In a situation that’s more lease revival than lease renewal, Georgetown’s venerable La Chaumière restaurant announced it will serve its loyal patrons their beloved cassoulet, quenelles, and calf’s liver for another ten years. The co-owner of the French restaurant, Martin Lumet, said he’s not kidding about the cassoulet. “If one day I am out of cassoulet, I get phone calls, e-mails,” he says. “They want to know, ‘How could you be out of cassoulet?’”
La Chaumière was opened in 1976 by Gerard Pain, who sold it to Lumet and chef Patrick Orange in 2006. They renewed the lease in 2011, but then had to deal with tax issues that arose between the building’s owner and the city. The restaurant’s fate was in doubt. Now, Lumet says, the landlord has resolved the issues with the DC Office of Tax and Revenue, and it’s all clear for the next decade.
In the list of Georgetown restaurants, La Chaumière is the quiet power spot, the hangout of the cave dwellers and old guard. It’s one of the last of the white-tablecloth bistros, where provenance is more important than flash. On any given night, sitting at one of the choice tables near the fireplace might be Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, lawyers Brendan Sullivan, Bob Bennett, or Tommy Boggs, architect Hugh Jacobsen, or Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn. One famous night, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones walked in and settled in a banquette in the back.
Now that Lumet is assured of his lease for another ten years, we wondered whether he plans any changes. Lumet is adamant: No. He says his customers know what they like. “It’s true. My clientele doesn’t like change. I’ve received very severe warnings from them. I guess we won’t be serving sushi anytime soon.”