New Pearl Splashes Into Longshore

A pearl is a beautiful jewel.

Longshore is one of Westport’s crown jewels.

So it’s particularly fitting that Pearl is the name of Longshore’s new restaurant. And that oysters and clams figure prominently on the menu.

Pearl at Longshore — the full name — opens officially tomorrow (Monday, February 22). But a soft opening last night showed that — more than a year after Splash closed — Westport’s dining and social scene have taken an impressive step forward.

A new entrance for a new restaurant.

A new entrance for a new restaurant.

Last night — in the beautiful new dining room, next to the handsome bar, as the wait staff bustled around — lead owner Marc Backon and his wife Lois described the long journey that transformed rundown Splash into a gorgeous Pearl.

It was Halloween, 2014. Dining at Tarantino, they learned from then-general manager Antonio Ninivaggi that after 18 years, Splash had shut its doors (and the adjacent, once-quite-popular Patio Bar). They were saddened. They’d eaten there often, and both daughters’ 1st jobs were at Splash.

It was not an immediate “let’s do it!” moment. Yet gradually the Backons decided to give Westport back its waterfront gem.

They had no background in restaurants. But Marc has a long career in business, Lois is in banking — and they are smart, committed Westporters.

Slowly, they put together a group of 25 or so investors, mostly from here. The list also included Ninivaggi (who had moved on to Osianna in Fairfield). They hired a crack design team, led by Bilal Barakat, and renowned executive chef Michael Hazen (Bartaco, Barcelona).

The stunning bar is made from recycled glass. Behind it is recycled wood.

The stunning bar is made from recycled glass. Behind it is recycled wood.

The journey was tough. The building — including the kitchen and food storage areas — had deteriorated significantly. A couple of deadlines were missed.

But the wait was worth it. With seating for 55 inside, 70 outside and 18 at the bar; chic, contemporary decor that includes paintings by local artists and a display with Robin Tauck’s Sherwood Mill Pond books, plus a menu that ranges from locally raised oysters to boar, it’s bound to create Westport’s newest buzz.

Locally harvested Hummock Island oysters are a special treat.

Locally harvested Hummock Island oysters are a special treat.

The patio is not yet finished. That’s okay. It will be ready this summer.

Hey, it takes 3 to 7 years for an oyster to produce a perfect pearl.

This one is ready after just 1.

The town of Westport owns the Pearl at Longshore property, and rents it to operators. Among the diners at last night's soft opening were 2 town officials who helped oversee the renovation from Splash to Pearl were (far left) former Parks and Recreation chair Steve Haberstroh, and (right) 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

The town of Westport owns the Pearl at Longshore property, and rents it to operators. Among the diners at last night’s soft opening were 3 town officials who helped oversee the renovation from Splash to Pearl: (far left) Parks and Recreation chair Charlie Haberstroh, (near left) Parks and Rec director Jennifer Fava, and (right) 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

(Pearl at Longshore will be open 7 days a week starting tomorrow [Monday, February 22] for dinner only. Lunch — and a golfers’ menu — will be added later.)

In summer, the view of Long Island Sound will be spectacular. In winter, the Longshore Skating Rink shimmered in the background.

In summer, the view of Long Island Sound will be spectacular. Last night, the Longshore Skating Rink shimmered in the background.

16 responses to “New Pearl Splashes Into Longshore

  1. So happy to see the lights on across the harbor! Looking forward to enjoying the food and the views!

  2. Suzanne Zarrilli

    Congrats to the Backons! Dinner was delicious. Starting with oysters & clams, wonderful kale salad. We all enjoyed the Octopus, Chicken, as well as the Hot Pot of seafood presented in a royal blue pot! The food was all well prepared and piping hot. The entrance is warm & welcoming. The dining room is a game changer, elegant but warm & inviting. So excited to welcome the PEARL!

  3. Congratulations, Steve — can’t wait to hear how your first few weeks go . . .

    Hope to visit during warmer weather!

  4. Great that the new restaurant opened, but Westport is not getting what is required in the lease for Longshore and we are losing out. Something must be done so not only do we receive the services that are due, but also the potential income that property should be generating.

    I have read the Longshore lease and it is a shame what is going on and how much more Longshore should be. Anyone that wants to read the lease please let me know. You will be SHOCKED at what is required and how bad Gordon Joseloff managed the lease and in turn, the property. And shame on our lawyers that seem to let this all slide.

    Now that Jim Marpe is in charge-it is time for Westport to get the beautiful Inn we deserve. This is a fabulous property with a fabulous location, that should be proviing the residents of Westport with a first class Inn with all the venues for the hotel guests and golfers.

    I will highlight just 2 areas that are in the lease, and easy to see what is clealry not being provided.

    The first item is the requirement in the lease for a cafe/grill to be open during the golf season. The part of the lease regarding the grill is in deatil, explains the hours and food that should be served. As we know, there is no such venue open at any time. This is part of the lease is easy to understand and a requirement for holding the lease. And an importnat part of the lease that makes Longshore a much better Inn.

    The second item is the requirement for the Inn to be first rate/ first class. Again, this requirement is noted in detail in the lease and easy to understand. Once again, anyone who has used Longshore can easily say the rooms and facilities at Longshore are not top rated. Just think how much more business the Inn at Longshore would do if the rooms were wonderful and the entertainmnet rooms great. Unfortunately, Westporters are getting the bad end of soemone who is not following the lease.

    This problem started during the Joseloff administration. when Gordon Joseloff chose not to hold the person responsible for the lease to perform in accordance to the requirements. Gordon Josleloff allowed the person to get many lease extensions without having to provide the lease requirements. This has gone on for years–over a decade.

