Restaurateur Lauren Vrignaud Opens Moulin Bouillon in Newport Beach

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Laurent Vrignaud inside Moulin Bouillon / photo by Chris Trela

Newport Beach resident Laurent Vrignaud is the culinary mastermind behind Moulin, the French café that Vrignaud opened in Newport Beach in 2014.

Since then, Vrignaud has opened more Moulins—in Laguna Beach, San Clemente, Dana Point, and Costa Mesa.

Not bad for someone who spent half of his life in the action sports sales arena but dreamed of one day opening a small French café.

“I grew up in Paris, in Montmartre, the 18th District,” said Vrignaud. “Montmartre is the real deal, and Moulin is the real deal, it’s Montmartre in Orange County. It’s Paris away from Paris. It’s a true Parisian experience.”

So is Vrignaud’s latest concept: Moulin Bouillon, which opened in October adjacent to his flagship Moulin on Bristol Street. Another restaurant, Juliette Kitchen and Bar, and been in that spot for several years but succumbed to pandemic challenges.

Moulin Bouillon escargots

Vrignaud’s concept was to recreate the bustling brasserie-style restaurants that dominated Paris in the late 1800s where blue-collar workers could enjoy a hearty meal including broth, or bouillon, at an affordable price.

The 3,000 square-foot restaurant has seating for 60 guests, and is open seven days a week with service continu (all day table service) from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“Our customers keep asking for more Moulin, all day, all the time, so I’m giving them what they want,” said Vrignaud. “While the original Moulin is a nod to my childhood in Paris, Bouillon will be a tribute to my grandfather and our weekly lunches at Bouillon Chartier in Paris. It is also an opportunity to bring back the weekly dinners that went away with the pandemic, while introducing Orange County to another side of the classic Parisian experience.”

Moulin Bouillon steak frites

According to Vrignaud, “In the poor districts of Paris, the 9th, 10th 11th, 12th, 18th districts, a bouillon was a place factory workers could go and have a broth and piece of bread and piece of meat. They were open 24/7, 365 days a year. A bouillon is authentic and inexpensive. It’s a French version of a diner.”

Vrignaud’s menu lists eight appetizers, eight entrees, and eight desserts. It includes traditional Parisian appetizers such as French onion soup and escargots, main dishes such as steak sauce poivre vert and steamed cod in beurre blanc, and classic desserts like crème caramel and chocolate mousse.

An all-day a la carte menu is available with a daily plat du jour and menu formule, which allows guests to select an appetizer plus main dish and dessert for $39. Baskets of fresh-baked bread are included. French wines by the glass, carafe and bottle are priced at $8, $15 and $25, respectively.

“It’s casual, not expensive,” stated Vrignaud. “Appetizers under $10, meat meals $17 to $25, desserts under $10. Bread is on the table and we don’t charge you for the bread. We don’t charge you for the butter. Some restaurants charge $6 for bread. Really?”

I sampled several Moulin Bouillon dishes, including escargots, steak frites, coq au vin and baba au rhum (rum-soaked sponge cake). Each dish delicious, authentic, and inexpensive.

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