Nicely prepared food always tastes good, but it tastes even better in an internationally-recognized stone church built in 1872.
Oldestone, previously Marsha Brown’s restaurant in New Hope recently just opened after having its doors closed at the start of the pandemic. With the reopening brings a new name, menu, and experience, but the reputation of the venue still stands. Marsha Brown herself passed the baton and her legacy to the new owners — Wilfer Naranjo, Michael Sklar, Gaspar Ferrara and Vincent Ferrara — and Naranjo has been with Brown since 2003, working as a food runner. Naranjo’s story comes full circle from food runner to restaurant owner, as he and the new owners debut their new concept for the iconic space, and Philadelphians can check it out firsthand.
Sklar said in a statement: “Our history with this building goes back decades. In fact, owner Wilfer first started as a food runner at Marsha Brown’s when he was just 19 years old. He also met his wife, who was a waitress at the time, at Marsha Brown’s. The current General Manager, John Madeley, also worked at Marsha’s back in the day. These connections and our excellent relationship with Marsha helped us make a smooth transition to open at this historic location. In addition, because of our experience in hospitality and restaurants, Marsha agreed that we would be the perfect team to sell to, and maintain her life’s work. There are also several familiar faces on the staff and team that also go back over the year’s with Marsha Brown’s. We are creating our own unique identify as a restaurant and that is important to us, but we are also following a very well known and famous restaurant and restaurateur and we want to celebrate the building and town’s roots with her, as we create a new future moving forward.”
The elegant and refined steak and seafood restaurant, featuring New American cuisine by Executive Chef Seth Wheeler, also features several signature creole dishes from Marsha Brown’s recipe collection. The 9,000 square foot space now boasts a main bar, lounge and private dining room on the first floor, a grand dining room on the second level, and a third level in the former balcony overlooking the dining room that is now a speakeasy with a bar and lounge itself (including a stage for live music). In total, the space can seat over 250 guests at one time, and features 1950s art deco stylings from top to bottom with a jazz age bar on the third floor, a speakeasy stage with a vintage-style microphone, church stained glass windows, original church pews and a church pulpit, a 30-foot mural (titled Redemption), working church bells, crystal chandelier, original brick work and much more.
The cuisine of course is part of the appeal, and Wheeler, who has more than 20 years of experience in high-end commercial kitchens, has taken his classic French, Italian and Mediterranean cuisine as well as modernist techniques to the menu.
While there, diners can indulge in a raw bar (boasting seasonal oysters, stone crab claws, jumbo shrimp and much more), corned beef short ribs with brussels sprout slaw and Guinness mustard; rabbit confit with a corniche and chili cranberry sauce; day boat scallops with coconut rice, romanesco, and a red chermoula sauce; seared grouper with Persian vegetables and a saffron fennel cream; steak a la carte done along with a smattering of sides from Greek fries drizzled with olive oil and feta cheese to German rye bread dumplings with small batch mustard —you know, just a few unique standouts.
Chef’s favorite dishes however include fresh gravlax with cucumber radish salad and sauce grabish; pan seared scallops with coconut lime rice romanesco broccoli and a chermoula sauce; and bacon wrapped prawns with thai basil, ginger and hoisin almond sauce. Chef also suggests the deep fried meyer lemon rings with raspberry tomato emulsion, as his play and twist on classic steakhouse onion rings. And the Marsha Brown Creole Dishes mentioned before? Think jambalaya, lollipop lamb chops and the ever-popular eggplant ophelia.
But what’s dinner without some drinks?
As the release states, Oldestone’s bar program features elevated prohibition and speakeasy-style speciality cocktails (i.e. The White Lady, Bees Knees, Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Gin Rickey, etc.) in a unique and authentic setting. The vision for the drink program is led by Bar Manager Karl Hoffman, and his vision is to create an elevated cocktail menu that pays tribute to the classics of that time as well as putting a modern delicious spin on them.
The wine program is still evolving, but it will include many staples from the previous restaurant as well as many new high-end bottles that were not previously offered. There will be a wines by the glass list, a reserve wines by the glass list, and a bottle program. For opening, there will be many limited-time exclusive rare gems brought up from the wine cellar from Marsha Brown’s. Later in the year, Oldestone will also add additional bottles and expand the wine program. For beer selections, all beer is by the bottle or can, with a program that will include national favorites as well as local craft beers.
More information and reservation options can be found online for Oldestone (15 S. Main St., New Hope) at oldestonenewhope.com.