Culture / Foodie Events

A Major Restaurant Shake-up

Chef-Driven Spot With Huge Dreams to Shutter, Give Way to Private Dining

BY // 02.26.16

Butternut squash and pumpkin semifreddo would be my last meal at Paul’s Kitchen, a chef-driven restaurant from owner Paul Miller and Gr8 Plate Hospitality stationed in Houston’s inner loop. The dessert, which was topped with chocolate magic shell and black sesame praline and perched atop a spiced ginger snap, served as the finale to a sprawling five-course beer-pairing dinner with Saint Arnold on Tuesday, February 23.

As courses such as house-made smoked pork kolaches, braised quail and dried-cherry sausage, roasted pork belly topped with pickled onions and ancho chile-rubbed beef filet filled the table, I paused to savor the ambience.

Though the space isn’t completely fading away, Paul’s Kitchen (the restaurant) will soon close to make way for a new venture: The Merrill House, Gr8 Plate Hospitality’s foray into event venues.

Some diners found the location, which is set off Kirby and hidden from the main roadway, vexing. Others felt the food did not live up to expectations. Whatever the cause for lack of demand, Miller feels the change will better suit the space.

Paul’s Kitchen’s fried quail and waffles

The transformation of Paul’s Kitchen was promoted by the influx of requests we received to host large parties and events at the restaurant,” he says. “It was hard to close the restaurant for these occasions without alienating our regulars, and it became apparent that Upper Kirby needs an upscale events and banquet venue. We are ready to fill that void.” 

The Merrill House, whose name pays homage to Miller’s father and grandfather, will be able to host as many as 300 guests at a time in the main dining area. In addition, 60 people can party on the restaurant’s patio, and 50 can partake of the venue’s private dining room.

We are already equipped with a wonderful open concept, so changes to the structure will be minimal,” Miller says. “We will likely move the computers and POS system to the back of the house and create a screen in front of the kitchen area with nice curtains. Other than that, the changes will be mostly to the decor of the space, as events need and styles change.” 

The Merrill House hopes to separate itself from the pack with its pricing package. A flat rate of $12,000 will include a three-course seated dinner for guests, as well as red, white and sparkling wine options. Upgrades like luxury linens, fine china and additional beverages can be added.

Paul’s Kitchen’s current executive chef, Paul Lewis, is also involved in The Merrill House project.

Chef Paul Lewis’ dishes will be featured at The Merrill House.

“Chef Paul Lewis will absolutely be involved in The Merrill House, collaborating with our Union Kitchen executive chef, Henry Hopkes, to develop several incredible new banquet menus and executing the same quality of food and caliber of service our guests expect,” Miller says. 

Paul’s Kitchen will continue operation until Sunday, February 28, when it will be open from 10 am to 2:30 pm (the restaurant will serve brunch on that Sunday). The Merrill House makes its debut on Wednesday, March 2.

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