Even in a city smitten with large-format feasts—whole hogs, huge steaks, heaps of fried chicken—the Breslin breaks new gluttonous ground. The third project from restaurant savant Ken Friedman and Anglo chef April Bloomfield offers the most opulently fatty food in New York—served in medieval portions in a raucous rock & roll setting. Within the casual-restaurant landscape that the pair, also behind the Spotted Pig, has come to epitomize—a world without tablecloths, reservations or haute cuisine pretense—the new gastropub delivers a near-perfect dining experience.
Friedman, a pack rat who conceived the design alongside top firm Roman and Williams, has constructed an urban hunting lodge filled with wildlife paintings, figurines and knickknacks. The ethos, which extends to the cuisine, might well be described as late-period Henry VIII, when the king had ballooned into a corpulent sybarite.
Despite nightly waits of an hour or more to sit down, don’t be surprised to discover a few empty seats. Friedman and Bloomfield are still staggering tables (an oversold restaurant is worth little if it’s full of unhappy diners). Which explains why the food, service and pacing were all on the mark when I dined here, even though it’s been open for dinner for barely a month.While you wait, you could do worse than to belly up to the bar (if you can get there) and quell your appetite with an order of scrumpets. The snacks look like fried breaded ribs, but are made from lamb belly—boneless strips so succulent, they’re almost liquid inside.
Once you’re seated, the procession of animal fat continues. Groaning boards of house-made terrines feature thick slices made from guinea hen, rabbit and pork (including exceptional headcheese). Meanwhile, the pig’s-foot-for-two entre could feed the entire Tudor court. This delicious, theatrical haunch is stuffed with cotechino sausage, breaded, fried, and then doused in a velvety mix of white wine and cream (BYO Lipitor). The pork belly roulade delivers an exquisite rejoinder to anyone who insists it’s time to retire the cut. Sweet, smoky and fragrant with red wine and apples, it may be the best thing to happen to bellies since David Chang.
Here, as at the Spotted Pig, the burger is the most frugal main course—which only partly explains its popularity. A puck of lamb, gorgeously charred and deftly spiced, is a delectable handful, layered with feta and red onions inside a pliant sourdough bun. The thick golden “chips” served with it are fried three times, until they’re crunchy on the outside and like mashed potatoes within.
While there are dishes that satisfy less gout-destined appetites—Caesar salad, sea bass, top-notch poussin—little on the menu qualifies as light. Warm smoked salmon, in one fine piscatorial starter, comes showered in bacon nuggets and garlic beurre blanc. Onion soup wears the usual crown of melted fromage, but also comes infused with a rich dose of bone marrow. In other words, it takes an iron stomach to dine here.
Desserts, served in oversize bowls, are as generously portioned as everything else. These British boarding-school treats—warm sticky-toffee pudding spiked with Turkish coffee; a sensational sweet and salty frozen custard sundae with chocolate sauce, treacle, caramel corn and peanuts—turn the end of the meal into a Dickensian Christmas feast. To get there you may need to pace yourself—and save half that pig’s foot for lunch.
Drink this: The restaurant’s signature dark Aberdeen Ale ($9) was brewed by Sixpoint in Brooklyn. The Breslin’s ambitious new cocktails, courtesy of mixologist Aisha Sharpe, include an exceptional hot buttered rum ($12) and a refreshing trio of gin and tonics (grapefruit, cucumber and classic).
Eat this: Scrumpets, terrine board, pork belly, stuffed pig’s foot, lamb burger, “Originale” custard sundae
Sit here: Though the menu is available at the downstairs bar, good luck finding space to eat. There’s much more elbow room at the smaller bar upstairs. And while the booths on the ground floor are spacious—assuming you’re willing to wait—the upstairs tables are much more sedate.
Conversation piece: Last fall, before officially opening, the Breslin hosted London chef Fergus Henderson, the pioneer of nose-to-tail cooking, who served dinner and brunch.
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