It turns out, Le Baron is more French Indochina than magical Shangri-La. It is not New York’s greatest nightclub of all time; not yet, at least. But it’s probably the best thing the city has going right now. It’s a sweeping, pulsating place to drink, immaculately designed and just a tad darker than is comfortable.
There’s a rush of glowing bordello red with flickered little absinthe-hue specks hovering in the nebula of the fog machine. Mirrors jut into the walls, side by side in a box, intimating an empty aquarium that goes on forever. Two rows of status banquettes border the main room, and up a gold-lined staircase there’s cafe-style seating, where waiters bring bottles and fancy cocktails. No one bats an eye when large groups go into the private bathrooms together.
We walked in around 11:15 on Friday to find it scarcely populated, despite the throng outside. Inside were investors, mostly, a few of whom had taken it upon themselves to offer Scarlett Johannson a tour. “This looks great!” the actress exclaimed as the group walked into the basement.
This downstairs dance lounge is darker, redder and foggier, with more lights and bigger music. An unlocked door marked “NOT AN EXIT” seems to be a surrealist joke à la Magritte: this door leads to a packed appliance-laden kitchen where the smoke you see comes not from any machine.
Alexander Wang, flanked by a few of his models, bounced around until he gasped, “It’s great, but soooooo crowded!” and headed out. James Murphy danced in a corner, the elder statesman in regal white stubble. Lily Donaldson, the Victoria’s Secret model, glided through the back room chatting with Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Mr. Saraiva’s effervescent better half. They had come together in a place we assumed would never actually exist.
And if the brass has its way, it’ll stay an elusive locale, visible only in person and in memories. Like at the Beatrice Inn, the cherished West Village celeb sin den also owned by Mr. Saraiva, there is a strict no-picture policy. We stopped by Saturday night after Istanbul ’74’s party for Sandro Kopp, a few blocks away at Pulqueria, with a friend who takes pictures for a monthly fashion magazine. Through the floating velvet, through the smoke, through the crowds of models, he hoisted his camera and snapped away.
We went to the bathroom, but ran into the photographer few minutes later.
“Lemme see the shots!” we said.
“No can do,” he said. “Somebody grabbed my camera and made me erase every last one.”
Given the shenanigans going on in the back crawlspace, the ban on pictures is quite prudent. Here’s a mnemonic snapshot: It’s well past 4:00 in the morning on Friday, the DJs and owners in head-to-toe black, Ms. Donaldson trying on other people’s glasses, the bunny rabbit from the front poking his head in, the actor Michael Pitt talking softly into the ears of a young woman. And then there’s Ms. Dexter-Jones, snuggling up to her beau, Mr. Saraiva.
“You have a wonderful bar,” we tell him after the dual cheek kisses.
“Yes,” he said, putting an arm on our shoulder. “You’re home now.”