I’d nearly forgotten the art of brunch: delicious food with a couple of strong (yet appropriate) drinks to help facilitate the transition between Saturday night, Sunday afternoon, and the eventual return of the workweek. Coffee is usually a welcome addition. French fries are practically mandatory.
A few weeks ago, I went to Bell Book and Candle with my friend Lyssa, one of their hosts, and had quite the brunch. The space, a quietly marked basement on West 10th Street, formerly a laundromat, feels cozy and detached from the rest of the city. Each of the three main rooms have a different feel, from the spacious bar, to the long grey banquettes in the main room and the plush blue booths before the kitchen. Adding to the seating options, there is a rough-hewn 12-top chef’s table in the kitchen, and a cozy (cramped) 4-person secret room.
It was a early on a quiet, grey Sunday, and daylight savings time had just sprung into effect and I had BBC mostly to myself. Cat, the brunch bartender, started me off with one of the house specials: The Hanging Basil. It had been a rough Saturday night, so instead of chile-infused vodka, she used kaffir lime-infused Hangar One.
I lingered over the drink while and let myself get completely torn between the lobster taco and a half-dozen $1 Beau Soleil oysters, the crowd-pleaser or a personal favorite. As per usual, oysters won. When I go back, I’ll fight the oyster urge and try the taco. No promises, though. I love being near the sea, and oysters taste just like the sea.
It was an unexpectedly warm day and after the Hanging Basil was empty and the shells were turned over, I asked Kat for a Pimm’s Cup and she happily obliged, throwing in a few dashes of cherry bitters (from an impressive collection) for good measure.
The Patty Melt, medium-rare and beautifully cooked, won out over “gin and tonic” organic salmon. I am a simple guy, I guess, and tend to find salmon unflappably boring. I am a fan of the gin and tonic, but that wasn’t enough. Yawn, though I am sure it would have been well-cooked. The combination of rich, rare beef and “vintage” cheddar was exactly what my healing body wanted.
Bell Book and Candle was talked about a bit last fall on Eater, The New York Times, and Grub Street, to name a few. That story at Eater has a great video from ABC Nightline that includes the restaurant’s extensive hydroponic rooftop garden. I can’t wait to go back.
Skip produces The Gourmetro. While he finds french fries an essential part of a good brunch, he sometimes substitutes them for raw oysters. Check out his published works on Aisle 9, and talk with him on Twitter.