The Green Room, the Hotel Du Pont’s showpiece that’s arguably Delaware’s best-known special-occasion restaurant, will close in mid-January as hotel owners set out to open a French brasserie in a fresher atmosphere.
It’s believed to be the first substantial renovation for the restaurant since its opening in 1913 on Rodney Square.
The Buccini/Pollin Group and PM Hotel Group, which acquired the hotel several years ago, retained the services of chef-partner Tyler Akin, a native of Wilmington who owns Stock and Res Ipsa Cafe in Philadelphia and who was a chef at Zahav.
The name of the restaurant, which will be open from breakfast through dinner every day and has been targeted for a spring opening, is Le Cavalier (pronounced luh-KAH-vuhl-YAY).
Philadelphia’s Stokes Architecture & Design plans 125 seats with a 14-seat bar, private dining room, and seasonal outdoor patio seating.
Stokes’ Lance Saunders will keep the fumed oak paneling, ornate plaster ceiling, gilded chandeliers, and wall sconces, adding oak-framed stained-glass window screens, mosaic tile, and banquette seating upholstered in classic brasserie materials such as leather and velvet.
Akin says the brasserie would respond to the seasons and the menu would change frequently. “There definitely will be a lot of southern French influence. I want to have bright Mediterranean flavors, lemon juice, a little bit of heat, olive oil, not heavy, and we’re going to be doing North African references, too.” Some elements will remain, including the famed almond macaroons and tea service three days a week.
The assignment has energized the typically laid-back Akin, 36, who reached the developer’s radar through mutual friends. And the scope does not faze him. Although his current restaurants are no larger than 26 seats, he said, “I’m convinced I can do it because there were plenty of nights that Zahav was under my purview,” he said. “I’m comfortable running a service where it turns a hundred people over and over.”
Akin said he would maintain the Stock locations in Rittenhouse and Fishtown and his interest in Res Ipsa, an all-day Italian cafe on Walnut Street near 23rd Street. His daily 35-minute drive to Rodney Square will be “manageable,” he said.
The property is historic, and design changes have to go through the National Park Service as well as city authorities. “It’s not just a vanilla box where we can come in and do whatever we want," Akin said.
“We want to get this right both for the community and for the institution itself,” Akin said. “We know that people care. I know that because I’m from the community. It’s in the air how much people revere this place. It’s just always been the social center of Wilmington.
“The restaurant itself was important before restaurants were important in the way that we think they are. We’re just trying to balance what we know needs to happen from a commercial perspective and what we know needs to happen from a perspective of being reverential and acknowledging all the memories that people have in this place.”
Updated to reflect a change in closing date from Jan. 1 to mid-January, and to provide the restaurant’s name, which was announced Jan. 15, 2020.