Stepping through the unassuming entrance to the A & P Bar in the back half of a building on Mill Hill Road in Woodstock, you feel as though you might have been here before – but when? The renovation of the one-time market, then-video store was done to make the space seem familiar. The scene is casually set for comfort, with cozy tables on three levels and a massive rough-edged wood bar that dominates the length of the room.
Pierre-Luc Moeys, his wife Nina Paturel and Gemma D’Entrone pulled the space together in record time. “We found this space by accident,” says Moeys. “Somebody said, ‘Oh, the video store is renting. You need to open a restaurant there.’ We didn’t like it at first – thought it was too big.”
After talking it over, the partners decided to split the space and use the back half to open a bar. Moeys and Paturel are the brains behind three other local restaurants – Oriole9, Yum Yum Noodle Shop and Lekker. The couple sold Lekker to their original chef Page Moll [it is now called Hash] and rehoused Lekker Catering in the A & P kitchen. “We have one location with two different businesses, and it works. We set out to be a cocktail bar, but also have become a restaurant. You always become what the people want you to become.”
While Paturel is a born-and-raised Woodstocker, Moeys hails from Amsterdam, D’Entrone is from London, their master bartender Carl Bester is from Cape Town and sommelier Lio Mag is French, so the cosmopolitan influence is a given. “It’s an international crew,” says Moeys. “The inside looks like it could be a bar anywhere in the world. This whole place was designed by Nina and built by local artists: the bar, the pottery, the neon and the lights – all local artists that reflect the Hudson Valley.”
The menu features a mix of comfort foods, bar snacks and appetizers from all over the world, too, from Scotch eggs to cauliflower puttanesca, steak tartare and a local grass-fed burger, to name a few items.
“Carl is a sorcerer with spirits. I run the kitchen here. Nina does all the design. And the business is still really young. So every week, we’re still looking at what we have to do, how we’re going to do it,” says Moeys. He hopes to host the Hudson Valley Food Truck Festival there starting in May. “We’ll have a 40-seat patio outside in the summer, like a beer garden.”
D’Entrone and her husband Eric had their wedding catered by Oriole9, one of Moeys and Paturel’s former restaurants, and the couples became good friends. D’Entrone says, “After my second son was born, I resigned from a big corporate job at Sotheby’s and stayed at home for a couple of years, and during that time we’d go out for dinner with them. And it came about that we both wanted to do something new and different.”
“At A & P, Luc and I are the managing partners. I spend a lot of time here on the floor with customers and manage the operational side: the boring stuff like the accounting and ordering. It’s a wonderful combination – an opportunity to use my business experience and, at the same time, be with customers. It’s been a lot of fun to create a place for the community, and we’ve had interesting interactions with locals and with people from further afield.”
Moeys and Paturel have successfully “reinvented” themselves once again. “Everybody says that Nina and I do that. We always have a lot of irons in the fire. We are a known entity, but if the product is not good, in Woodstock you only last a week.”
When asked if they have learned any tough lessons with their former restaurants – anything that they now realize is not a good idea or doesn’t work here in the Hudson Valley – Moeys jokes, “Like, to not get into this business?” He laughs. “I think because this area is growing really fast now – I’ve been here for 13, 14 years – it went from a very seasonal area to almost always…I mean, the winters can be busy, if there’s snow.”
“The potential is unlimited; otherwise I would not keep building different places and doing other projects. I’m curious to see where it goes, where the tipping point is. We see in Woodstock so many new restaurants now. It does feel a little saturated, but it will show who’s here to stay and who will go…. People say we’re in the worst location in Woodstock. I disagree. It’s nice to be tucked away. People find us and say, ‘Oh, this is nice, it’s different.’ We always try to be a little different. That’s our trademark.”
The A & P Bar is open for dinner and drinks from 5 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturday and for brunch from 11 a.m. to midnight on Sunday. It’s located at 83 Mill Hill Road in Woodstock. For more info, call (845) 684-5395 or visit www.aandpbar.com.