A dearly departed cat is behind a chic new vegan cocktail bar.
When his pet Simon was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, restaurateur Ravi DeRossi decided to give up eating animals — and have his popular nightlife spots do the same. Last month, he opened Ladybird, an opulent vegan tapas joint, in the West Village space that was home to his popular Bourgeois Pig bar for 12 years.
“There’s this stigma that vegan food and drinks are bland, boring and tasteless,” says DeRossi, 42 and an owner in 15 acclaimed city bars and cocktail dens, including Death & Co and Cienfuegos. “We want to make veganism and being sustainable fun.”
At the boudoir-style Bourgeois Pig, NYU bros brought their third dates to feast on cheese fondue and charcuterie and snuggle on blood-red velvet couches. Now, at Ladybird, health-conscious yuppies nibble on seared peach caprese salad ($12), made with almond “mozzarella,” amid emerald-colored chandeliers, ferns and marble tables.
DeRossi hired Daphne Cheng, a downtown scenester and vegan chef with more than 12,000 Instagram followers, to create the menu, which also includes coconut croqueta ($9) and a vegetable charcuterie plate ($32) with beet “chorizo” and mushroom “pâté.”
Even the cocktails are heavy on the veggies. The Dodo ($14) is a boozy avocado slushie ($14), while the Red Rail ($13) mixes beets, Kaffir lime and
Niepoort Tawny port. In keeping with DeRossi’s commitment to going green, all of the wines served are organic.
“As a restaurant owner, the amount of destruction that we do to the animal world and environment is ridiculous,” says DeRossi. “I wanted to open something sustainable.”
The well-heeled customers are happy to have vegan fare in an environment that’s more boutique hotel than hippie commune.
“The décor is exquisite, and it definitely feels like a great first-date spot,” says Shivaji Parikh, 30, a vegetarian who works for Google, lives in the East Village and says she’s “always been a fan of Daphne Cheng.” On a recent night, she sipped a glass of white
Burgundy with her handsome, meat-eater husband, Neil Bhargava, 31, while a rotation of Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse and Nat King Cole played through the speakers.
At another table, Shawn Lakin, a 22-year-old Parsons grad who lives in the East Village, enjoyed saganaki ($9), made with soy mozzarella and smoked carrots, with her boyfriend, Cole Star.
“I’m always super picky when it comes to restaurants, but I let [him] pick this one,” she says. “It’s a chill vibe here. He did a good job.”
Star himself was a little more skeptical.
“I didn’t feel like I was missing out on meat or anything,” says Star, 24 and a tailor who lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn. But “the [soy] mozzarella was not on point; it didn’t have the right taste and texture of [real] cheese.”