First of all, there is the roast chicken. Hamersley’s Bistro has been known for it since the restaurant opened 27 years ago, across the street from its current site, in a considerably grittier South End. The chicken is simple yet perfect, prepared with garlic and lemon. Julia Child loved the dish. All of Boston loves the dish. It could never come off the menu. You might make it yourself — the recipe is all over the Internet — but it wouldn’t taste the same at all.
Then there is proprietor Gordon Hamersley, who runs the place with his wife, wine guru Fiona Hamersley. He is so low-key it seems strange to call him a celebrity chef, but he has won so many plaudits over the years, it is impossible not to. Unlike most celebrity chefs, he never branched out to other projects. And he never stopped cooking. Why would he? It was what he loved doing, where he loved doing it. Visit Hamersley’s and you would see him standing behind the line, wearing his Red Sox cap, eternally in the kitchen.
But nothing lasts forever, in the restaurant business least of all. On Wednesday, Hamersley announced that his restaurant will close at the end of October. The space and license are spoken for; the undisclosed new owner will renovate and open with a new concept after Jan. 1.
“Fiona and I have had a 27-year, wonderful experience working in the restaurant, but we came to a point in our careers where it was a good stopping point,” Hamersley said by phone Wednesday. Both are in their 60s. He plans to take some time off and reflect, he said. “Then I’m going to work very hard to write the second book I have not been able to get off the ground for 12 years,” a follow-up to 2003’s “Bistro Cooking at Home,” “and continue to work very hard mentoring the young cooks in town.”
Hamersley has worked with students at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury and the nonprofit Future Chefs. “It is very important to me and the future of restaurants in Boston that these kids get educated,” he said. He will consult with young chefs who want to open their own restaurants. And he will see what opportunities life might hold on the other side of the stove.
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