When the Security Trust & Safe Deposit Company opened a Wilmington banking house, The Morning News called it the “finest and most important structure in the state.” Fast-forward 137 years and the building is once again garnering attention. But this time, it’s for veal cheek and beef tartare—not a burglar-proof vault and fireproof walls.
The property at 519 N. Market St. is the new home of The Quoin, a 24-room hotel with four food-and-beverage options: The Quoin Restaurant, the Rooftop at The Quoin, a lobby bar and café, and Simmer Down, a cocktail bar. The name is a clever play on the tools of the bank’s trade and the corner location; quoin is a term for external wall angles.
Like Bardea Steak and La Fia, also on Market Street, The Quoin is ambitious. You would expect nothing less from The Buccini/Pollin Group, which owns the building, and Method Co., which designed and operates the hotel and restaurant.
“The Quoin is one of the grandest projects we have completed,” maintains Daniel Olsovsky, Philadelphia-based Method Co.’s creative director.
When Olsovsky and his team toured the building in 2019, they fell in love with “the iconic warrior-like façade and the barred windows,” he says. Plus, the Hummelstown brown and Carlisle red stone are “quintessential elements” of a Frank Furness design, he notes. Indeed, if The Quoin resembles the Riverfront train station and its nearby buildings, it is because Furness designed them.
The Victorian-era architect believed in making an impression. His designs have been described as muscular, and the Victorian Romanesque brownstone on Market Street is an example of that. It was the perfect look for a bank that advertised itself as impenetrable.
The building, however, has housed more than banks. For example, Kuumba Academy Charter School occupied the space until 2014. Then The Buccini/Pollin Group—which has been driving downtown Wilmington’s development—purchased the landmark and partnered with Method Co., a one-stop shop with real estate development, management, branding and interior design divisions.
BPG’s choice makes sense. Method Co. is behind Wm. Mulherin’s Sons Restaurant and Hotel, formerly an abandoned 100-year-old whiskey blending and bottling facility in Philadelphia’s Fishtown section.
The Quoin, however, has six times as many guest rooms.
An urban sensibility now permeates the Market Street space. Public rooms possess the masculine undertones of an Edwardian townhouse paired with subtle midcentury and Shaker elements. There are layers of contrasting textures and shapes. For instance, the dining room boasts custom mohair banquettes, spindle armchairs and white oak tabletops with antiqued brass bases. Luxe touches include sophisticated wallpaper, some with metallic elements, and floral motifs, leaded glass skylights and sconces.
In the restaurant, the see-and-be-seen table is a curved oxblood leather-upholstered banquette, and the cushy spot gives guests a full view of the dining room and the open kitchen, where flames flicker in wood-fired ovens.
In pleasant weather, guests can sit outside, where the patio overlooks the Willingtown Square courtyard, part of the Delaware Historical Society’s complex. “We were attracted to the built-in nostalgia of the surrounding historic neighborhood,” says Olsovsky, who appreciates Old Town Hall across the street.
The Quoin was originally going to focus on Italian cuisine like Wm. Mulherin’s Sons Restaurant, which is heavy on pasta and pizza. Then Liran Mezan, executive director of food and beverage operations at Method Co., began experimenting with French recipes.
“I liked the combination of southern France and northern Italy,” Mezan says. However, Quoin’s cuisine is closer to a French steakhouse than an Italian trattoria, he adds.
The opening menu includes a 32-ounce prime rib-eye with black garlic butter and hanger steak with radicchio and mushrooms. But seafood is equally appealing, especially to those who appreciate French cuisine. Consider dorade grenobloise, a mild Mediterranean white fish bathed in a buttery sauce with capers, lemon and parsley. The Quoin’s version includes crispy croutons to soak up the sauce to produce a lovely, lemony pop.
The menu is divided into starters, pasta (there were two options during a recent visit) and entrées. It would be easy to satisfy an appetite with the first two categories. One star is the buttery hamachi crudo with grapefruit, tomato water and pink peppercorns—a pretty dish with a lively finish.
As for the pasta, the lobster corzetti with hazelnut and chanterelles is a tasty novelty. The name comes from a 14th-century Genoan coin, the corzetto. Traditionally, the disc-shaped pasta is stamped, and The Quoin has a press on the way.
Chances are the rooftop will be too nippy now for a pre- or post-dinner drink. That’s OK. You can snuggle up in the Simmer Down, located on the brick-ceilinged level that once held clients’ excess money, gold bars and expensive furs.
In many respects, this aptly named “Money Room,” as it was once called, symbolizes all the investment developers have poured into lower Market Street. The Method Co., for one, is all in. But, according to Olsovsky, it is the “right time for an elevated hospitality project to… help contribute to this city’s progressive development.”