April Bloomfield–the chef of The Spotted Pig, the late John Dory and now The Breslin–cooks bold food. That’s what everyone loves about her; her food is never, ever boring. It’s the metaphysical opposite of the boiled peas and carrots you remember from your middle school cafeteria. Her peas and carrots, if she ran a middle school cafeteria, would be browned and salted and spiced and acidified. Kids would be so energized by them they’d stop beating each other up, earn straight As and all go on to win Noble Peace Prizes. That’s the power of food cooked by April Bloomfield.
The only problem is: her food is so popular, it’s often difficult to get any of it to eat. Arrive at the Spotted Pig any time after 7, no matter the night, and you’ll be waiting an hour or more. And The Breslin, I imagine, is much the same way. So I stayed away, I didn’t even think about it, until my psychic twin Lauren (we were born the same day in the same hospital and didn’t know each other until college) and her girlfriend Amy suggested a post-birthday brunch. I pitched The Breslin. They were sold. And so we arrived…
…and it was pretty empty! We got there at 11 on a Sunday and there were plenty of tables to be had. This was a great secret, the kind of secret a savvy food blogger wouldn’t share on his blog so he could keep the secret for himself. But I’m not a savvy blogger, so now the secret’s yours, you Bloomfield-loving New Yorkers who don’t like to wait.
One of the best things about an April Bloomfield restaurant is the decor: this place is no exception. Dark wooden walls, quirky art hanging everywhere. It’s like a cross between a British pub and an evil scholar’s library; you can practically imagine the decorator rubbing his long-fingered hands together and whispering “yesssssssssss” as he puts the finishing touches on a frosted mirror.
Let’s cut to the chase, though: you want to know about the food. The first thing to know is they serve Stumptown coffee from the Stumptown coffee in the Ace Hotel (which The Breslin is a part of):
I wasn’t thrilled with the mocha from Stumptown I had on Craig’s birthday, but the cappuccino I had on this particular morning was, indeed, very good: strong with some nice coffee art on top.
We ended up ordering our food in stages. Amy, to my right, ordered yogurt to start:
That yogurt perfectly illustrates Bloomfield’s style: it’s just a big bowl of Greek yogurt, yes, but on the side? You’ve got dried fruit (prunes, apricots, and so on) macerated in a naughty mixture of liquors (I think Amaretto was mentioned at some point); next to that you have this bowl of crunchy spice; exotic, intense and addictive. And then some really good honey. That’s how April Bloomfield serves yogurt.
Here’s Amy with her yogurt and Lauren with the starer we shared–a hot cross bun:
I’d never had a hot cross bun before, here it is up close:
It was a fruit-studded, spicy piece of bread basted with lots of butter. I devoured my half and also devoured half of a pain au chocolat that we also ordered.
For my entree, I took the chirpy waitress’s suggestion (she was really helpful, outgoing and fun) and ordered the lentils with poached eggs:
This is the kind of dish that gives vegetarian food a good name. The lentils were bursting with flavor–lots of spice (curry) and fat (olive oil) and acid (lemon or lime juice or both)–and the eggs were absolutely perfect, as they broke on top and coated everything with yolk. The bread was crusty and the ideal vehicle for sopping it all up.
Just to save my reputation as a meat-eater, we did order bacon:
This bacon had me worried at first because it seemed kind of fatty and undercooked, but not so! It had a disorienting balance of crunch and meat and fat; it was unlike any bacon I’d ever had before (or since). It was a marvel.
Craig enjoyed his baked eggs, which I forgot to sample:
All in all, this is the kind of food that has everyone excited and happy and eagerly sharing and chatting away. You may think it’s impossible to attain because everyone else wants to attain it, but go early (it’s even open weekdays for breakfast) and you will be rewarded. I will be back soon.
16 W. 29th St. (between 5th and Broadway)
New York, NY 10001