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Stephen Starr’s Opulent Eastern European Spot Verōnika Shuts Down

Despite a glitzy debut, the restaurant was only open for three months in total

A high-ceilinged room with an amber glow, chandeliers, and people at a bar.
Verōnika’s luxe dining room.
Louise Palmberg/Eater NY
Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

Stephen Starr’s opulent Eastern European restaurant Verōnika has shut down, according to a brief notice posted on the restaurant’s website. It appears to be the noted restaurateur’s most short-lived New York establishment: The showy Gramercy spot, located inside the Fotografiska museum, opened in January 2020, shut down two months later in March, and then briefly reopened in August 2021. The restaurant was only in operation for about three months in total.

“In light of the prolonged recovery period for the hospitality and restaurant industries, as well as staffing challenges, we regret to inform you that ownership has made the difficult decision to close Verōnika,” a statement on Verōnika’s website reads.

The closing note goes on to separate Starr Restaurants from the ownership of Verōnika, stating that “while Starr restaurants did not own this very special restaurant, we took great pride in its stewardship.” A Starr representative declined to comment further on the closure. Eater has reached out to Fotografiska for more information on the shutdown, but has not yet received an official response. A museum employee reached by phone confirmed that the restaurant closed due to “staffing issues” and they are “not sure what is happening with the restaurant.”

Verōnika opened to plenty of fanfare in the first week of January 2020. The picturesque brasserie was housed inside the Fotografiska museum in Gramercy — a secondary outlet of the Swedish photography museum — in a stunning, high-ceilinged space complete with stained glass windows and gigantic tiered chandeliers. The Eastern European menu, featuring borscht, pierogis, and goulash, was helmed by chef Robert Aikens, who had previously overseen the reopening of sceney Meatpacking spot Pastis, which Starr operates in conjunction with restaurateur Keith McNally. Dishes were gilded in golden patterns; desserts were served off of a fancy wooden trolley; and reservations were extremely hard to come by.

The restaurant was only open for two months prior to the citywide pandemic shutdown, but in that short span of time, Verōnika scooped up a number of accolades. Eater critic Ryan Sutton found the restaurant’s eye-catching coulibiac “exceedingly tasty,” and praised Aikens particularly well-executed soufflé suissesse. Grub Street restaurant critic Adam Platt also published a generally favorable review. New Yorker critic Hannah Goldfield noted that it felt like a “last hurrah” to a certain breed of moneyed, old world dining.

After staying shut for over a year, Verōnika blinked open on August 11, announcing over social media that it was once again taking reservations. Exactly three weeks later, it closed again.

Many of Stephen Starr’s other restaurants in NYC have reopened, including Electric Lemon in Hudson Yards, the aforementioned Pastis, and Chelsea spot Buddakan, which came under fire earlier this year after employees alleged that management fostered a toxic workplace behind the scenes. Starr’s French fine dining hotspot Le Coucou, perhaps his most acclaimed restaurant, remains closed.