I was meeting a friend for lunch yesterday and after some research on what was new in the Madison Square Park area (no, that’s not MSG), the decision was made to dine at The Breslin, located inside the Ace Hotel. With a parentage from the Spotted Pig, I knew we were going to be happy here and we were!
Walking into the dark hotel lobby, I felt as if I’d been transported to Williamsburg or some other Hipster Central location. I swear I saw 3 famous people that I should know, but am so un-cool that I simply don’t. Thank goodness I was wearing my leather jacket, otherwise I think they would have turned me away at the door (my friend CK was wearing a suit, and he actually got an unpleasant look or two from the laptop-consumed Trendynistas who had over-run the lobby lounge). I wielded my leather-look, flashed them my cowboy boots, and we were let to pass without harm through the crowd of glaring tech zombies… (okay, maybe a little melodramatic there.)
Inside the restaurant Breslin itself, the staff was as sweet as pie and the patrons included hip young locals, in-the-know tourists and a few older “suits” as well. Our waitress was cute and cool, offering suggestions on the cuisine along with the history of the building. Here’s what we ordered:
Starter: Veal sausage with mustard greens and mustard vinaigrette, smashed potatoes. The sausage was smooth and flavorful, and truly came to life when dredged in the light, grainy mustard vinaigrette. Mustard greens were fried and just an accent to the dish, while the fingerling potatoes with skins on had been roasted then smashed flat (or was it the other way around?). The whole dish was lovely and since the sausage was small, a great way to start the meal. Remember kids, it’s not the size of the sausage that matters – it’s how it tastes.
Mains: Chargrilled Lamb Burger with Feta, Cumin Mayo and Thrice Cooked Chips. If you like lamb, you will LOVE this burger, I promise you. The picture below doesn’t do it justice and in fact, when it was placed in front of me I was like “oh.” (and not the good Oh.) But then I took a bite and I wish I had taken video to show you how the juice spurted out of that sucker. And it just didn’t stop – every time I took a bite I leaned over the chopping block it was served on and felt the juice running down my forearm to my elbow. So inelegant… yet so delicious and worth it! The cumin mayo and thin slice of feta grabbed the lamb and started doing a sexy Middle Eastern belly-dance in my mouth with each bite. The thrice-cooked chips were normal crunchy fries, but I barely touched them because I was so enamored with my Lambykins!
Chargrilled Skirt Steak with Green Sauce and Fried Eggs. Skirt steak was seasoned nicely, marinated then cooked exactly medium-rare as ordered. The tender meat was accompanied by two fried eggs that had just the right amount crisp on their edges, runniness in the middle, and a slight spicy kick. Our dishes were washed down with a fruity syrah from northern France that was so delicious it had CK making gestures with his hands somewhat akin to those you’d see a gentleman in Naples, Italy making as a beautiful, voluptuous woman walks past him on the street.
Sides: Bubble and Squeak. We were both embarrassed at having English friends & visiting London several times, and still forgetting what this side dish was: brussel sprouts and cabbage in a mashed potato cake. The name apparently was inspired in the 1800’s by the noises coming from the pan as the dish is cooked. Our dish looked like two crusty knishes with veggies and tasted so good that I cried out “we shall never again forget what bubble & squeak is!”
Ambience: It’s dark. Most walls are painted a glossy black or dark pea green and the lighting fixtures are covered in tartan plaid. The wood plank floors are over 100 years old and original to the building, as are parts of the decaying plaster rococo ceiling (don’t worry, no flaking into your soup – it’s restored but kept the original look). Artwork is mostly animals, with lots of piggies hanging around (rejects from the Spotted Pig??). Bar area is a nice size with plenty of stools and a large window onto the street.
Service: Excellent. The host who greeted me was friendly and cracking jokes (I should wear that leather jacket more often!), and our server was so good that I want to take her with me when I dine at other places too! Pace of food brought to the table was great, and bus staff was on top of pouring water, clearing plates, etc.
Bottom Line: GO. I can’t wait to go back!! I’d love to see the magic they work with other dishes on the menu, especially the seafood sausage small plate – lobster, shrimp, scallops and sea bass in casing with beurre blanc and herbs. And Lambykins? Oh, we will meet again.