Space of the Week: Still in Bloom

In just a few days, La Grenouille (3 E. 52nd St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-752-1495) will start celebrating its 50th anniversary. Charles Masson, pictured here, is the heart and soul of what is arguably the last true French restaurant in New York City. Since it opened in the middle of a snowstorm back in 1962, La Grenouille has hosted guests like Andy Warhol, Manolo Blahnik, and Richard Meier. Masson joined his mother, Gisèle, as co-head when his father passed away in 1975, and he’s been in charge of everything including the extraordinary flower arrangments ever since. Photo: Wendy Goodman

Charles’s father, Charles Eugène Masson, came to New York with the legendary restaurateur Henri Soulé when he opened Le Pavillon Français at the 1939 World’s Fair. Photo: Courtesy of La Grenouille

La Grenouille circa 1939. In 1962, Charles’s mother rented the first floor of the building in an attempt to lure his father back from the S.S. Independence (they bought the entire building a few years later). There’s so much history in this little midtown space, which was originally built as a carriage house for the Plant-family mansion. During the Second World War, the painter Bernard Lamotte lived on the second floor, where he entertained the likes of Marlene Dietrich and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Photo: Courtesy of La Grenouille

These stairs go up to a tiny secret room at the very top of the building that used to be Lamotte’s painting studio. Photo: Wendy Goodman

These days, the secret room is a refuge for Masson between lunch and dinner service. Photo: Wendy Goodman

Masson drapes the velvet banquettes in huge swaths of canvas to protect them when he arranges the flowers. The interiors are rich with history: “Every table has its stories to tell,” teases Charles, who reveals that both Andy Warhol and Truman Capote liked to reserve the same one. Photo: Wendy Goodman

La Grenouille is ready for the holidays and its 50th anniversary festivities. Photo: Wendy Goodman

This incredible “voiture” serving cart is from 1947. Photo: Wendy Goodman

Lamotte’s easel in the upstairs dining room. Merci et bravo, La Grenouille! To 50 more years! Photo: Wendy Goodman

Space of the Week: Still in Bloom