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.
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 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.
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.
(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.)