Russian Tea Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For me, the Russian Tea Room has always been more
than a¬†restaurant. It’s been my home and family for almost forty
years.

Since the 1950s, and my earliest days in New York as a struggling
actress, I was caught up in its magic aura. When I met the owner,
Sidney Kaye, we fell in love and spent the next two years trying
to decide whether to get married. Finally we did in 1957.

Sidney loved his customers and allowed them great freedom. Zero
Mostel habitually usurped the maitre d’ duties. Salvador Dali always
swept through the revolving doors without stopping, and dropped his
fur cape majestically into the checkroom attendant’s arms. Our dear
friend impresario Sol Hurok kept one entire wall of the Tea Room
covered with his posters, and he watched over them like a landowner.
Sidney and I started changing the look in the late fifties.

We began collecting samovars here and in Europe, tucking them in
niches around the dining room, along with other objects we gathered
from Third Avenue antique shops …

The Russian element faded as beloved waiters like John Ost and Eric
retired. The wonderful waitresses Nadia, Ada, Vera and Ducia were
gone, too, as were the last Russian chef, George Lohen, and Anatole
Voinoff, our maitre d’ for thirty years.

One by one we replaced the old murals with our present art collection.
We bought what pleased us and what we could afford-Russian art, the
French Post impressionists, theatrical subjects and American art in
and of the 1919 Armory Show period and the Ashcan school…

By Faith Stewart-Gordon, Starla Smith