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My dinner at The Breslin

Friday, date night. I've been looking forward to starting my "Holiday Wish List" with The Breslin – a much-hyped new restaurant at the Ace Hotel. The food is "gastropub", which is high quality pub grub, roughly translated. Think: fried egg, lamb burger, oxtail stew, seafood sausage, sweetbreads, etc. The Michelin Guide was very generous to award it a coveted star (out of 3) for their 2011 review, when New York Times rightfully had given it 1 star (out of 4). My experience borders closer on the 1 NYT star, and this is why: 1) the noise level is deafening throughout the restaurant, but especially at the bar, where it is a mandatory 1-hour wait for the table. 2) The Breslin doesn't take reservations (unless you are a guest at the Ace Hotel) so any chance for a quick walk-in table is doomed. The Maitre D' did not make smart seating choices, since she was too busy texting on her phone throughout the night. Her crowd control was poor, and the waiting guest spilled into the dining room, ready to colonize at any moment if the tables didn't move quickly enough. 3) The dining room was quite dark, but it did not hide the playful ass-groping between FOH emplyees (serving that much meat in a restaurant will bring out anyone's animal instincts, even if you are vegan.) 4) They didn't have pig's foot, which was the sole inspiration for my journey. The menu changes every day, so one can't hope for consistency.

Overall the food was nice, but too heavy on the oil. I suggest forgoing the "popular" Scotch Egg as a starter – a soft-boiled egg encrusted in a 1/2" thick sausage meat placenta, breaded and fried. One bite is enough, but the actual thing is about 4.5" in diameter, hence 12 bites. That is a heart attack on a plate, simply put; it is way too big, and I would prefer for it to be served as amuse-bouche, or at least substitute the large egg for a tiny quail egg. Moving on... I ordered the sweetbreads with lentils (the meat was also fried, oh joy) and an oxtail stew with grilled beef tongue and tempura (fried, again). The former was nicely done, and the flavorful lentils complimented the sweetbreads well. The later was somewhat lean (not really, but at least it wasn't all fried), but it still made me feel bad for negating all good I've done to my body by working out with a trainer for the past 6 months. Alexander ordered the smoked pork belly roulette on top of mashed potatoes with fried (!) bacon on the side (total food porn.) Yes, it was delicious, and well-done, but I knew where that pork belly was going to end up (on me, since I eat at least 50% of what's on my husband's plate. I now need 2 trainers.) There was no talk of dessert, since that would just be too damaging to our girlish figures in the long-term. A few glasses of wine, and the check was a brisk $150, which made me frown on the damage that's infiltrated our financial body as well.

I will not be coming back there, and I am not itching to try The Spotted Pig either. Gastropub isn't for me. You can find me around the corner at John Dory (what's up with that website, btw!?), the oyster bar at the Ace Hotel.

What was your experience like?

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Spotted Pig
314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

The Breslin
20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

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  1. Arriving earlier in the night definitely helps at The Breslin. I didn't find the lamb burger to be all that amazing, but it was passable. It was messy, and more greasy than juicy. The triple cooked fries were somehow on the soggy side, almost like they had sat a while and been warmed up, or didn't get 2 of those 3 cookings. The chicken liver parfait appetizer was the high point. We didn't bother with dessert because the trifle menu sounded great, and we were sure to be let down. The Terrine boards, and scotched egg at tables next to us didn't look like we missed anything special. People were picking at their food. The chef was in house the night we went.

    Service is a little off. They're going for clubby casual young servers but the effect is that of waitstaff from a hip almost trying too hard upstart restaurant in Brooklyn who have been plopped into an upscale (okay, pricey) setting they're not ready to handle. I have no desire to try Spotted Pig either now.

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    Spotted Pig
    314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

    The Breslin
    20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

    10 Replies
    1. re: sugartoof

      I haven't been to The Breslin for dinner, but I did enjoy lunch there a few months ago. I do agree that the servers are more interested in each other than the customers, though.

