The Claremont Hotel has had a complete rethink for its second restaurant located in the former Paragon space. To be called Limewood, it will open at the end of August with Chef Joseph Humphrey at the helm, and it will serve dishes rooted in local ingredients, according to its general manager.
Nosh chanced upon activity at the restaurant Wednesday night, with staff in training tasting dishes from the forthcoming menu, and Benjamin, its general manager, filled us in on some details.
“It’s going to be an East Bay restaurant,” Benjamin said, introducing us to the waiters and inviting us in to the redesigned space with its bay views and beautiful new tiled floor.
The new incarnation follows a failed re-opening after Claremont owners, the Fairmont Group, hired Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn to oversee the launch of an upscale brasserie called Antoinette. The restaurant opened in February, but closed after just two months of operation. Reviews, including one in the East Bay Express had not been flattering, suggesting Antoinette was catering to the 1% and describing it as “dispiriting, at times baffling.”
Humphrey, also Michelin-starred with stints at Auberge du Soleil and The Restaurant at Meadowood under his belt, has jumped ship from nearby restaurant, The Advocate, even though he only started there in February. Humphrey replaced John Griffiths, who was the opening chef when the restaurant made it debut in the Elmwood this time last year. The Advocate is a sister restaurant to downtown Berkeley’s Comal. (Dan Hanken, who had been the lead sous chef under Humphrey, has stepped into the chef role there, according to co-owner John Paluska.)
No word on Chef Justin Mauz, who was running the Antoinette kitchen day-to-day during its brief existence.
The menu at Limewood, named for a local tree, will be more down-to-earth than that at Antoinette, which featured ingredients such as foie gras and Champagne-based sauces, said the manager. It will also likely be less pricey. The defunct brasserie’s Schmitz Ranch prime strip steak with celeriac dauphinoise and sauce Bordelaise came in at $60, while a whole Liberty Farms rotisserie duck with abalone mushroom, foie gras, chou rouge and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, that served 3 to 4, cost a cool $200.
The Limewood, like most other parts of the historic hotel, which straddles the Berkeley-Oakland border, has been revamped and redesigned under its relatively new owners. Along with the new tile floor, and sleek new furniture, the restaurant’s decor emphasizes its best feature — west-facing bay views offered to those inside and at tables on the inviting outdoor deck.
General manager Benjamin suggested Limewood would be more casual than Antoinette, though different than the Paragon. He emphasized they would be sourcing from local purveyors such as Marin Sun Farms, and said the whole team was excited to welcome guests and the local community in soon.
The Claremont’s other restaurant, the Meritage, continues to serve breakfast through dinner with a menu that runs the gamut from a Niman Ranch burger to egg tagliatelle with seasonal vegetables.
Limewood will open at The Claremont Club & Spa, 41 Tunnel Rd., Berkeley. Connect with the Claremont on Facebook.
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