If you want to know the best thing about Cafe Gitane in The Jane Hotel, you’re looking at it. It’s an utterly charming space; big, bright, airy. There’s even an alligator on the wall.
When Craig’s Uncle Chris, Aunt Liz and Cousin Katie came through New York a few weeks ago, they wanted to take us out to brunch. At the time, I had a copy of New York Magazine’s Best of New York in my hand and under the category of “Best Brunch” they chose Cafe Gitane for “an ambience that feels airlifted from the Left Bank with a detour to Cuba.”
When it comes to ambience, NY Magazine is right on the money; the room is very winning. Take a look at this sailboat in the window:
Isn’t that charming? Look at Craig and the happy visitors from out of town in the big airy room:
We spent several minutes commenting on how much we liked the room. And on a warm Spring day, with the sunlight shining through the windows, there wasn’t a better place to be eating brunch. Unless, of course, you care about food.
Don’t get me wrong, the food at Cafe Gitane isn’t bad at all. It’s just not great.
The best thing we ate there was this avocado toast which the strangely aloof waitress (who gave me a dirty look when I asked for water) strongly recommended:
It’s a pretty simple concept: whole grain bread, avocado spread on top with some red chili flakes and probably some salt and olive oil. You can do it at home, true, but Cafe Gitane does it very well.
You might say it was something of a tapas-style brunch; there was baked feta with olives and tomatoes:
(Decent, not particularly memorable.)
This ham on a baguette:
(Again, very adequate, nothing remarkable.)
Brie with apples and bread:
(Are you detecting a pattern here? This tasted just as you’d expect it to taste.)
And then there was the more typical brunch stuff. Craig’s cousin Katie had the orange blossom waffle:
At first, the bite that I tasted was nicely floral, but a few more chews and it started to feel like it was flavored with shampoo.
Craig’s uncle had the Moroccan cous cous with red peppers, toasted pine nuts, raisins and Merguez sausages:
A striking presentation, yes, but was he thrilled with the way it tasted? I don’t recall.
Then there was the granola with yogurt and fruit. Both Craig and I ordered it (we were feeling somewhat health-kicky that morning) and both of ours looked like this at first:
Then Craig started eating his and found it was slathered in way too much yogurt:
I began eating mine and found that it was almost totally dry and yogurtless:
If the waitress weren’t so aloof and irritable, I might have said something, but as it stands that inconsistency in the kitchen and the overall lackluster nature of the food is probably what will keep me away from Cafe Gitane for the foreseeable future.
Which is a shame because it truly is a charming space. On our way out, a doorman took us into a secret part of the Jane Hotel (or maybe it’s not a secret, I’m not sure) that had been redone to look old (a very New York phenomenon):
Apparently this hotel is where some of the survivors from the Titanic came to stay when their boat pulled into New York. If they’d gone to Cafe Gitane for breakfast, I’m sure they would have been cheered by the alligator and the sunlight. Only the inconsistently yogurted granola would’ve returned them to their gloom and despair.
Cafe Gitane at The Jane Hotel
113 Jane Street
New York, NY 10014