A restaurant with decidedly luxurious and retro vibes is set to open in affluent San Mateo county town of Atherton later this summer, from the restaurant group behind Spruce, the Saratoga, and Village Pub. Called Selby’s, it’s a throwback to the golden era of “continental American” restaurants, with white tablecloths, tableside preparations, and most importantly, a martini cart.
The address has hosted many such restaurants over the years, starting with Johnny’s in 1938, followed by Barbarossa, and most recently, Chantilly, which closed in 2017 after 43 years. The restaurants occupied the 10,000-square-foot building covered in ivy and surrounded by boxwoods, each surviving for decades in the changing landscape of the Peninsula. The neighborhood has gradually lost much of its commercial “downtown” area to office parks filled with venture capitalists and attorneys, leaving 3001 El Camino Real as the main dining destination in the small town.
“This [restaurant] was a holdout,” says Bacchus Management founder Tim Stannard. “So, that’s the challenge: You end up needing to be a lot of different things to a lot of different people.”
At Selby’s, that means a generous marble-topped bar for casual dining, as well as the larger, more formal carpeted dining room with 35-foot ceilings, and an upper balcony dining area that is reached by ascending a marble staircase. Stephen Brady from Ralph Lauren Home led the renovation of the restaurant; many of the artisans involved with the creation of the Saratoga in San Francisco worked on this project as well, including art from Lost Art Salon and metalwork from Magnus Schevene.
The menu from Mark Sullivan, the group’s executive chef, will be full of dishes that reference those classic restaurant recipes, but bringing them into the present with a lighter, more modern take. As part of the challenge of taking on the mantle of a town’s only restaurant, the menu won’t just be steaks, martinis, and rich dishes. (Can a lighter beef wellington taste good with less butter? “We think we can do it,” laughs Stannard.) There’ll also be plenty of shareable vegetable side dishes from the restaurant group’s organic farm in Woodside.
That’s not to say there won’t be plenty of the decadent old-school dining inspired by classics like NY’s 21 Club, and its ilk. Lobster thermidor, dry-aged steaks from Flannery Beef with a porterhouse carved at the table, and a crown of dry-aged roast duck (also served tableside) are on the horizon. There’ll also be flambées a la minute, like cherry jubilee and bananas foster.
There might be a piano for live music in the bar, if it will fit. Otherwise the soundtrack will run the gamut from rock to classic jazz and back again, says Stannard. “We talked about how we want the food to be authentically continental cuisine but not a Xerox copy of the Joy of Cooking; the soundtrack does the same thing.”
“We’re looking to curate an entire experience. You can take an idea and make it so literal it becomes cartoonish, and that is what we are trying to avoid.”
Stay tuned for more details on the restaurant, which is currently set to open for dinner in summer of 2019.