Tyler Akin opens Le Cavalier at the Green Room in Wilmington
The Cavalier at the Green Room opens next month at the Hotel Du Pont in Wilmington. Here’s what it looks like, and here’s what’s on the menu.
âThere was a time, in the heyday of the Green Room, when people came from the Main Line and Philadelphia to eat in this dining room,â says Tyler Akin, the chef from Philly who brings back a century-old restaurant. to live. âI am not blowing smoke to exaggerate the weight of this restaurant. The green room was regionally important, historically.
The Green Room is, was, the restaurant at the century-old Du Pont hotel in Wilmington, Delaware. It’s tall and wooden and lavish with high ornate plaster ceilings and awe-inspiring chandeliers that once contained wax candles – then, fake electric candles, and now, after a big design refurbishment by Philly-based Stokes Architecture + Design, globular lamps. Stokes kept the ceilings and wall sconces, but the oak stained glass screens, bar, custom floor lamps, and velvet and leather banquettes are all new. New because this dining room is no longer just the Green Room. It is The Cavalier in the Green Room now a 118-seat French brasserie by Akin and its owners, the Buccini / Pollin group.
According to a representative of the restaurant, the name comes from “the deep equestrian tradition of the Brandywine River Valley and pays homage to the beginning of the 20th century when the hotel first opened.” And the concept, a neo-French brasserie with a special focus on the flavors of Provence and parts of North Africa and the Middle East, is just something that Akin has been interested in since he left school in food. âWhen I was in culinary school in Washington, my instructors were all French and embassy chefs,â says Akin. “When they found out I was from Delaware, like clockwork, they were telling me about the Green Room.”
Because the Green Room wasn’t just a hotel restaurant in Delaware. âThere was awareness about it,â he says. âNot just because you had to wear a blazer to eat there, or because you were celebrating grandma’s birthday there, but in the mid / early 20th century the DuPont company saw it as a place to hang out. big business. But when big companies became less relationship-based, when board executives started traveling to New York and DC for meetings instead of hosting them here, commercially it had less reputation, less of value to the company. They stopped reinvesting in the interior, the staff, the ingredients that the kitchen used.
The Green Room’s kitchen has undergone all kinds of changes over the years, says Akin. Before tackling the brasserie concept, he looked at old menus trying to find a guideline that could serve as inspiration. âThere has never been a static concept,â he says. âThe 1913 menu was completely different from that of 1950, when it was more regional / mid-Atlantic. In the 1980s, they had a solid pool of Swiss talent in management and cooking, which gave it a more formal French identity. They also had a culinary exchange program with Kyoto. There was Sushi to Hotel Du Pont in the early 1980s. There are people here who bristle at the fact that the restaurant is changing, but they forget how much it has changed over the years.
But what makes The Cavalier such a captivating restaurant opening, however, is threefold: It’s a homecoming for Akin, who (in addition to being born in Wilmington and raised just outside of town) has perfected his culinary chops in DC then Philly, where he rose through the ranks at Zahav before opening Stock, a Southeast Asian BYOB in Fishtown, then Res Ipsa Cafe with Mark Corpus and Mark Capriotti, then a version fast and casual from Stock to Rittenhouse. He says he feels an intense responsibility to make the restaurant a success. âThis place has been an educator for so many people, including me,â he says. âIt all happened here: special occasions, milestones. You can’t overstate how many people got engaged in this room, spent their birthdays in this room. The expectations are really high. I feel a lot of pressure, but I am confident. The community is watching and hoping for a good result, because whether their positive memories of the Green Room are justified or not, its mystique is absolutely infallible.
Plus, this is one of the first big fancy restaurant openings by a well-known Philly chef that we’ve seen happen in the coronavirus era. And it’s in Wilmington, a city that is recently found greedy magnetism (with much of its future restaurant development put on hold due to the pandemic). It’s inside Wilmington, which historically, despite its proximity to Philly, has not been a restaurant destination for Philadelphians.
But it’s in Wilmington, where eating inside is already in full swing. When it opens on September 1, they will welcome people indoors (with limited capacity, spaced in accordance with CDC recommendations as well as national and local guidelines). Philly won’t have an indoor meal until September 8, which means Akin has a week to grab this town’s attention. If the chandeliers haven’t already.
Scroll down for a tour of space. The opening menu is at the very bottom. Make your reservations here.