Sometimes we notice things before they are gone. A few days ago, I was passing by Roma Street in Hamra when I noticed the sign above: “Au Peche De Vigne: Restaruant Francais” 
It was attached to the red and white building, which has been abandoned for years: 
I heard a lot of sledge hammering going on inside, so I figured it would be a matter of time before it was gone and decided to take a closer look:
The central sign was in better shape than the side one. I wonder what was inscribed on it. Plats du jour? 

I asked an old man at the tire shop across the street if he remembered anything. He only said it was an apartment building with a French restaurant. 
“A lot of foreigners used to eat there,” he said, vaguely. 
Like many old apartment homes in Hamra, the building is also marked by a giant palm:

And a less common giant oak:

I asked another older man in a small shop up the street about the French restaurant story, but he said it was not true. When I told him this contradicted the account of the previous man across the street, he replied: “He’s a liar! There was nothing there, just apartments.”

But the white paint seemed to indicate that the second floor contained something different from the rest of the structure. It also had ornate window panes that seemed somewhat unusual in the neighborhood:

The bulldozers had already begun leveling another structure in the rear:

And sure enough, when I came back a week later that building was completely gone– and with it–  part of the old fence attached to the restaurant building:

Two floors had already been chopped off the top, and the building was cloaked in green dust net:

The front entrance was cordoned off and blocked:

 The lower floors inundated with collapsed rubble:

I met a woman in an old wig shop nearby named Ivan. She confirmed it was indeed a French restaurant and frequented by staff of the old French embassy or consulate, which she said was located just down the street at what is now the Ecole Superieur Des Affaires.

Ivan said a French/European couple had opened the restaurant sometime in the 1960s or 1970s.

She claimed the building was much older, around 150 years, and said it was built or owned by the Gemayel family from Aleppo.

Ivan said the family name was orginally Jamil, but they had changed it to Gemayel to fit in with, or borrow influence from, the eponymous Lebanese political dynasty. 
Here is a view from the back side, revealing the growing pile of rubble:
With two floors destroyed in two weeks, I doubt there will be anything left by the time I return from the US in a week. 

1 comment
  1. Hi!
    I always wondered about the restaurant sign. It talks of another era…
    Thank you for the “investigation” 🙂

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