After you’re let go from the family business and your follow-up venture fizzles, you either cut your losses, or, as the French saying goes, cultivate your own garden. For green-thumbed restaurant veteran Charles Masson, who is known for packing his dining rooms with floral arrangements, the choice was apparently the latter: For his latest act, Majorelle at the Lowell Hotel, the ousted Le Grenouille scion and former Chevalier principal is going back to his roots.
“I am a true believe in simplicity,” Masson says. “I believe service and cuisine should be fluid, and the fluidity comes from performing a menu that is simple and natural.”
Like Marrakech’s Jardin Majorelle, a hidden gem of a tourist attraction once owned by designer Yves Saint Laurent, Majorelle at the Lowell strives to be an escape from the roughness of urban life. Named for French painter and designer of the Saint Laurent gardens Jacques Majorelle, the Upper East Side brasserie strives for both culinary authenticity and luxurious, petal-strewn ambiance.
The dining room, designed by decorator to the Obamas Michael S. Smith, features alabaster chandeliers and marble columns, and extends into an all-season, glassed-in garden. In the kitchen, overseen by Chef Mario Fortuna, soufflés are perfectly puffed in a customized, soufflé-only oven, and sauces, soups and broths come together in a dedicated “braisiere”.
While the Lowell has long been a clubby institution for celebrities and the jet set seeking refuge (Madonna reportedly lived there following her split from Sean Penn), Masson’s new venture is all about transparency. “There is no camouflage, no room for any razzle-dazzle,” he told us. “It is what it is, and I think that’s why the guests come back.”