For nearly 15 years, Agnes Devereaux’s The Village TeaRoom was a New Paltz institution. Tucked ever so slightly outside the heart of the college town, it was just as much of a reprieve for locals in search of a hot cuppa and a ploughman’s lunch as it was for SUNY New Paltz students who craved something more elegant than the same ol’ same ol’ when their parents came to visit.
So when Devereaux shuttered its doors in April 2019 to pursue her eponymous catering business, Hudson Valleyites were more than a little distraught by the thought of a tearoom-sized hole in their lives.
Yet little did they know that a new proprietor had arrived to fill the void.
Coming to the Hudson Valley by way of Brooklyn and Dublin, Ireland, Clare Hussain fell in love with the region after vacationing on and off in the upstate area for the past 10 years. Two years ago, she decided to make the move permanent. Around that time, she chanced to spot The Village TeaRoom’s for-sale listing.
“I randomly was looking at some commercial properties in town for sale and came across The Village Tearoom and then kept coming back to look at it,” she says. “It came about organically from there; I never intended on doing anything like this up here but it just worked out that way.”
If it sounds like mere happenstance, think again. Although Hussain’s discovery of the property was accidental, her decision to open a restaurant most certainly was not. On the contrary, the Irish native has a rich background in food and drink. After attending hospitality school in Dublin, she spent 25 years working in hotels and restaurants across the globe.
While her passion for cooking first developed after watching her grandmother and family cook prepare dishes in Bangladesh, her fascination with French cuisine took hold during her hospitality education. Attracted to the classicality and elegance of it, she event spent her final year in college living in France so as to better understand the nuances of the food and culture.
With RŪNA Bistro, which opened quietly at the end of September 2019, Hussain draws from her love of French fare and her experience in the industry. She combines forces with Chef Ryan McClintock, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who she met through mutual friends. Like Hussain, McClintock is well-versed in the art of French cooking, having completed a stage in Paris and implemented the techniques he learned there into kitchens across the Hudson Valley.
Together, the two are the quiet, yet vibrant powerhouse behind the New Paltz bistro, which welcomes newcomers and sways tried-and-true TeaRoom diners at once.
On the menu, the pair keep things simple, elegant, and always delicious. From the moment diners step foot inside 10 Plattekill Ave, they’re welcomed by an intrinsic sense of community. Once they take their seats at one of the butcher-block tables — holdovers from the TeaRoom — they face the challenge of deciding exactly which of the farm-to-table entrees to order first.
With appetizers beginning with escargots in garlic herb butter and ending in fromage, the snackable bites stand just as well on their own as they do as a tease for entrees like za’atar grilled swordfish with harissa aioli and steak frites on green peppercorn sauce. There’s also a children’s menu, which treats kids to comforting, homecooked riffs on mac and cheese and hamburgers (plush brioche bun, anyone?).
Everything is made with ingredients from Hudson Valley farms and vendors (think RSK Farm in Prattsville and Phillies Bridge Farm Project in New Paltz), with an emphasis on biodynamic, organic produce and grass-fed, antibiotic-free meat.
So how does RŪNA compare with The Village TeaRoom? Other than the fact that both proprietors have Irish accents, of course.
“We are similar to the TeaRoom in that we serve delicious, locally sourced food,” Hussain explains. “I am a mother of young children, as was the previous owner, Agnes, and I hope to do this beautiful building justice.”
If the rave reviews online are any indication, Hussain has already hit a home run with RŪNA. Diners praise the elegant meals and the easy conviviality, not to mention the cozy interior and welcoming staff. In regard to the restaurant’s design, Hussain kept the bones of the building intact while giving it a few coats of paint. While RŪNA’s inner dining room, which seats 40, is ideal for year-round eating, its outer patio is a must on sunny spring days. Add a cup of coffee and a flourless chocolate torte to the mix, and visitors will want to savor every last morsel before giving up their table.
That’s kind of the point, after all. As guests linger at RŪNA and fall in love with the space, Hussain has time to meet and know them as part of her extended community in the Hudson Valley. In fact, her next venture centers precisely around her desire to create a home base in New Paltz. With the dust around RŪNA officially settled, she’s already transformed the property next-door into a guest house called The Vanderlyn.
Because the only thing better than dinner at RŪNA is waking up for weekend brunch — and Chef McClintock’s light-as-air crepes — the next day.
10 Plattekill Ave, New Paltz