At Richard's Table
Lunch and a tour with Richard Gere
Richard Gere and wife Carey Lowell
It is an amazing story. From beginning to end, what Richard Gere and wife Carey Lowell have created at the Bedford Post is magical. If this were a movie it would undoubtedly have a happy ending, as the camera pans across this restaurant and inn of down-to-earth elegance, with a superb chef, a 19th-century-inspired design shored up with trappings of modernity, and a location that can’t be replicated. With eight distinctive guest rooms, a café, yoga studio, private wine cellar, and buckets of charm, the Bedford Post is a genuine artifact.
But it’s the journey that makes this story an Oscar winner. It is steeped in history, wrapped in a graceful setting, peppered with philosophical discussions on sustainability, health, and social interactions, and driven by a love story. “I had the idea for the place, but Carey is the one who made it happen,” says Richard as he gives Bedford Magazine the first private tour of the now-bustling eatery.
For years Gere had driven along 121 past the derelict old Nino’s, a charming but abandoned building that had been home to numerous eateries. One day, looking up the hills beyond the shingled structure, he pictured himself cantering through the woods, down to a restaurant for an authentic experience in relaxation. Weeks later, as Gere and his future business partner, builder Russell Hernandez, were watching their sons play soccer, they hatched the idea of buying and refurbishing the place.
Richard and Carey are wonderful and genuine people, so there was little doubt the project would be a reflection of their souls. The beauty of the Bedford Post is that it looks so natural, as if it belongs. In a sense it does. At its core, after all, is an 1835 colonial structure, set slightly back from the road and nestled into 14 wooded acres with horse paths weaving through the sugar maples. “Martha comes on horseback,” says Richard, as he points up in the direction of the Stewart estate. She’s even got her own hitching post.
The design, the feel, the aura linger like a sepia-toned photograph. Ecuadorian craftsmen honed, chipped, and torqued the local fieldstone. Richard and his crew picked the bluestone floors set as the base of the wine cellar and other areas from the lot at Bedford Stone on Adams Street, agonizing over the texture and hue of the grout. The wide oak floorboards of the inn gain their rich finish from a dark wax, while the wallboards and trim gain their subtle liming color from the ceruse finish it underwent, very much in 1900s Stickley style. “It provides a real earthy feel,” says Carey. “These doors are two-and-a-quarter-inch thick handcrafted oak,” says Hernandez proudly. “Feel that.” Old dances with new: Pieces from Yellow Monkey in Cross River sit here and there. Frank Gehry-designed light fixtures shine in one area, while cafe chairs pulled from an old shed comfort guests. “These chairs are from the forties or fifties and were here in Nino’s,” says Richard, as he lifts one up to focus our attention to it. “We looked all over for the right chairs, and they were here all along.”
As we walked through the dining room and out to the patio, Carey straightens pictures, adjusts an off-kilter waiter stand, and wipes a smudge off a windowpane. “She’s doing that constantly,” says Richard. “I can’t help it,” she says. As a result of their tight and complementary relationship, the place exudes neither the masculine clubbiness of a lodge, nor the fussy, overly pretty feel of some upscale eateries. “She’s very masculine, and I’m very feminine,” Richard jokes.
“I come from drama,” Richard explains. “There has to be an entrance, and a sense of place to each distinct area.” The patio provides just that. Large fieldstones line the ground. A giant grill is positioned off toward the Old Post Road, while a large stonewall festooned with custom plantings acts as a backdrop. “Bedford is full of some very effective people,” Richard says as we stroll to an area that will soon house a bocce court. “The problem is these people don’t normally come together. This will become a clubhouse where they can gather for great food, wine, and a really nice environment. It’s where people start to talk about what they’re doing in the world. It will be a really high level of networking. This community can have a great impact on the world, and it can happen here.”
Just inside the restaurant we walk to a private, intimate space just off the kitchen. “Chef’s table,” Richard says. From there we pop back into the main dining room, which accommodates about 75. Then over to a comfortable bar area, featuring booths reminiscent of Nino’s. Always in charge of the kitchen—for the restaurant and the downstairs café that serves breakfast and lunch—is chef Brian Lewis, who combines the simplicity of fresh, local foods with the sophistication of his Manhattan pedigree.
Some of Lewis’s specialties include a selection of salads, from heirloom tomato to a mix of uni, yuzu, and plums. Others favorites include Nantucket bay scallops, wild mushroom soup, Madeira-glazed black cod, and soft farm egg ravioli, which includes sheep’s milk ricotta, burgundy spinach, and sage crumbs. There is an ample selection of homemade pastas, and an always-changing selection of seafood, such as red snapper with eggplant, tomato raisins, and lime-saffron vinaigrette. Desserts and wines outpace the main-course selections.
We soon enter a side door and find ourselves in a reception area, which opens into a private lounge. “Let’s go see the inn,” Carey says, leading us upstairs to the eight overnight rooms they hope will lure city folk and others for a weekend of dining, spiritual enrichment, and relaxation. Each uniquely decorated suite varies in size but maintains the same understated elegance as the entire operation: Natural wood finishes augmented with subtle textures; simple luxuries without the clutter of glitzy aggrandizements. “Each room has its own personality,” says Carey. The rooflines jut into some rooms, creating a singularity and sense of ownership for the guest.
A great part of the story is that it’s quintessentially Bedford, with the characters ranging from customers Martha Stewart and Ralph Lauren to the regulatory boards that had to pass muster. And therein lies the nut. In the process of clearing out debris from the property and dilapidated building, Gere and his partner Hernandez agreed to remove an old barn for the town. “We found these chestnut boards and were able to reuse them,” says Hernandez, still enthused three years later. “They were magnificent. The barn that was being torn down and discarded became part of the creation of this place.”
Says Richard, reflecting on the process and end result, “This really worked out for everyone. In the beginning, I made it clear that we were going to do this right. I’m not a developer looking to carve up lots. So I said to the town, ‘If you want us to do this, we’ll do this. If not, tell us now.’ They were on our side, and they wanted this to happen. They knew philosophically what we wanted, and they liked it. When they saw the quality, they were dumbfounded.”
After the tour, we sat down for lunch with Richard and Russell. As guests craned their necks to catch a glimpse of Gere the international sex symbol and movie star, he and I exchanged Red Sox-Yankee jabs and reflected on the scope of this project. As we dined, Carey walked by with a designer—looking both consumed with responsibility yet satisfied with her accomplishment, the opus that’s constantly being improved, the enduring classic that will never become tired, the cutting-edge restaurant and inn that’s carved its own niche in timelessness