Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Breslin Restaurant, NYC:
Meaty Menu, Artful Interiors

Call light for the waitress at the Breslin Resaurant, NYC
I had a lot of positive and fun commentary on this July 2010 blog post written for Virginia Living Magazine.  Thank you all! Here it is in it's entirety including the photos I took (or tried to take) in arguably the darkest restaurant I have ever experienced.

Post by Joanie Ballard
Photos by Robert Ballard and Joanie Ballard

When a restaurant offers not only great food but unique ambiance and surprising décor, I will return again and again. Sometimes décor alone makes the difference between a nice dining experience and a fabulous one. Being a visual person who loves originality and theatricality, inner excitement abounds when these elements come together on the first visit to a new shop or restaurant.

I had a high-protein and an exceptional experience at The Breslin, located at 29th and Broadway in New York City, connected to my favorite Stumptown Coffee Roasters and the Ace Hotel, all which officially opened in October 2009. The menu, service and interiors of The Breslin were energizing, imaginative, unconventional and full of visual treats. Robert and I ate at the restaurant three times over the course of a week simply because we were enamored with the fare, offbeat style and moody essence of the place.

Busy Breslin Kitchen
Oil lamp and Cocktail Menu
Eating Meaty: The menu was heavy on British-inspired dishes and a bit scary at first glance but we warmed up to the challenge. Meat, in many forms, is the focus here and plenty of choices including Oxtail and Beef Tongue in broth with maitake and habenero ($29.), Vinegared Poussin (young chicken) with market greens, rampe and chili, ($32.), and Seafood Sausage with Beaurre Blanc ($16.). The menu also had trout dishes, oysters and salad items, but meat is definitely King here. The Breslin dinner menu is not, basically, for the faint of heart.

Our first visit started with a Classic Gin Cocktail from their Gin Cocktails Menu, which was delivered quickly and had a tart and tangy finish. We then both ordered a Char-grilled Lamb Burger with French feta, cumin mayo and triple cooked crispy chips (entrée priced at $17.00, but had great taste and juicy character, so all is good). It was served up and eaten on wooden butcher boards along with hefty steak knives. Our second visit was for a nightcap, Grey Goose martinis for two--delicious, which we imbibed in a lively and crowded bar area and whose muscular bartender was a budding actor (well, he sure looked like one), who was attentive, quick and jovial. Our final visit was for an early breakfast and I ordered hot scrambled eggs with herbed feta and several strips of house-cured bacon (undercooked bacon--my only unpleasant critique), and Robert had eggs over-easy with gratifyingly large links of English sausages which I also indulged in as well.

One of many pig elements adorning the restaurant.
Ceiling above in one part of the restaurant
Design & Interiors: My first impression upon walking into the Breslin was that I had been transported to some memorable place and time. Was this an old restaurant or new? It had a strong manly air but was infused with whimsical touches of bizarre animal statuary and ornate mirrors. I’ve since learned that this was the whole idea behind the interior design. The ultra-cool yet vintage interiors by Roman & Williams are purposely reminiscent of old, leather-bound lodges and British Pubs but decorated with a quirky, dreamy, contemporary twist.

There are artful, weathered details on the walls and floors, and plenty of authentically aged door knobs, hooks, mirrors, white subway tiles, and softly-focused schoolhouse lamps (from several eras) that are heavy on nostalgia and other-worldly touches. Dark wood and iron elements are everywhere, and the restaurant offers scotch-plaid curtained booths for privacy which are outfitted with a button to call your server to your table (we want to sit there next time!). A beautiful variety of oil lamps, chandeliers and sconces that evoke Victorian libraries dot the high ceilings and walls. Retro jazz and rock music plays over loud speakers, and pig/bull/deer/chickens are everywhere on posters, statuary, signs, menus and colorful drink coasters. The mezzanine is darkened for one-on-one business meetings and secret rendezvous.

Finally, I loved the vintage-styled menus as they give homage to a bygone era, typed up in a youthful manner on an old Smith-Corona.  As you can tell by the photos, this is the darkest restaurant I have ever been in. Grub Street New York and the N.Y. Times have slide shows of the restaurant interiors too, but there are so many odd finishing touches to this place that it is worth a long, leisurely visit. You can also check out their inventive website which will set the stage for your absolutely juicy dining experience:

The Breslin, 16 West 29th Street & Broadway, Phone: (646) 214-5788, no reservations
Click here for more reviews of The Breslin.

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