According to all accounts, Dune was popular right up until June 6, the day the indoor-outdoor restaurant shuttered.
One of the few dining establishments on the sands of Fort Lauderdale beach, albeit in the quieter stretch between Sunrise and Oakland Park boulevards, Dune was located in the Auberge Beach Residences and Spa.
The sleek 166-seat dining room served the condominium residents but also attracted a large segment of SoFlo’s chic set looking for a more elegant setting than the hubbub of the Strip, just a few blocks to the south.
So what happened?
Insiders say the closure was to pave the way for the new owner, Laurent Tourondel. The Michelin-star chef closed on the sale for Dune June 10, buying the property and assets from Miami-based developer the Related Group and Auberge (which managed the restaurant).
“They were quite busy when they were open,” says Yoram Shemesh, a partner with WeChef Hospitality, Tourondel’s management company. “And [the closure] had nothing to do with the pandemic. Related is not in the restaurant business. They are a developer. That was the intent from day one. They were never going to keep it.”
When the space reopens sometime this fall, it will be rechristened as Dune by Laurent Tourondel, making it one of the few restaurants in Broward County to be helmed by a Michelin-starred chef.
“Dune is a name that goes superbly with the location,” adds Shemesh, who lives in Jupiter. “We felt it was just such a great name so we wanted to keep it.”
In a 2019 review, former South Florida Sun Sentinel restaurant critic Michael Mayo wrote of Dune’s fare: “It is understated and straightforward (some may say dull), surf and turf with quality proteins and basic sauces. As fashion, it is elegant and gorgeous, just like the dining room and deck designed by renowned New York-based firm Meyer Davis.”
Mayo also wrote: “Dune is not particularly adventurous culinary-wise, but I liked the place a lot. As soon as it opened at the Auberge Beach Residences and Spa in November, it became the prettiest restaurant in Broward. With a little polishing in service (it initially had trouble attracting experienced pros because of its late-in-the-year opening) and some more boldness from chef Edgar Beas, Dune has the potential to become the best.”
With various restaurant concepts stretching from New York to Hong Kong, Tourondel is best known for his BLT Prime and BLT Steak brands.
Here in South Florida the French native owns LT Steak & Seafood and The Alley at the Betsey Hotel in Miami Beach as well as Scusi Trattoria in Palm Beach Gardens.
“He knows Florida well,” Shemesh says, noting that Tourondel is a regular at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. “He’s been [here] for 14 years.”
And for the last few years Tourondel has been looking for an opportunity to expand his empire into Broward County. Dune checked all the boxes.
“Being on the water was important to us. I don’t know of anywhere in South Florida, going south all the way to the tip of Miami or all the way north, that has a restaurant on the ocean [that] is a quality restaurant. Most of them are seafood joints.”
The patio area — with its expansive bar, fire pit and seating arranged in conversation groupings — will remain a big part of Dune by Laurent Tourondel.
“With that outdoor bar, we are transforming the space, putting up sail shades,” Shemesh says. “And we’ll cover the patio all the way to the palm trees. There’ll be different areas of seating. All the furniture you saw is essentially gone though.”
The new owners are working with Alfredo Paredes, the interior designer who worked with Ralph Lauren for 33 years and went on to do Lauren’s restaurants, Polo in New York and Ralph’s in Milan.
The patio’s versatility and usage will be bumped up a few levels with the redesign. While there will be new banquettes and groups of couches along the eastern-most side of the patio as before, the north side wasn’t used much in the past.
“That was never really utilized,” Shemesh explains, adding that particular area will be transfigured. “The feeling is going to be very very different; The lighting is going to change.”
The idea is to have spaces for different sized events. “There’s nearly 6,000 square feet of outdoor patio, which is unheard of,” he continues. “We want to be able to accommodate groups anywhere from 10 to 20 people or large corporate events up to 500 people with cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres.”
And gone will be the neutral color palette of the former Dune.
“The look and feel of the restaurant is going to be different in that Dune ... was ... very muted tones and colors,” he says. “We wanted to bring in ocean colors, blues mixed into the environment. We wanted to marry what you look at outside, the ocean, with the interior. For us the inspiration is going to be more like restaurants — in Saint-Tropez, St. Barts, Mexico — that are on the water.”