    The new restaurant that has been opened is good news, but not evertyhing that is required in the lease. A first rate hotel and golfers grill room is just a few aspects that is not being provided that would provide Westport with a first class facility.

    It is time to demand somene else run Longshore so that Westport get a wonderful Inn at Longshore. I would also suggest Westport find a better lawyer to draft a more appropiate lease with much shorter renewal periods so if soemone signs the lease does not perfom, Westport can react much qucker than it can do today.

    Just think if Longshore was a first rate Inn. Just think if the golfers had a place to go for burgers and drinks after playing. Just think if restaurants were not moving out every few years because the Inn is not being run right. Just imagine if the Inn was a place visitors would want to stay. We should demand what is in the lease and get what our tax paying residents expect.

    Again–anyone who wants to read the lease-just let me know. Or maybe Dan can post it for everyone to read. We are owed a true Inn at Longshore.

  5. Gloria Goodenough

    Are the Inn and restaurant at Longshore under separate management? We found the rooms economical and pleasant, befitting a simple country inn with management anxious to please. Is the new Pearls handicapped accessible?

    • Gloria. The Inn and restaurant are under one lease. One control. The fact that the holder decides to allow someone else to run the restaurant does not take away their full responsibility for all the facilities. Including the grill room that is required and a hotel that is required to be more than adequate.

      Westport owns the property. Westport has issued a lease that should make the Inn fabulous. And make the golfing a true benefit that would be the envy of any town.

      Yet it is not.

    • Christine Hussey

      The handicap entrance to the restaurant is through the main entrance of The Inn, next to the handicap parking in front of the building!

  6. Does anyone have a phone number? Tried everywhere to get it, but apparently it’s a state secret!

  7. Bart,

    Why hasn’t this issue – if it is an issue not been brought up until now – after the establishment has opened for operation?

    “It is time to demand somene else run Longshore so that Westport get a wonderful Inn at Longshore. I would also suggest Westport find a better lawyer to draft a more appropiate lease with much shorter renewal periods so if soemone signs the lease does not perfom, Westport can react much qucker than it can do today.”

    What is the issue?

    • Close your eyes for a minute and think of the Inn at Longshore, with wonderful rooms looking over the sound, dining room that is truly impressive, grill room serving burgers and beers for the Westport resident golfers, all in a beautiful building that would be a gem for all Westport residents.

      That is what we should have. At no cost to Westport-the Inn at Longshore should be a fabulous Inn that would draw many to live in Westport.

      Why am I bringing this to everyone’s attention? Because I did the research after the last restaurant closed and attended an event at the Inn which I could only describe as below average. I then wondered what should the Inn be and is there anything that could be done.

      And much to my amazement and true disappointment I found out that for years the leadership in Westport under Gordon Joseloff, allowed the person who has the lease to not perform to the requirements of the lease. Much to my disappointment I read that we should have this wonder Inn, we should have a grill room and a world classe Inn. All at not cost to Westport.

      And I learned that the money we could be earning from the Inn was much less due to the mismanagement by the person who has the lease.

      So I decided to now go public as the new restaurant gets its opening praise. As you and others go and like what you eat, I hope to bring to your attention how much better all of the Inn should be. And as we enter another golf season, I want to let everyone know what services Westport golfers should be getting.

      Maybe people just don’t care. Maybe ‘below average’ is good enough. Maybe not having the grill room is acceptable. Maybe having adequate rooms is ok for some. Maybe have the rooms used for events is just ok.

      I, for one, don’t agree. Westport and all the residents own the Inn. And we should get what is required in the lease. Westport is owed a first class facility. And it is time we did. And the best part-at no cost to the residents.

      • I’m just guessing here but I would imagine the economics don’t work for what you suggest. I believe the Tauck’s tried the “world class Inn” at National Hall which didn’t appear to work out so well as an Inn. Running a first class Inn in a location people do not have a burning need to go to is pretty difficult and probably tough to justify spending the money for upgrades.

        I am somewhat surprised though that a seasonal grill for golfers wouldn’t have some traction but I’m guessing there historically weren’t enough eaters/drinkers to make that work either otherwise it would probably be there.

        Having said that, if the lessee is indeed in breach of their lease, it is worth an explanation from town officials why they haven’t terminated the lease. If it is in breach, my money is on they’ve chosen to have an Inn, with whatever money it brings the town, versus having no Inn (and no money) after terminating the lease and not finding anyone else willing to step into their shoes. I’m guessing there would not be a lot of folks jumping at the opportunity.

        I could easily be wrong.

        • Jerry. You are wrong. You are making assumptions and do not know the facts.

          There would be many interested in running an Inn at one of the best locations in Fairfield County.

          Don’t underestimate the potential due to lack of management by Gordon Joseloff. Lack of oversight. Lack of care for town property.

          The Inn at Longshorencould be, should be, and will be a fab and tatie place with a grill room for Westporters and golfers once the requirements of the lease are either forced or a new person takes over.

          The finances are all there for the town to have an iconic place. And a win win for Westport

  8. Jeez Bart, lighten up. Sorry it’s not as ‘fabulous’ as you’d like it to be. Nothing ever is.

    • Tyler. No worries-I will keep pushing and asking and hoping we get the Inn we deserve. Everyone deserves.

      I don’t accept town property being ‘abused’ and ‘used’. I don’t accept past officials allowing an iconic property to be wasted away and not provide services it should.

      i accept you don’t care. But I guess that is what is happening these days.

    • Tyler-I also hope others in Westport do not like being ripped-off. And in addition, mad that a town leader did not care about our taxes and our property.