On a trip to New York a few years back, a friend of a friend did his best to get us a table at The Spotted Pig, at the time something highly exciting for New York – a gastropub. With April Bloomfield in the kitchen, at the time this was the hot ticket in Manhattan and the place was heaving. Although it makes no sense to me, its relatively common for a hot restaurant in New York to have a no bookings policy. One day soon I know a restaurateur is going to offer me a credible explanation for this, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Our generous friend, a Kiwi living in upstate New Jersey and representing Australian and NZ lamb to Americans, grabbed us a round of pints at the bar, Speckled Hen if I remember correctly. We casted around for diners about to depart, but the situation was bleak. A Hollywood starlet and her group of at least 30 occupied half the dining area. Heath Ledger was not in the building. So we finished our pint and grabbed a few coasters and headed out on the street to regroup and put into operation our Plan B. One of The Spotted Pig’s coasters is on my desk as I type.
Not so fun fact – It was on the site of The Spotted Pig that Welsh poet Dylan Thomas died. It shares its location with The Whitehorse Tavern, also a favourite of Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Anaïs Nin, Hunter S Thompson and Jack Kerouac. Funny how celebrity culture has overtaken creativity. Anyhow, I digress.
Having been denied a visit to The Spotted Pig, I was a tiny bit excited to realise that April Bloomfield’s newest venture, The Breslin, was a short walk from our hotel when we were visiting New York a couple of months ago. April has some great names under her belt having spent time at Chez Panisse and River Cafe before opening The Spotted Pig. Her partner-in-crime Ken Friedman has excelled himself with the interior, which is a quirky yet well conceived English pub/club hybrid. Think dark wood panelling, antler chandeliers, tin mirrors and oiled floorboards with a a nice collection of low brow art. Located on the ground level of the achingly hip Ace Hotel in Chelsea, we were all set to have dinner and drinks there, but got rained in. In any event, we had already spent most of the day eating and pretty much ruined our appetite. So we ventured out into a steamy New York summer day for breakast the next morning determined to try out The Breslin.
A sucker for cheese and a lover of a good Croque Monsieur we went with the Grilled 3 Cheese Sandwich with house smoked ham with an egg and a full English breakfast of house made pork sausage, fried egg, tomato, mushroom and bacon with a side of Home Fries just to keep with the overeating theme. The ubiquitous Amercian breakfast staple of home fries was in fact potatoes roasted in duck fat with caramelised onions and a scattering of flat leaf parsely. If only all hotel buffets shared this same definition of home fries! The 3 Cheese Sandwich was as big as my head with sweet flaky pork goodness and excellent sourdough. Clearly, Chef Bloomfield knows how to source the finest porky treats as the sausage and bacon were also amazing. Despite being entirely full to the point of bursting, I couldn’t leave any of the ‘home fries’ behind. Wow – so good. I also enjoyed pretty much the best flat white I’ve ever had, anywhere.
Special mention to the staffer who chooses the music. Over the course of breakfast we were treated to Rod Stewart’s ‘Maggie May’, an anonymous rendition of ‘Tennessee Waltz’ with some Hot Chip, Guns N’ Roses and Motown classics thrown in just to keep us guessing.
It’s probably one of the more expensive ways to eat breakfast in New York and there were only a handful of diners when we visited at around 9:30am. However, I heartily recommend it if you are visiting New York. Dinner features a pigs foot dinner for two as well as a dry aged 28 day rib eye for two and a full ‘pudding’ menu with trifle, syllabub and buttermilk pie. East Coast craft beers and hand pumped house beers are also a specialty.
Next visit I hope to make it to The Spotted Pig and get some more coasters.