By Laura Latzko; photos by David Blakeman
With his new restaurant Francine, Laurent Halasz wanted to recreate dishes he grew up eating in the south of France but with a unique twist. With the help of executive chef Brian Archibald, he has worked to bring new flavors to the Valley.
Francine opened in Scottsdale Fashion Square in August and offers weekend brunch, lunch, and dinner service.
The restaurant was originally supposed to open in April, but the opening was pushed back several times due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and closure of Scottsdale Fashion Square following riots and looting.
Francine serves an array of French Mediterranean dishes. On the menu, you’ll find options like grilled octopus, olive oil poached tuna, eggplant Mezza, seared duck ala Provencale, and ratatouille tart. Sweet offerings include a chocolate pot de creme and a signature apple tart.
Archibald said dishes from the South of France tend to be briny with ingredients such as olives, anchovies, and sardines. They usually don’t have a lot of butter but instead are flavored with olive oils.
The restaurant also incorporates ingredients such as aioli, chives, shallots, mushrooms, eggplant, citrus, lemon, zucchini, avocado, peppers, and tomatoes.
With his newest restaurant, Halasz wanted to bring flavorful, simple dishes with fresh ingredients, similar to what his mother had prepared for him growing up.
Halasz, who is also behind Fig & Olive, also hoped to create a unique atmosphere inside of Francine.
The establishment attempts to create the coastal feeling of the French Rivera with details such as an abundance of plants; brushed, white walls; a marble bar; floor-to-ceiling windows; an open expo kitchen, and a rustic fireplace.
“It’s classy, bright and vibrant. We’re the opposite of going to a steakhouse,” Archibald said.
Archibald said Francine provides a different atmosphere and foods than diners can get at other restaurants in Scottsdale.
“I do love that it’s bringing something different to the area. That’s what I’m most excited about. To be in this kind of market with these top restaurants, I love that we are taking a different avenue, to feel that you’ve not been here before,” Archibald said. “I love that there will be some surprises for people, and they will really feel like they went somewhere. That’s another thing we’re trying to do with the look, the feel, the music, to feel like you are in a different place.”
The restaurant had to make some modifications because of social-distancing guidelines, including having tables set up six feet apart and requiring temperature checks.
This means that the establishment has had a capacity of around 70 guests at a time, instead of the 180 originally planned.
Francine offers dining on its 28-seat patio for those who feel more comfortable eating outdoors.
Archibald has nearly three decades of experience working in the culinary industry for major resorts such as The Phoenician, the Boulders Resort and Spa, and JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa. He came on board with Francine in December 2019, collaborating closely with Halasz from the beginning.
“We’ve were working together this whole time to create the visionary taste of what Francine was meant to replicate. This is a very personal project. The restaurant is named after his mother. The restaurant design is meant to replicate one of their homes that they had in the South of France. There are all these personal attachments that he has. Through talking with me, sitting with me and eating together, and me making hundreds of dishes, that’s how we were able to get the menu dialed in,” Archibald said.
Archibald said that he and Halasz bonded over their passion for food early on in the process.
“If you don’t love food, you are going to find me boring anyway. I just talk so much about it. Our love for the same ingredients and the process was great,” Archibald said. “It was different, but it’s been really fun, someone who gets what I’m trying to do, and I get what he’s trying to do.”
Archibald said advanced preparation allowed him to try different varieties of certain ingredients, such as flour, to see what worked best.
“Luckily enough, being on this project so early with Laurent, I’ve been able to go through mistakes, failures, figuring things out and finding the right product. That’s just part of the process,” Archibald said. “We are fortunate to be able to do that kind of work to perfect dishes.”
Archibald said that preparing for Francine’s opening felt more personal in many ways.
“I’ve done a lot of restaurant developments and new builds, but this one is definitely different because it has somebody’s family personality behind it. I thought that was unique. It comes across in details,” Archibald said.
With some of the dishes, Archibald added new ingredients, such as chorizo Verde.
“That wouldn’t be found in the South of France, but it works so well with the dish,” Archibald said.
The restaurant also uses different olive oils from different countries in Europe, including Greece, Spain, Italy, and France.
Archibald said that getting certain items from other countries has posed some challenges during COVID-19.
The restaurant also works with local farmers for ingredients such as chicken and lettuce, as well as supporting vendors at markets in Santa Monica, Calif.
Archibald said having longtime relationships with food suppliers, farmers, and artisans, such as the baker at Mediterra Bakehouse, has helped him at Francine.
“I bring all those guys to the table on any new project that we do for a lot of reasons. With the bread, it’s the absolute best bread you can get in Arizona. Number two, it’s a local business. There are all of these reasons that it is a no-brainer to work with them,” Archibald said. “Bread is one of the most important keys to the restaurant. A lot of times, it is overlooked. It can show you right there is the place cares about what they are using and what they are buying.”
Francine is located at 4710 N. Goldwater Boulevard in Scottsdale. Weekend brunch runs 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; lunch and afternoon service starts at 11 a.m. and dinner, begins at 5 p.m. 480-690-6180 or visit francinerestaurant.com for complete details.