Imagine trying to open a brand-new restaurant while operating another and someone told you all you had access to was email and a phone — and you had to do it from the other side of the world? Oh, and essentially the only time you could work on these projects was between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. You'd sign up for that in a heartbeat, wouldn't you? Maybe not so much.
Anthony Debreceny did. Well, maybe didn't sign up for it, but that's what happened.
Debreceny is owner of The Collins Quarter, still one of hottest spots for brunch in the city at the corner of Oglethorpe and Bull streets downtown. He also owns The Deck on Tybee Island, which is once again open for the season.
Where things got complicated, from a logistics standpoint, was with the work being done at his newest restaurant — The Fitzroy, which is finally set to open at 9 Drayton St. this week after a couple of tiny delays. There were a number of reasons for those delays, not the least of which was a much larger construction project than Debreceny expected. "We thought we'd put some paint on it and move forward," he says. "But the more we pulled plaster away and we saw how beautiful this building was in its natural state, we couldn't stop."
That happens a lot in this town. So many layers of convenient plaster or drywall or worse cover up what this city used to look like, making it hard to strip a building down to its skivvies. For starters, it's cost prohibitive unless you own the building. Add to that the fact that you may never know what you will find if you start peeling away history. Sometimes it’s easier to just move along with what’s there.
Add to all of that, Debreceny was largely directing this project while he was back in his native Australia getting his visa renewed. He was there for three months during the holidays. He was in Australia when he got the call that The Collins Quarter had some busted water pipes in the wake of our snow event the first week of January.
That call came at 2 a.m.
While he was there, though, he made the acquaintance of Jesse McTavish, a popular brunch chef in Australia. Knowing he needed some help getting The Fitzroy off of the ground back here in Savannah once he returned, he brought McTavish back with him.
"He sent me an email with some photos of Savannah." That was it. McTavish saw enough to commit to the trip to America to help Debreceny get the new spot off and running. Once they open the doors, McTavish will go back down under.
What the two of them have come up with is sure to be another treat for Savannah's bubbling food scene. The term they used to describe what they were looking for is "elegant casual."
I think it's a pretty good start.
The space has been beautifully redone. The bar that was there, Debreceny tells me, once sat in Central Station in London and was brought to this country in pieces. It’s been painted black and topped in a light gray. The custom beer taps, the lighting and the walls all have an elegant feel. Much like the scene at The Collins Quarter, it can be comfortable for anyone.
"We want everyone to feel comfortable here," Debreceny says. "Whether it’s dressed up after church or in shorts and flip-flops, no one should feel out of place."
The menu is different from anything they've done to this point. When I mention the Poblano Scrambled Eggs on Sourdough with Soy and Ginger Collard Greens, Chef McTavish's eyes got really big. "That is actually going to be amazing."
Of course, he's excited about the entire menu. It's a good-looking lineup. The most expensive item on there is $26.
"We could have easily put a steak on there and charged $38, but we didn't want to do that. We want this to be elegant, but approachable," Debreceny says.
To which McTavish added, "We worked hard on an everyday menu, not a special occasion menu."
Had to have been a little harder to put together, I would imagine, from half a world away.
There will be plenty of special occasions there, I am sure. There's a room for private dining upstairs and a rooftop dining area with an unobstructed view of the dome at City Hall. I'm very much looking forward to eating and liking at The Fitzroy. Weekend brunch for starters and dinner beginning at 5 p.m. The bar will open every day at 3 p.m.
See you on TV,
Where: 9 Drayton St.
When: Opening soon