Tiny Lou’s hasn’t even been open for a week, but it’s already created a timeless feel.
Perhaps it’s the power of French design. With European influences like white marble floors, brass bars and wallpaper that’s extravagant yet demure, the restaurant’s atmosphere evokes a return to the hotel’s golden age. This is after Hotel Clermont’s bottom-floor brasserie felt gutted and barren as recently as last year.
“There was nothing there,” said Reunion Goods and Services’ Carrie Desertine, lead interior architect on Hotel Clermont. “It was really quite bombed out.” Since the restaurant level was originally occupied by guest rooms, all the design team had to work with was the window placement and size and the fact that the space had a hallway.
Rather than a recreation of the old Hotel Clermont or a Parisian restaurant, the team opted for an homage to the original vibe and spirit of the building.
Hotel Clermont originally opened in 1924 and went through several incarnations including apartments and a motor lodge. It’s been boarded up for nearly a decade, living in the shadow of its basement tenant, the Clermont Lounge (née the Gypsy Room).
“The building has gone through so many iterations and had so many lives,” said Laura Flam, Reunion’s interior lead designer. Their intent was to “accept all those histories, warts and all, and to integrate that into a design that could move the whole building forward.”
Tiny Lou’s eponym danced at the Gypsy Room in the 1950s. While an image of Tiny Lou graces some restaurant plates, Flam says they worked to create a “feminine but moody” atmosphere at the restaurant before the name was chosen. “We really wanted to embrace the feminine spirit and make sure that pictures of women of all types were represented in the restaurant,” she said.
Tiny Lou’s is ostensibly French, but the restaurant’s design and menu pay subtle homage to the dancer’s Austrian heritage. Head chef Jeb Aldrich coincidentally lived in Austria and cooked at a hotel for nine months. Edible nuances like the dessert cart’s sachertorte (a chocolate cake invented in and specific to Vienna) and selections on the forthcoming brunch menu honor both Tiny Lou and Aldrich’s experience with Austrian cuisine. Meanwhile, the design team used a historical reproduction of a house built by famous Austrian architect Adolf Loos to craft Tiny Lou’s curtained sconces.
“In general, I think that the turn of the century Viennese design is a mixture of very strong design combined with extreme daintiness,” Dessertine said.
One easy vehicle that carries this daintiness is wallpaper. Dessertine credits the current wallpaper resurgence as well as the ample supply of designers creating beautiful wallpaper. It’s also appropriate to the building’s original age. The peach-patterned wallpaper in the corridor and restrooms nods to Georgia. “We didn’t want to be too on the nose but it also just seemed so appropriate and was also kind of lively and beautiful,” Flam said.
Tiny Lou’s dessert cart comes from former New York “French-meets-Italian establishment” Quo Vadis and affirms that the restaurant has more formality than the rest of the hotel space. It’s an apt vehicle for pastry chef Claudia Martinez’s dishes, whose honoraries include Venezuela and Clermont Lounge legend Blondie.
Take a look at Tiny Lou’s interior and desserts: