Maison Vivienne: The South of France in Southampton

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Maison Vivienne, a Southern French restaurant in Southampton.

Can an unlucky location survive the Hamptons season? If you ask Gary, Svitlana and Tessa Flom, the answer is a resounding “yes.” In March, the Floms took over 136 Main Street in Southampton, a restaurant space that has suffered some substantial turnover in seasons past. Last year, the space was home to Kozu, a “Peruvian-inflected Japanese restaurant” by Zach Erdem, owner of Southampton’s successful 75 Main. Before that, it was a Greek restaurant, Nammos. Longtime Hamptons residents will likely remember its most successful iteration, however, Nello Summertimes, which closed a handful of years ago after a boisterous run.

The 2018 revival goes by the name Maison Vivienne, and brings with it a Southern French vibe. “The concept is Provençal,” Gary Flom said. “Everything from the core on is designed to be South of France: light, airy, lots of white. The fact that the building is an original 17thcentury building makes it perfect for the concept. This opportunity came up — this location came up. We remembered it fondly when it was Nello and decided to take the opportunity and build the restaurant.”

The sprawling, reimagined restaurant, which seats 75 inside and 125 outside on its meticulously landscaped patio, benefits from period details, like two working fireplaces and original wide plank hardwood floors. The patio is shaded and adorned with heat lamps (and protection for the rain). The owners intend to keep this large space open well into the fall, and the restaurant will remain open, with lighter hours, through the holiday season, breaking for January and February.

Allan Basaran lends his hospitality expertise to the restaurant as well. Once a maitre’d at Nello Summertime, Basaran now functions as Maison Vivienne’s managing partner.

The restaurant has enjoyed consistent summer success, location notwithstanding. “We have a loyal clientele,” Flom said “People are dressing up very elegantly. So it’s more upscale. Where we can use an improvement is lunch. The fact that we’re 200 yards outside of the main drag, that has an effect on it. Every place that has ever been in this location has never been open for lunch.” In order to boost their lunchtime appeal, Maison Vivienne plans to expand awareness about the restaurant’s lunch offerings, through both word-of-mouth and advertising.

In addition to the restaurant space, Maison Vivienne also operates as a small inn, offering nine rooms, at king ($895) and queen ($695) rates. The inn, like the restaurant, speaks to the building’s provenance, boasting exposed beams and other 17thcentury notes. Infrastructure was renovated two years ago, so the inn is a compelling blend of colonial and modern aesthetics. “Guests love the juxtaposition with this antique building and modern renovation,” Flom said. Indeed, the inn has been sold out every weekend of the summer season.

Whether or not Maison Vivienne can weather the storm of a challenging location remains to be seen, but the current prognosis is good. The Floms opened the restaurant a short two months after acquiring the property, and were functional by Memorial Day, which meant a frenzied beginning. Still, they seem to have landed on their feet.

“Obviously, in the beginning we had somewhat of a rocky start,” Flom said, “but now everything is gelling. Everyone just raves about the food. We’ve had many repeat customers. Our chef is really an artist.”

Like the décor, the food is inspired by Southern France and inflected with local produce. A Long Island duck magret is served with a glaze of lavender honey, sunchoke purée, and Port-marinated figs, while a Marseilles-style bouillabaise teems with fish and shellfish and is adorned with a classic rouille. Presentation takes root, Flom said, in Svitlana Flom’s own food life. A successful food blogger in New York, Svitlana specializes in high-end entertainment at home, as well as food presentation. “She always believed that people eat with their eyes first,” Flom said.

 

Maison Vivienne, 136 Main Street in Southampton, is open for lunch from Thursdays through Sundays and dinner nightly, though the owners intend to drop down to five nights of service following the Labor Day holiday. For more information, visit maisonvivi.com.

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