For a very long time, it used be that my family and I would trek over to the Le Peep at Wilcrest and Westheimer when we wanted brunch in West Houston. Le Peep is neither the best nor the worst brunch spot in town, but it is consistently packed. And 20 years ago, even ten years ago, I can't imagine there was a nicer spot to get brunch on the west side than Le Peep. That's just how it was.
And now there's Flora & Muse. Yes, it serves more than just brunch (and, in fact, its creative cocktails and excellent flatbreads are two of the reasons I enjoy it so much), but it represents a sea change in restaurant demographics in this part of town. While West Houston, Memorial and the surrounding Villages have long been areas of concentrated wealth, upscale restaurants have traditionally been slow to cater to these neighborhoods.
There are places such as Bistro Provence, Le Mistral, Brenner's and other casually upscale restaurants, but for each of them there are far more chain restaurants and fast food joints. Memorial Drive between Kirkwood and Dairy Ashford has long been a bowling alley of exactly those types of restaurants, with only a few non-chains surviving over the years. Hungry's and Liebman's are two shining examples of those survivors.
And now, thanks to CityCentre, West Houston has a concentration of restaurants to rival those found in Upper Kirby, the Galleria area or River Oaks. Sure, many of the restaurants at CityCentre are also chains (even the really great ones, like Straits). But the development also contains local talent, too: Bistro Alex, The Tasting Room and Flora & Muse, the subject of this week's cafe review.
Some people -- my own family included -- weren't thrilled to see CityCentre go up, nor were they thrilled with the tenants that came into the development. At the risk of paraphrasing, the see-and-be-seen atmosphere of many of CityCentre's bars and restaurants was not appealing to some established residents in the area. After all, there's a reason they don't live in River Oaks and have chosen the quieter pace of the 'burbs.
But for others -- notably the younger demographic in this area -- CityCentre represents a godsend. They don't have to drive inside the Loop to experience a vigorous and robust nightlife and glittering restaurant scene; CityCentre provides all of that on their doorstep. It's attractive to people who commute into town for work and aren't interested in spending extra time (or gas) on the road.
For me, it's the allure of places like Flora & Muse that make the drive outside of the Loop worthwhile. There are cocktails there I can't get anywhere else in town, like the wonderfully of-the-moment Check Mate made with Riazul añejo tequila, Velvet Falernum, jasmine liqueur, pineapple, basil and lime. There are dishes I can't get anywhere else in town, too, like the Turkish-influenced lahmacun flatbread or a terribly standard ahi poke dish that's enhanced with the simple addition of purple-tinged taro chips.
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And Flora & Muse is more than that: It's also a useful restaurant for area residents, whether they like the bustling nightlife at CityCentre or not. As much as it's an ideal date night spot, it's also perfect for rambling, leisurely brunches with great Bloody Marys. For French press coffee on a sunny morning with freshly baked croissants that may not be life-changing, but are lovely in their own way. For the kind of food and service that any Inner Loop restaurant would be lucky to have.
View more photos from Flora & Muse in our slideshow.