“NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A wooden sign above the fireplace still reminds diners that George Washington supped there, the turn-of-the-century stained glass still glimmers, and the table knives are still stamped ‘Robert Henry’s.’
Other than those reminders, the Union League Cafe bears little resemblance to Robert Henry’s, the well-known restaurant that occupied 1032 Chapel St for seven years before closing in May.
Jean Pierre Vuillermet, the 36-year-old owner and head chef, said he has tried to make the restaurant and the new menu of French food different from its predecessor.
The new light pink paint and a large but simple chandelier in the middle of the main dining room have brightened the restaurant, which was formerly known for its serious ambiance and expensive prices.
Part of the refurbishing of Robert Henry’s was removing the carpets. Fortunately, Vuillermet said, the wooden floor underneath was in good shape and has been polished. In the bar area, the old carpet hid a brick floor that was also recently polished.
A small, lighted box with a menu should be in place outside the restaurant’s front door by tonight, he said, and a small neon sigh is already aglow on Chapel Street.
Vuillermet, who was the head chef of Robert Henry’s, said he has also tried to make the new restaurant more affordable without sacrificing the quality of the new menu of traditional bistro-style French cuisine.
‘A lot of people get scared when they hear it has French food,’ Vuillermet said. “But you can have affordable French food. It will be country French food, earthy food.’
The most expensive entree, breaded veal with pasta, will cost $16.50.
Vuillerment, whose family has been in the restaurant business for generations in France, said he has completely redone the lunch menu. adding one-course meals of soups and salad and other entrees that are quick to prepare.
Carroll J. Hughes, executive vice president of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, said Tuesday he has happy to see a new restaurant fill up the space left by Robert Henry’s, which closed after its owner, Jo McKenzie, decided to retire.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Newspapers.com, The Transcript (North Adams, Massachusetts,) Saturday, November 27, 1993. (top) “Chef and owner of Chapel Street’s new Union League Cafe, Jean Pierre Vuillermet relaxes for a moment before yesterday’s opening. The restaurant is less expensive than Robert Henry’s it’s predecessor.” Image courtesy of the Yale Daily News Historical Archive, Yale Daily News, No. 27, October 7, 1993
Students Crave Fine Food…
“The discerning gastronome, especially one living on a student’s budget, is often met with the problem of financing an evening of epicurean delights. The answer (if you don’t enjoy expanding your credit history) is to be sure to take in as many of New Haven’s restaurants as possible when mom and dad are here to foot the bill.
For those with deep pockets, or at least for those willing to splurge occasionally, New Haven can offer some truly exceptional dining experiences.
Robert Henry’s — In a beautiful historic building on Chapel Street (right across from Vanderbilt Hall), Robert Henry’s is one of the city’s most exclusive restaurants. The menu, which includes nouvelle cuisine with a regional twist, is elaborately presented by an attentive staff. Be sure to set aside at least two hours, however, for this culinary experience. The exquisitely served venison rabbit and local berries and the elegant atmosphere can bring the tab to around $80 per person, but it is worth every penny.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the Yale Daily News Historical Archive, Yale Daily News, Freshperson Issue, Summer 1993, no. A, “Students Crave Fine Food,” by Graham Boettcher, September 1, 1993