Bent’s Opera House is close to making big debut in Medina

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 9 June 2021 at 2:31 pm

Harvest Restaurant on first floor expected to open June 24

Photos by Tom Rivers: The sign on the restored Bent’s Opera House was one of the last touches on the building which has been extensively renovated.

MEDINA – The public will soon be able to step inside the Bent’s Opera House after a three-year extensive renovation.

During a recent tour of the building, staff of Orleans Hub were able to see first-hand the spectacular transformation of the sandstone building at the corner of Main and West Center Streets.

Roger Hungerford spearheaded the ambitious restoration of one of Medina’s most prominent buildings. Roger and his wife Heather have announced the building’s upgrades are nearly complete, and an opening date of June 24th is planned for the farm-to-table Harvest Restaurant on the first floor.

Justin Bruce, restaurant manager at Harvest Restaurant in Bent’s Opera House, stands in the main dining room of the restaurant which is scheduled to open June 24.

Heather explained the monumental task of restoring the building, which began with a design phase in 2016.

“After going into construction, we realized the building walls were rotting,” she said. “The leaking roof had created so much damage it was surprising to our team the building had not collapsed years ago. Work was contracted to Le Chase Construction, with Charles Spencer of Clarendon as project manager. Having Charlie, with Dennis, Nate, and the team from Le Chase Construction, really made a difference in this project.

“The details they would point out to us through this entire project turned  this into an incredible outcome. The number of great contractors we had during this project was unbelievable. From the floors to the woodwork repair, every one of them had a hand in this beautiful building. I often call them artists, because the detail in all their work is like seeing the details in a piece of art.”

The restaurant will have several “soft openings” before June 24 for small groups of family and friends to train the staff, Heather explained.

Head chef is Lionel Heydel, whose background includes 10 years of teaching at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School. He has been in the restaurant business since he was 14 and helped in his father’s Michelin star restaurant in France. Heather first met Heydel when she was attending Le Cordon Bleu.

“I realized there are so many amazing chefs out there, but to have a chef that is just as talented with his craft as he is at teaching it to others is a rare find,” Heather said. “Normally you would have to pay to go to a highly ranked culinary school to be able to learn from him. Now if someone is looking to get that level of culinary training, they can come work with him.”

Chef Lionel Heydel plates meals in the kitchen of Harvest Restaurant. Both main dining rooms have windows open into the kitchen so diners can watch the chefs at work.

The menus will be focused on the farm-to-table theme of fresh, local ingredients in season as much as possible.

“Chef Lionel is very excited to have so many great local farmers to work with here,” Heather said.

On the second floor of the building is the Boutique Hotel with 10 uniquely designed rooms, each having a different theme. The themes are: Mid-Century Twisted; Very Well “Read”, which is predominately done in red with a wallpaper of books; Purple Hazel, a Jimmy Hendrix themed room; Petal to the Metal; Green with Envy; Isabella’s Parisienne Apartment; Bohemian Crash Pad; Dark Arts; Study in Blue; and Color of Love.

The Color of Love is the master suite and can be connected to the Study in Blue room. Most of the rooms have king size beds, and their bathrooms are designed to complement the rooms.

“Every time someone comes to stay here, it can be a different memorable experience,” Heather said about the rooms that all have their own look.

Due to the pandemic, the hotel rooms have taken a lot longer to finish than they anticipated. A few furnishings still have not arrived, but Heather said they are optimistic that the rooms will be ready for bookings when the restaurant opens June 24th.

“Thankfully, a lot of furniture for the rooms we’ve had in storage since early 2019,” she said. “Unfortunately, the remaining furniture has been having exceptionally long lead times due to the after effects of Covid. One of the beds took almost a year to come.”

The Bent’s Opera House is a high-profile site in Medina’s downtown at the corner of Main and West Center streets. 

On the third floor, restoration of the Opera House is complete with just a few finishing touches remaining. A portable bar and food prep area have been installed so the space can be rented for parties, weddings and special events. An area off the south end of the stage has been named the “Green room.” In show business, the green room is a space that functions as a lounge area for the performers when they are not on stage. This room will not only serve that purpose, but also act as a hair and makeup room, with posh salon chairs and large lighted mirrors. (Photos of the second and third floors will be available after all the final touches are in place.)

A wall-size movie screen has been installed over the stage, anticipating movie nights, seminars, corporate events, and so much more.

When the three-dimensional tile ceiling of the Opera House could not be saved, an artist was hired to come in and paint the design on the ceiling. Special chandeliers were designed to complement the elegance of the space.

Unfortunately, tours of this building will not always be available due to the number of staff needed to openly give tours. There will be, however, designated times to book a tour, according to Heather.  This will be posted on their social media platforms soon. This way, everyone can take their time and really enjoy the experience.

“We are so close, and we can’t wait to welcome everyone,” Heather exclaimed.