They make quite the glamorous pair: Augustine and Fowler & Wells, glowing and genteel on opposite ends of the grand atrium at the Financial District’s new Beekman Hotel, a ritzy restoration of the late-19th-century landmark building known as Temple Court.
Augustine, a swoon of a French restaurant from Balthazar bistro baron Keith McNally, is the more femme of the two, dazzling and dreamy with flower-bud sconces, wrought-iron chandeliers and enough warm light bouncing off the room’s hand-painted tile walls and romantically distressed mirrors to melt the frostiest of hearts.
Augustine is unconcerned with newfangled food trends, but why shouldn’t it be? McNally has forged his own downtown food bubble (Cherche Midi, Minetta Tavern), one where old-world French charms bump against off-duty magazine editors talking shop over power burgers and Pernod butter. With inevitable buzz and the crowds that follow, it almost doesn’t matter what’s on the plate at a McNally restaurant.
Coexecutive chefs Shane McBride and Daniel Parilla, both of Cherche Midi, don’t ruffle any feathers with their paint-by-numbers brasserie menu of steak tartare ($18), soufflé au fromage ($19) or salt-baked oysters ($19), although all three are well executed. The same can’t be said for the halibut en cocotte ($38), which is overcooked and spongy beneath lobster jus and black truffles, or the burger ($27), a McNally standard that is choked with smoke to the point where the crowning Comté cheese and caramelized onions barely register.
But even a slightly dry rotisserie chicken ($32), served with a picture-perfect copper pot of creamy pomme puree, tastes leagues juicier when consumed in the transporting glow of this gorgeous hotel dining room.