When researching where to go to watch the World Cup with fans of France, the one name that kept coming up was a midtown restaurant called Opia. I therefore decided to head out to Opia to watch France take on Switzerland in the group stages of the tournament.
Opia is an upscale restaurant and lounge located inside of the Renaissance Hotel on East 57th Street. It is not the type of place that you would think would be showing sporting events. The menu includes foie gras, escargots and beef bourguignon while the bar has an extensive list of French wines. Yet, instead of a restaurant full of diners, I arrived to find a packed room facing a giant projection screen showing the match. The televisions at the bar were also showing the game and the workers at Opia were all wearing France t-shirts.
The mood was festive and “Les Bleus” gave fans plenty to cheer about. When Olivier Giroud and Blaise Matuidi scored within a minute of each other the crowd went nuts. There were plenty of high fives and clinking of glasses. The half ended with France leading 3-0.
At the half I spoke with Onel Trouillot who was watching the match with his 4- year- old son Loen. Trouillot was visiting the city from Paris and didn’t want to miss the French play. He explained that he knew about Opia as his sister currently lives in New York.
There were also some fans at Opia with less direct ties to the French team. One of those was Russell Rennie of Boston who was sitting at the bar wearing a replica French soccer jersey. Rennie told me that his great grandfather was from Bordeaux and he had grown up supporting France.
Billy Chen was also at the bar to support the French. Originally from Taiwan, Chen lives in Astoria, Queens and has been supporting France since watching Zinedine Zidane lead France to the 1998 World Cup title.
Seated at a table near the bar were a couple of 20-something young men drinking red wine and enjoying a cheese platter. Seeing this, I couldn’t resist asking them what brought them out to Opia for the match.
Max Blanc and Mathieu Rauturier were friends from Evian, France who were in New York for vacation. They told me that everything in New York has worked out for them and they just happened to walk by Opia and saw that they were showing the France match.
The second half continued with the French seemingly scoring at will. It was only after France took a five goal lead that the Swiss showed any signs of life. They scored two goals in the last ten minutes, but by then the match was pretty much settled.
Even after the match was over, the party atmosphere inside Opia continued. I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that the projection screen was taken down and Opia got ready for the dinner crowd.