22 February, 2010

The Duchess Dines . . .

The Breslin, Freemans

Day 7 in New York. After a leisurely weekend day spent, ahem, working, the Duchess finally did retire for the evening meal. First stop: The Breslin at the Ace Hotel, 16 West 29th Street (btw Fifth Ave. and Broadway).

The Breslin is a relatively new restaurant inside/adjacent to the Ace Hotel (formerly the Hotel Breslin). The Ace Hotel on 29th Street is the only East Coast outpost of the shabby (un?)chic West Coast hospitality chain, headquartered in Portland, Oregon (with follow-ons in Seattle and Palm Springs). It's painfully hip but welcoming; it has a trendy but nouveau down-home menu (pork scratchings, scotch egg (yummer), doughnuts); and is decorated in Echo Park thrift store/Seven Grand style. Very Chavez Ravine-denizen LA hangout-worthy. Our waitress Ellen was adorable (fortunately since she forgot our order a couple of times) in suspenders and a fall, and the food really hit the spot.

Most of the Breslin's many diners were crowded around the bar or into nooks and crannies in its street-level space; we sat high above the fray on the upstairs dining balcony. Don't worry, dear readers -- the upstairs has its own bar!

We attempted to save room for dessert so limited ourselves to the following: sea salt and pepper chips; spiced almonds; scotch egg (again, yummer); beef and stilton pie; caesar salad with anchovy croutons; braised cabbage and bacon; and roasted fennel. The neighboring trio ordered what appeared to be a delicious pork belly and the lamb burger also made the Duchess salivate.

To visit the WC one must walk through the Breslin dining space, through the Ace Hotel lobby, and downstairs into the Ace Hotel's gym and lounge area. The Ace Hotel lobby was absolutely packed with all manner of imitation Oliver Peoples-wearing college kids hammering out research papers on the life and death of Jean Genet, swathed in copious yards of Pendleton tartans and army-navy surplus gear.

A borderline inappropriately attentive waiter attempted to take our (second? third?) drink order as we snuggled into secondhand, oversized plaid wing chairs. In truth we were just listening to "Boys Don't Cry" before hitting the street. Walking out the door, before us appeared a bizarre apparition: could it be? An Ace Hotel-appended branch of Opening Ceremony? Clearly the gentrification of West 29th Street is well underway.

The Duchess tried on this Peter Pilotto dress at OC (coming in at a modest $2300); we all know it would have fit better before dinner.

Taxi took us down to the Lower East Side, to Freemans for a nightcap and dessert. Located at the end of Freemans Alley, it could have been difficult to find but for the long line of cabs parked at the alley entrance on Rivington Street.

Standing outside were a handful of boy/girls in hoodies, smoking cigarettes and speaking English with unrecognizable accents (hybrid of a Boer dialect and Cuban public school?). We squeezed our way through the velvet curtain and on up to the host, who audaciously informed the Duchess it would be 45 minutes for a table! Every bar stool was taken, every table packed -- tout le monde was there.

Except, of course, the one person we would really have been delighted to see . . .

Julia Restoin-Roitfeld at Freemans for a party thrown by magazine/apparent event planners Purple in her honor, 2007. (Photo courtesy of Fashionista.com)

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