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2012 August 16

From The Daily Dan: Montauk's Renaissance Men

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McGory and Brophy on the deck of their restaurant, Byron McGory and Brophy on the deck of their restaurant, Byron
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(NEW YORK) Wondering why the scene at Surf Lodge has been so chaos-free this summer? You have more than the new ownership to thank. Meet Brian McGrory and Donal Brophy, the restauranteurs behind Manhattan haute spots Whitehall and Highlands, who have revamped the Montauk joint’s restaurant and bar into a grown-up dining establishment called Byron. BY EDDIE ROCHE

How’d you settle on the name?
DB: The first time we visited Montauk, we were bowled over about how much the town reminded us of Byron Bay [Australia]—the iconic lighthouse, the laid-back environment...When Surf Lodge asked what we wanted to do, we chose new wave Australian cuisine. I lived in Australia until I was five, but I grew up in north of Dublin in a small fishing village called Malahide. 
BM: And I’m from Glasgow, Scotland, which is very industrial and edgy. 

When did you meet?
DB: About 10 years ago on a boat party. Brian had just moved to New York from San Francisco. We hit it off right away!

Why do the Euros dig Montauk?
DB:
It doesn’t feel like the Hamptons!
BM: Montauk seems to have an air of possibility. We’re trying to respect the general vibe of Montauk—we’re certainly not charging absurd prices for our food or wine and cocktails. 

So what happened to Surf Lodge’s party reputation?
BM:
The new owners wanted to get away from that, actually.
DB: We’re just providing simple food and service in a chill environment that’s conducive to a quality dining experience. 

With three restaurants, you must be busy…
BM:
Yes, we always work seven days a week, but we like it. I don’t know how other restaurant groups operate, but we’re a family. 

Do you bicker?
DB:
We don’t fight anymore, but when we opened, we’d butt heads because we were testing the boundaries. 

How did you develop such a serious fashion clientele?
DB:
Our business partners at Whitehall are Mary Wan and Chris Rendell, and while we’ve always had fans in that industry, James Marshall (our investor) is married to Elettra Wiedemann, and she brings the sweetest people. Beautiful women come to Whitehall all the time!  
BM: The Vogue girls adore it!  

Why do you think so many East End restaurants fail?
BM:
New York crowds are used to a certain level of service, and out East, it can be very hard to get that quality and to find staff. Fortunately, we can bring our New York staff to Montauk!

The entire staff?
BM:
Yes! Bartenders, runners, chefs…we also hired some great Irish kids.
DB: They remind me so much of myself. In the late nineties, I was doing exactly the same thing at a restaurant in Nantucket. I work with them during Saturday brunch, and I can tell that they’re dying from their hangovers! 

Ha! Has the parking situation improved?
DB:
It’s much better. Now, you can valet!
BM: We want a healthy, successful business, but we also want a good relationship with the town.

Do you surf?
BM:
Yeah. We’re terrible, but we’re still trying.

Brian, congrats on your upcoming wedding. Who’s your best man?
BM:
Donal. I can’t shake him!

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