The Ivy Cottage restaurant is being sold this week to a Long Island restaurateur who promises to maintain the popular Hillside Avenue eatery’s standards for high-quality food under a new name and a new look.
Kevin Madison, 37, introduced a new menu when he took over the restaurant’s operations at the end of May with the help of executive chef and partner, Williston Park resident Jeffrey Slade, whose resume includes experience at 25 five-star restaurants, including Le Cirque in Manhattan and French Landing in Napa, Cal.
“It’s important that the quality of the food is the best it can be,” Madison said.
The restaurant will be closed for a major renovation over the next three weeks and will be called Madison’s when it reopens in the third week of July.
The restaurant’s quaint ivory and green decor will be transformed with a modern black-and-white color scheme accented with laminated privacy glass and featuring an abstract mural that will cover one wall of the reconstituted interior.
Madison bought the Hillside Avenue restaurant from Joseph Lester, who had owned Ivy Cottage for the past 14 years. Leser owns the FarmHouse Kitchen in Rockville Centre.
“He was looking for someone to come in who would breathe life into this place and keep the customers he’d developed,” Madison said.
Lester, 55, said he has problems with his legs and feet and could no longer keep up with the demands of running a kitchen in an ala carte restaurant. So he opened the Rockville Centre restaurant, a business based primarily on take-out food and catering last in January 2011 with the intention of selling the Ivy Cottage.
“I had to find another way of staying in the business. I can’t do that kind of work anymore. That’s why I decided to sell,” said Lester, who grew up in Williston Park.
He said he was “lucky” with the Ivy Cottage, particularly because of the people he met there.
“I had such a great run there,” he said. “What I’m really going to miss is the people, the customers.”
Asked what organizations he supported at the restaurant while he owned it, Lester said, “You name them, I’ve done [fundraisers for] them.”
The new restaurant will present contemporary American cuisine in a daily menu of seven appetizers, six entrees and five desserts that will change every two or three days, according to Madison.
“We don’t have any core menu,” he said. “It’s a fresh presentation on food.”
Entrees will range in price from $23 to $35 and appetizers will be priced at $9 to $14 in what Madison calls a “very seasonal menu.”
That will include items such as corn risotto with French summer truffles, watermelon with curry-seared scallops and breast of Long Island duck roasted with plum puree. The daily offering of vegetables will also change, with an emphasis on bringing in the freshest foods across the board.
“When it’s grown locally, it’s going to taste better than it would sitting on a truck,” said Slade.
His approach to cooking is the French “Ala minut” (“To the minute”) style so the meals are all freshly prepared.
“Each plate is like a special,” Salde said. “The food is really accessible, not pretentious.”
Madison’s will offer a tasting menu on Tuesday nights, and Wine-Down Wednesdays and a Girls Night Out on Thursday evenings, with extensive wine selections to complement meals on those nights.
“It’s all just about quality,” said Madison.
He credits Jeanne McGuire, project manager for the Moinian Group, with the restaurant’s interior design makeover. McGuire helped develop the design of W Hotel in lower Manhattan.
Madison has been in the business for the past 17 years and is a graduate of the Long Island Culinary Academy with a degree in hospitality. He most recently worked as the general manager of Lola’s in Long Beach. He was also the manager of Peppercorn’s in Hicksville for three years. He was also part of the management team that opened Hemingway’s in Wantagh.
“I fell in love with the industry,” he said.
He’s had a difficult personal road to navigate along the way. His father, a New York City police officer, was killed in the line of duty when Madison was seven years old. While working for restaurateur Steve Hanson in Ruby Foods at age 23, he fell backwards on a flight of stairs and broke his neck, subsequently undergoing 11 major operations to recover.
“I feel lucky every day,” he said.