Byline: Alexandra Bellak
There’s no need to cross the Atlantic to get the feel for Paris in the Thirties. A new restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side has captured the essence of that colorful, glamorous era.
Gertrude’s, at 33 East 61st Street, is the brainchild of veteran restaurateur Howard Stein, who owns the popular European-style supper club Au Bar and the nightclub System. Fond of the colorful Thirties expatriate Gertrude Stein, he decided to model his restaurant after her literary salon and capture the feel of prewar Paris. His partners in the venture are his son, Michael, and real estate developer Joel Seiden.
“I wanted to offer a complete dining experience, where clients could congregate, converse, listen to music and enjoy themselves in a comfortable atmosphere and not even feel like they’ve left the sanctity of their apartments,” said Stein, whose elegant restaurant features a jazz trio nightly.
Gertrude’s is housed in a two-story townhouse and comprises three separate dining areas. To capture the Thirties salon mood, Stein hired British designer Emily Todhunter, responsible for the interiors at Au Bar. Wood-paneled walls, a hand-carved limestone fireplace and plush furniture hand-picked in London and Paris flea markets all add to the European ambience. Chinese hand-painted silk wallpaper lines an upstairs dining area, which offers a terrace to look upon passersby below. The walls are decked with paintings of Gertrude Stein and friends, done in a Post-Impressionist style by artist Norma Cohen.
As with Au Bar, which is accustomed to a celebrity-studded crowd that has included Michael Douglas, Bruce Willis and Elle Macpherson, Gertrude’s is already drawing Madison Avenue shoppers, businessmen and neighborhood regulars.
“My goal was to create a comfortable, all-inclusive restaurant that was not too trendy but catered to the real celebrity who is the repeat, regular customer. Those are the people who have given me success,” Stein said.
Chef Laurent Manrique, formerly of the Peacock Room at the Waldorf-Astoria, brings his native Gascogne influences to the menu. Fois gras, Armagnac liqueur and broth-based dishes are among his signatures. Some popular choices include corn soup with a fricassee of seafood or ravioli of fois gras in a light parmesan broth as appetizers, and roasted monkfish on the bone with prosciutto chips or Colorado lamb with garlic mousseline as entrees.
Prices range from $8 to $16 for appetizers, $22 to $29 for entrees and $8 to $10 for desserts. The restaurant has an extensive wine list.
Gertrude’s is open every day from noon to 3 p.m. for lunch and 5 p.m. to midnight for dinner. Brunch is served on the weekends.