Lespinasse, the Grand Award—winning restaurant in New York's St. Regis hotel, will close permanently after April 19. The decision was an economic one, according to French chef Christian Delouvrier, and there are no details immediately available about a possible replacement.
The restaurant debuted in 1991 under the direction of Singapore-born chef Gray Kunz, who integrated Asian accents into French cuisine. Delouvrier followed Kunz in 1998, bringing a more classically French style to Lespinasse, whose dining room is among the most opulent in New York. Lespinasse first received a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 1994, a Best of Award of Excellence in 1996, and finally a Grand Award in 2000, on the strength of a wine list that offered more than 1,300 selections.
Delouvrier said the decision to shutter Lespinasse "was agreed to by me. It is much better to close Lespinasse as a four-star restaurant with all the glories. We finish with two beautiful accolades -- four stars from the New York Times and a Grand Award from Wine Spectator. That is very dear to me."
Delouvrier was adamant that global politics played no part in the restaurant's demise. "It has nothing to do with the entire [anti] French sentiment issue, which I don't think is going to last. It has nothing to do with me. … I've been here for many years. I'm French by birth, but I'm also an American, and a New Yorker even more."
Lespinasse won consistently high acclaim from critics, and its menu was priced accordingly. Appetizers ran from $28 to $48, while entrées such as honey-glazed Muscovy duck and Maine lobster with gnocchi commanded as much as $52 a plate.
Its wine cellar is currently stocked with more than 15,000 bottles, including such gems as Château Palmer 1961 ($4,500), Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti 1990 ($7,000), Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1994 ($800) and Michel Coutoux Montrachet 1999 ($950).
The hotel will keep the wine cellar, rather than selling it off, said Teresa Delaney, director of public relations for St. Regis. "We're still maintaining it, the wines will still be available to our guests, and our sommelier [Alann Gauci] is still on staff."
Delouvrier has no immediate plans after Lespinasse's closing, other than to finish editing his culinary memoir Mastering Simplicity: A Life in the Kitchen. "I am going to first make sure that the staff is OK, and spend time with my family. Then, I will explore different avenues," he said.
As for the fate of the rest of the restaurant, Delouvrier predicted, "I think they're going to keep the kitchen as it is. It would be stupid to change it. And the dining room, maybe they'll change the concept and open with something else in a few months. But Lespinasse is just gone."
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