (727) 256-1691
Menu: https://www.theleftbankbistro.com/menu

Hours (Please check days and times before visiting):
Tues - Thur: 11am to 9pm . Fri: 11am - 10pm . Sat: 10am to 10pm
Sun: 10am to 3pm . Mon: Closed
Lunch / Brunch / Dinner / Takeout / Full bar
Social media:
Facebook: TheLeftBankBistroStPete
Instagram: @leftbankbistrostpete

About ShoutOUT

In 2009, I started sharing my experiences, food, travels, and events, along with all of the incredible people and businesses I was meeting and discovering. What began as a fun hobby had such an overwhelming response, in 2010 ShoutOUT was born! I continue to stretch the boundaries locally, regionally, and nationally, discovering, sharing and connecting as I go.
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4 Responses to Dining with Hemingway

  1. Robert Black says:

    Great, thorough review. I liked the way you broke up your narrative into miniature stories with their own appropriate headings–it was a nice way to carry over the “Belle Epoque” feelings of Paris into your review. Made me hungry!

  2. Terri Hall says:

    Terrific write up about The Left Bank Bistro! You truly captured it!

  3. What a thoughtful, informative and thorough review.
    I’ve dined at Left Bank Bistro several times and I think you’ve perfectly captured their essence!
    Success to them and you!

    Lance Rodgers
    Living Artist

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