BY JILL SIERACKI | July 2, 2010 | Food & Drink
Race Lane’s bright, airy dining room and bar
Long before “locavore” and “LEED” were on everyone’s lips, famed architect Norman Jaffe designed the 31 Race Lane restaurant space in East Hampton using a multitude of local materials such as wood and stone. And through the inevitable ownership changes that happen to most East End eateries, Jaffe’s construction remained.
“My husband was always a big fan of the original restaurant [the Laundry],” says Rowaida Plumeri, who purchased what had come to be known as the Lodge with her restaurateur husband, Jay, last year. “Jay always thought it was the best space out here and always dreamed of owning it.”
Last April the couple were visiting friends in the Hamptons and decided it was time to make a move out East. “The point of us moving out here was not just to have a fantastic restaurant, but a lifestyle change for our little boy,” says Plumeri. “We made an appointment with a broker to look at potential restaurants and it came up, almost in passing, that The Lodge could possibly sell. The minute he heard that, Jay really went for it. A year later, we have it. It’s like a dream come true. He wanted to bring the space back, revive it back to the glory days of the Laundry.”
FROM LEFT: Restaurateur Jay Plumeri’s “rocking” mac ’n’ cheese with bacon has a cult following; signature cocktail Leon; prosciutto di palma with melon and goat cheese
The couple formed their new company, Ocean Everyday (after a promise they made their four-year-old son, Jackson, that living in the Hamptons meant they would “see the ocean every day”), and recruited fellow Hamptonite Kerry Delrose to transform the interior. “[When we first met] I told them, in my own personal opinion, You bought one of the coolest places…but it’s a dump,” says Delrose.
The challenge was to get 31 Race Lane out of “dump” mode and ready for a grand opening in just nine weeks. (The restaurant opened on June 3.)
“We felt the room lacked love,” says Plumeri, whose first order of business was knocking down the ginormous clapboard buttresses that dominated The Lodge’s dining room. “We signed the lease and literally 48 hours later they took them out. And from that point on, we saw what we could do.”
Delrose elected to distress several beams using chains, wood stain and SOS pads. “Everyone who has visited has commented that they love that Race Lane has kept the old beams,” says Delrose. “However, as you can see from the before and after—these designs were never there.”
The designer also removed the Oldsmobile-size HV/HC to give the bar area greater dimension, and put an end to the brick interior’s 35-year reign. “[I told Jay and Rowaida] the whole town is going to be up in arms with me, but you’ve got to get rid of the brick,” says Delrose. “It’s so gloomy and heavy and serious and you want a chic, fun, crisp restaurant… You either like it or you don’t like it, but it’s distinctly different than what it was.” (Hamptons classicists, fear not: Jaffe’s original brick walls remain intact beneath a layer of Sheetrock and textured honey-colored Madagascar cloth.)
FROM LEFT: Race Lane’s outdoor bar area; chilled scallop carpaccio with extra-virgin olive oil, rock salt and jalapeño
To give Race Lane a year-round appeal, the team also opened up the eatery’s fireplace “We created a lounge area so the locals would come in on a cold winter’s snowy day and have a glass of wine, or something to eat or just gather with friends,” says Plumeri, who plans to serve classic American fare long after Tumbleweed Tuesday. “We really are gearing this up for the locals more than the visitors.”
Completing the look are accents like copper-colored leather banquettes, Lulu DK fabrics in Somersault and Marlon, artwork by Bridgehampton photographer Robin Rice and Shelter Island mixed-media artist Gavin Zeigler and a wall of vintage seltzer bottles in oceany shades of blue, green and clear from Buenos Aires.
To capitalize on the fact that Race Lane is the only restaurant in East Hampton village with (legalized) outdoor seating, the owners and architect removed the former patio fence, shrubbery and massive laundry press (which now resides at the Liberty Iron Work in Southampton), enlarged it to seat 40 to 50, resurfaced the bar and added custom nickel fans, TVs and a sound system. A barside niche was preserved to accommodate private parties. “Our big focus is on the raw bar,” says Plumeri, and offerings include freshly shucked oysters, clams and King Crab claws. “You can sit outside and have some oysters and champagne, which I think is perfect on a hot day, and enjoy the garden.”
Race Lane, 31 Race Lane, 631-324-5022
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ERIC STRIFFLER
October 23, 2018