      Skipping Spotted Pig would be a mistake, however. The food there is much better, as is the service. I love the burger, and the gnudi.

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      Spotted Pig
      314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

      The Breslin
      20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

      1. re: ml77

        Spotted Pig is really cool, especially for a late lunch, early dinner. Always had good drinks and service there. In addition to the burger, really like the deviled eggs & chicken liver toast.

        For the Breslin, don't discount it only based upon the dinner menu -- it's really great for brunch/lunch.

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        Spotted Pig
        314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

        The Breslin
        20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

      2. re: sugartoof

        I am so glad to hear that I’m not alone in questioning Customer Service. On a Friday night (about 2 months ago) my hubby and I went to try the infamous lamb burger and the triple cooked fries. Arriving at 5:25 we were informed that the dining room opens at 5:30 and we cannot be seated till then. When my husband checked in at 5:40 (after 2 minutes of completely ignoring him and chatting with each other) the young hostess indicated that the kitchen is late and again we cannot be seated. Then she started coughing in his face without covering up or turning away. I was stunned! We left and walked into Gramercy Tavern (the Tavern room ) where we had terrific dinner as usual. We wrote to the management at the Breslin but never heard back.

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        Gramercy Tavern
        42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

        The Breslin
        20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

        1. re: hungrymind

          The service is terrible there. I occasionally go at off hours and sit in the lobby of the hotel with my laptop and have a glass of wine and even then, I fully expect to have my order lost (if it's taken at all). They seem to be shooting more for atmosphere than decent service. Always rubs me the wrong way though when places with service that bad, automatically add 20% for service. Doesn't seem right.
          Jeremy
          homecooklocavore.com

          1. re: JeremyEG

            Is gratuity just added for food service to the lobby or something?

            1. re: sugartoof

              Yes. At one point, we ordered cocktails and waited over 30 minutes and then went to the bar to grab them ourselves. A few minutes later, the waitress apologized and dropped our check with the 20% gratuity included. I believe it's only in the lobby.
              JeremyEG
              homecooklocavore.com

              1. re: JeremyEG

                I don't think it's fair to complain about the gratuity. If you tell them you'd like to leave less, they happily oblige.

                1. re: loratliff

                  I'm glad to hear they will adjust the gratuity when asked (although it's not apparent from the bill which simply says 'gratuity included' with a grand total). I would hope if they insist on running all the checks with the gratuity included, even if they allow customers to have the checks reprinted again with a smaller tip. that they would make more of an effort to keep the service consistent.
                  JeremyEG
                  homecooklocavore.com

        2. re: sugartoof

          Well said. I think The Breslin is very much like Moto in Brooklyn (fabulous place, look it up!) but because of April's recent celebrity (and also because it's in the Ace hotel) the place is seen as God's gift to the masses. Moto food is by far better, if compared between the two, because: there is hardly ever a wait, the service is exactly right for Brooklyn, and the prices reflect the value of the meal.

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          The Breslin
          20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

          1. re: Thupamodel

            Is Moto a downstairs spot in south Brooklyn? It sounds like a hidden gem I've been meaning to try. Good to hear it mentioned as a reminded.

        3. good review.

          don't think that this is gastro-pub fare. spotted pig and breslin serve overtly salty and fatty british food dumbed down for the masses. sadly, there's no real options for excellent british pub food in nyc but thats why i go to london twice a year.

          i always felt that bloomfield oversalts everything. she's not a good cook...

          3 Replies
          1. re: sam1

            Salty sounds about right. That's also a problem with a lot of house curing meat type establishments.

            1. re: sam1

              "salty and fatty british food" and "dumbed down for the masses", sounds oxymoronish to me, but what a double whammy.

              1. re: sam1

                I agree. The NY "gastropubs" don't compare to their London counterparts -- I also travel to London twice a year for great eats at Harwood Arms, St. John's, etc.