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New Owners of Hartford’s Goodwin Hotel Land French Bistro
When downtown’s Goodwin Hotel reopens early next year, the building’s classic, terra cotta facade will still make the same statement on Asylum Street as it has since the 1880s.
But step inside, and the new hotel owners promise that’s where the similarities will end. A new restaurant — Harlan Brasserie — with a French-American menu will occupy much of the ground floor. The restaurant and a cocktail lounge will be run by the owners of two Fairfield County restaurants, one a former executive chef at Manhattan’s famed Tribeca Grill.
The street level floor — once the home of Pierpont’s and the America’s Cup Lounge — already has been gutted down to steel beams and concrete and will be on display at this Thursday’s celebration of the “Big Mo,” the annual fundraiser for Riverfront Recapture, being held in the atrium that joins the hotel and the Goodwin Square office tower.
“When its done, it’s going to look and feel like a new hotel,” Randy Salvatore, a partner in the Goodwin project and founder and owner of Stamford-based RMS Cos., during a tour for The Courant earlier this week.
The hotel’s opening will bring much-needed life to a corner that has been vacant since President Obama first took office, and another sign of revitalization in the downtown area even as the city struggles with a budget deficit.
As a nod to its history, the hotel will keep the Goodwin name, but renovations — underway for two months — will bring a contemporary, New York style to guest rooms, capitalizing on the one-of-a-kind, boutique nature of the hotel, Salvatore said.
The guest rooms are being gutted, but fireplaces from the original Goodwin building are being incorporated into the new designs. Built-in, wooden closets also are being retained, a sign that little expense was spared in the hotel’s construction, Salvatore said.
“You can stay in New York and pay thousands of dollars and you don’t see wooden closets like this,” Salvatore said.
Salvatore and his partner, Charles Mallory, chief executive of the Greenwich Hospitality Group, hope to attract a broad demographic range of guests, particularly millenials. They also see potential in being located near Goodwin Square and CityPlace I, both for lodging, dining and use of the hotel’s event space that will accommodate up to 100.
Salvatore and Mallory purchased the Goodwin for $5 million earlier this year. Salvatore declined to say how much the partners will invest in renovations but said it will easily be “millions.” They have partnered on hotel projects in Fairfield County and Mallory is a partner in the Delamar hotel under construction in West Hartford.
Harlan Brasserie is the third restaurant opened by Stephen Lewandowski, the former Tribeca Grill executive chef, and his partners, Brett Wilderman and Brandon Hall. The first, Harlan Social in Stamford, opened in 2012 and took its name from Harlan, Lewandowski’s son, and the goal that the restaurant be social. Two years later, the partners opened Harlan Publick in Norwalk.
On Tuesday, Lewandowski said he hadn’t spent much time in Hartford, other than a couple of trips to the XL Center, when he was approached in February by Salvatore and Mallory about opening a restaurant at the Goodwin. A French bistro seemed to fit well with the Queen Anne-style architecture of the hotel’s facade.
“I just love the building and the story behind it,” Lewandowski said.
The hotel was built in the late 1980s as part of the Goodwin Square complex, its facade saved from an earlier building that once stood on the site, constructed a century before.
Lewandowski said the 80-seat restaurant will blend French and American for its menu. For instance, the classic French menu offering of duck and cherry sauce will get a twist substituting the cherry sauce for a spiced carrot puree.
The pricing for the menu is expected to range from $8 for soup to $22-$29 for entrees, with salads and appetizers in between.
Lewandowski resists the label “upscale” because Harlan Brasserie won’t be the kind of place that requires getting dressed up. But neither will the restaurant offer a children’s menu, he said.
Those attending Thursday’s “Big Mo” celebration — “Mo” for momentum — will get a sampling of food that will be served at Harlan Brasserie. The “Big Mo” is held in venues that are typically under construction. The event was originally scheduled earlier this year at the city’s new ballpark, but was canceled when that construction stalled.
Thursday’s event also will showcase recent renovations to the atrium by the new owners of the Goodwin Square office tower. A mauves, cream and cranberry color scheme has been traded for a more neutral white and gray.
The owners of the Goodwin Square office tower also are leasing street-level retail space along Asylum. A juice bar opened in March and now, a second space, has been leased by the operator of OC Kitchen+Bar in Rocky Hill.
Plans for OC-2go call for an Italian takeout eatery, which is expected to open next month. OC Kitchen+Bar is owned by Lorenzo DiClemente, who also owns OGGI Salon in CityPlace I.