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Last night, I kissed Restaurant Florent goodbye—really kissed it, with my mouth, and salted my veggie burger and champagne with a Liechtenstein-sized tear. It’s inconceivable that the restaurant, which houses many memories for those who spent time in the West Village before All This, won’t exist after this Sunday, but it’s so. Get there while you can; the atmosphere, as well as the legendary menu board, is festive-tragic. Go. Didn’t Malcolm Gladwell say that when something you’d come to count on in New York suddenly disappears, whether you’ve been here a month or a year, you become a true New Yorker? That happened a long time ago for many, but maybe this weekend will produce many a mussel-colored hash mark for loyal service rendered, especially, of course, by Florent Morellet himself.

Who will report Florent’s last day for The New Yorker, I wonder? I’d be glad to read a Talk of the Town by Ben McGrath, Lauren Collins, Rebecca Mead, or Michael Schulman on the ultimate order, but if there’s a longtime contributor who loves the place (say, Lillian Ross, although I can’t quite picture it), or a chronicler of New York who wants to make a special visit (Pete Hamill comes to mind), I would love to read his or her account. Gladwell is a neighbor of the place, and Leo Carey could also do a lyrical restaurant-review-final-day mashup.

I asked Martin to see if there were any references to Florent in the Complete New Yorker, and here’s what he found. From a January 19, 2004 Talk by Lauren MacIntyre, about housing in the West Village:
One person’s avant-garde, though, is another’s antique. One of the meatpacking district’s better-known businessmen, Florent Morellet, the owner of Florent, the sleek Gansevoort Street diner that is popular with both cross-dressers and corporate financiers, began to speak out in support of the house. Alarmed by the brushfire development around the Gansevoort Market, Morellet helped push to have the area designated a historic district (a proposal that just passed), yet he also praised the plans for 829 Greenwich Street, calling the use of steel building materials “authentic” to the history of the neighborhood. Last spring, when Baird and his team presented their design to the Landmarks Commission, the board voted unanimously in favor of it, and last February the old place was finally demolished.

To celebrate the groundbreaking, Baird threw a party at Florent just before the new year. Baird and the woman who owns the house (her husband was out of town) strolled amiably among the guests. Hanging in the restaurant’s entryway was a large computerized rendering of the house. People commented on the huge steel façade, which, if it is trucked into the city, will necessitate a temporary shutdown of the George Washington Bridge.

“It weighs seventeen tons,” a man said.
And from a Tables for Two restaurant review of “Pre:Post” in the July 3, 2006 issue, by Nick Paumgarten:
“Even before the meatpacking district became hell, there was a respite from it, at Florent, the regenerative twenty-four-hour bistro. Not so in West Chelsea, the night-club vortex up the avenue, where the right kind of late-night chow has long been scarce as silence. Such, anyway, is the theory, or one of the theories, behind Pre:Post, a new dusk-to-dawn restaurant where the slick kids are encouraged to gather and dine before and after their submersion into the clubs down the block.”
Finally, something I happened on recently, also in the Complete New Yorker jewel box, brought Florent to mind. It’s a Talk from June 6, 1925, and as with a number of those early number, the author is unknown:
Note on a Passing

Joel’s has closed; perhaps the last of the older order of restaurants, whose hosts were individuals, not corporations. It was never a gaudy, nor a gilt-edged establishment; that one on Forty-first street, with its green-tinted door; and its heydays were ten, or even fifteen years behind when it surrendered to the inevitable.

But it did know heydays, such as would lead a profitable procession of American tourists to visit it still if Joel’s were in Paris, or London, instead of a few doors west of the second-hand clothing marts of Seventh avenue; and how picturesque, by the way, these would be in, for instance, Vienna.

There was in Joel’s on the night it clossed, the table at which Sidney Porter used to sit, back to the window, looking on life. And another that knew the young Booth Tarkington many a long night years ago. The older Mark Twain looked in occasionally. Alfred Vanderbilt was a patron in those times when it was the thing to stay up all night on the eve of a Vanderbilt Cup race and drive through the greying dawn to the Jericho turnpike to look on the daring of Barney Oldfield and the like.

George Luks was seen there often, and Alan Dale when his caustic comments were feared far more than the ponderous pronouncements of the venerable William Winter, another patron of Joel’s. It was, too, a favorite resort for earnest Mexican revolutionists before that nation substituted the ballot for the bullet in presidential elections. This last, probably, because Joel Rinaldo served admirable chili con carne when that dish was almost unknown elsewhere in New York.
Fare thee well, all things Florent.


New York, like anything beloved, changes before our eyes. It’s the kind of thing that makes you shake your head and laugh, and wipe one tear away.

Are Florent’s recipes available?

Stephen PersingJune 27, 2008

City Room reports, via Eater, that the menu won’t change much in the restaurant’s new/old incarnation as the R & L Restaurant, but I’m skeptical, of course!

Frere-Jones cares and links to New York Magazine:


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