River House at Odette’s
Updated: Aug 5
In 1961, a charming French country restaurant opened in New Hope, Pennsylvania, named Chez Odette. I was newly married, and it was highly recommended that I go there. Odette Myrtil, the owner, was a stage actress; one of her roles was as the original Bloody Mary (South Pacific). Odette was very friendly with Maurice Chevalier, remember him? Whenever Chevalier was in town, he would visit Odette at her restaurant, just a stone's throw from Trenton. Odette's shy French poodle, Poulet, would run around the restaurant, as Odette was born in Paris. The food was superb! I especially loved the Chicken Kiev, you know, with the butter inside! I also liked her salads. When Odette saw me, she would say, in her thick French accent, "You are so beautiful. There's nothing like youth!"
Odette threw the best New Year's parties. As regulars, Purvis, my husband and I always attended. I remember a key element: throwing Styrofoam snowballs at midnight. The guests would play with them for about an hour. Purvis loved it, making forts, grabbing snowballs, popping up from behind the bar, and throwing them at people in the room. Purvis even organized teams for more splendid snowball fights! At the private Bastille Day parties, on July 14th, Odette served her famous Bouillabaisse.
Purvis and I would go to costume parties at Chez Odette, as well. Once the theme was movie characters, and I dressed as Myra Breckinridge, in a red, white and blue bikini, pistols and all! Purvis was dressed as Rex Reed, with his gray hair sprayed dark brown. That was a 1970 movie in which Reed travels to the continent for a sex change operation and comes back to the U.S.A. as the sumptuous Raquel Welch (Myra Breckinridge). Think Bruce Jenner and Caitlyn. On the way there, many folks did not know whom I was dressed as. Yet, when I entered Chez Odette, the sophisticated crowd yelled, "MYRA!!!"
Here's a newspaper photograph of Purvis and me. The caption read, "A Halloween party isn't complete without Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. So to make the party a complete success, Mr. and Mrs. Purvis Brearley attended as the famous romantic couple." Our costumes won a prize!
Chez Odette closed circa 1976, much to the disappointment of her devotees. The ambiance was authentically French. When the new Odette’s opened, they moved a part of the old building down the road. I had expected the new Odette’s to be similar to Chez Odette. I knew that it would be bigger because it is part of an inn complex, but everyone anticipated that it would offer French cuisine! I must say that there is nothing in the new Odette’s that is reminiscent of Chez Odette, except perhaps for a picture of Odette herself!
When the new restaurant first opened, Jon and I went there and loved the modern décor; it is beautifully appointed. We went with friends who said they would never return for the food was rather mediocre! Jon and I went perhaps 4 more times, to give it a chance, but there was not any improvement.
Then, Alex Mastoris, formerly of Rocco’s in Newtown, came on the scene! He took over the management of the restaurant and the kitchen. Now, the food is excellent! Odette’s at River House has everything - beautiful design, great food, and a marvelous piano lounge (where Bob Egan and Andy Prescott are sometimes featured). The entire experience is totally delightful!
Recently, we went with several friends, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed their meals. All had cocktails to start, which were delicious. I began with a very tasty Crab Bisque (sherry & crab fritter), while Jon had the Escargot, which did not come in the shells or a ramekin, but floating in a delicious sauce. Then, Jon had the Short Ribs, which he totally loved, and I dined on a ½ Roast Chicken with Grilled Asparagus, which was perfectly prepared. We had a delectable Spanish wine for the table.
We did not have dessert, but saved room for after dinner drinks. We all wandered over to the piano area, and that’s where I enjoyed a delicious decaf Espresso Martini. Jon had his usual Espresso and Sambuca.
If you went before and didn’t like Odette’s, go back! There have been several chef changes, and now the food is a real treat!
River House at Odette’s
274 South Main Street
New Hope, PA 18938