Stout NYC has the magic ability of seeming both like a large fortress and like a cozy cavern. It claims to be New York's largest Irish pub, and yet comfortable seating and cobblestone floors give the bar a warm, friendly atmosphere. With two other locations in the Financial District and near Grand Central, Stout NYC has set itself up as a neighborhood hangout three times over.
Having lived in England for a year and a half, and always delighted for an excuse to return, I was perfectly thrilled to walk into Wilfie & Nell. At times it is filled with Brits and you will feel like you have been transported back across the Atlantic as you dine on Shepherds Pie, or a Ploughman's Cheese Plate, or just browse through their extended list of beers and enjoy the pub atmosphere with a Manhattan twist.
Having lived in England for a year and a half, I entered The Churchill with a huge smile on my face... and left still glowing. A quintessential, dark-paneled British Pub that opened at the end of 2011, there is a large bar, an extensive beer list and homey English classics, including fish and chips and Shepherd’s Pie. The interior space, marked by checkerboard flooring, exposed brick walls, and a fireplace has bar-style seating, leather banquettes, and various sized tables, and benches allows for different crowds and dining experiences. What made it stand out for me, however, was all of the British memorabilia that line the walls on two floors, including the back area upstairs in the "garden room" where there is a display of English teapots. Winston Churchill's terribly English voice resounds in the bathrooms and the absolutely charming people who work here made for an unforgettable visit. I am sure that the winter months will be an especially good time to come visit, with hearty brews and whiskeys galore to warm a weary soul. Drink tonight and be merry, for as a drunken Churchill once uttered in his now famous disparaging remark, “in the morning I’ll be sober, but you will still be disgustingly ugly. ”
Below the luxurious William Hotel sits the more meat-and-potatoes Shakespeare, an ode to English pubs. The focus is on the Brits beer and food. The owners, Yves Jadot and Jason Hicks of Jones Wood Foundry uptown, opened this space simultaneously with the more luxuriant library bar and Peacock Restaurant upstairs. Divided into two rooms, the Abingdon's low wood beamed ceilings make for a perfect setting to share a pint of Old Speckled Hen, a cask ale served at 55 degrees - obviously an unexpected surprise for those that have come across the pond. Although served warm, it is "quite popular even with the Americans, " according to Joelle, the bartender. The other favored beer is Wells Bombardier - a classic English bitter. As described by Joelle, it is a lighter flavor, but still has the bitter notes, just not as prominent as some of the others she, personally, has sampled. We had a real feast while sitting in The Snag, located across the hallway. This tiny room for two to four people is modeled after the time when British women were not allowed to drink with the men, and therefore snuck into this enclosed space and were able to order their drinks through a little window that opened up to the bar. It was inside this precious area that we photographed and devoured Bangers and Mash, a perfect butter lettuce salad, a hamburger dripping with melted cheese served with hand cut fries, and then a rich, decadent, incredible sticky toffee pudding.
Though I spent a year and a half living in London in my younger years, I did not become nearly as attached to English cuisine as Olivia, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, did when she lived there. I realized this when her eyes lit up as Arjuna, the executive chef of Jones Wood Foundry, brought out plates of English pies and fish and chips for us to sample. With a huge smile, she dug into the mushy peas, made with fresh peas instead of the traditional canned, and the flaky battered cod. She and Sideways photographer Tom then tackled the meat pie of the day, made in a rosemary crust. I tried the accompanying mashed potatoes, which were impossibly soft and fluffy – I later learned that the kitchen goes through twenty pounds of potatoes and four pounds of butter to make them. We were in taste-heaven. We dined outside in the charming backyard garden as we spoke to Arjuna who told us about his Indian heritage and his time traveling through Europe. He began by saying that food is deeply tied to love and happiness in Indian culture. “If the mother’s in a bad mood, Indian families eat nothing.... So the moral of that is: make your mom happy. ” Though Arjuna is a dual citizen, British and American, he has always chosen to stay in the States. He pointed out, “All the kinds of cuisine you could ask for are right here in New York. ” He explained that though he had spent a little time in Cornwall in St. Ives, he had not cooked very much traditional English food until joining the Jones Wood team. He learned a lot from Jason Hicks, the owner and former executive chef, who designed the menu and has since taken on more of a consulting role. Jason wanted Jones Wood to be a “food-driven pub, ” where people can come in with no expectations and then be wowed. As Arjuna stated, “There’s something for everyone” on the menu, pointing out that they had changed the recipe of the French fries to use canola oil instead of beef fat, so that they would be vegetarian-friendly. Moreover, they are triple cooked and slow fried so that they are extra crispy. It is not just the food at Jones Wood Foundry that is authentically British – the interior of the restaurant, designed by Yves Jadot, is filled with touches of English culture. There are pint mugs, hunting horns, photos of the English military and Winston Churchill, cricket bats, British bus stop signs, and the obligatory “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster. I expected Arjuna to tell me that the restaurant is home to numerous ex-pats yearning for well-made English food, but instead he said that there are actually a lot of locals who come four to five times a week. “They give me a big hug, ” he said with a smile. The name, despite being Anglican, is possibly the most American thing about the pub. In the nineteenth Century and earlier, the pub's current neighborhood was a forest known as “Jones’s Wood. ” It almost became the main parkland for Manhattanites, but lost the bid to Central Park. Shortly afterwards, the building that now houses the restaurant was constructed and occupied by a foundry that produced railings, weather vanes, manhole covers, and many other metal works. When Jason Hicks opened his restaurant in 2009, he chose to name it after the original business that was housed in the space. After we told him how fun we find it to explore the kitchens of the restaurants that we visit, Arjuna invited us downstairs to watch him make Sticky Toffee Pudding, a traditional English dessert composed of fluffy cake, often with currants, with molten toffee sauce poured on top. Though he appeared to be at ease with us while sitting in the courtyard, it was when he entered these quarters that we noticed he came into his own, like a fish in water. It makes sense: a large part of Arjuna’s life is connected to the culinary world. He even met his wife, now a successful playwright, in a restaurant. At Arjuna's urging, we ascended the steps back to the garden, where he served us his masterpiece. The dessert, smelling of rich molasses with a scoop of ice cream on the side, was positively scrumptious. Beautiful weather, a lovely setting and a terrific, dedicated chef made for a perfect afternoon.
"People don't understand how neighborhood based we are. How we all watch out for one another. If you don't live here you don't get it. " According to Elizabeth King, owner of the enchanting Kings' Carriage House for over thirty years, there is a different rhythm on a side street. "We walk at a different pace than on the avenue. "Elizabeth graduated college with a fine arts degree, but her passion was always cooking and entertaining. "I always had a food bug, a true love of anything culinary. " Her first venture was catering, where she immediately had a "robust stream of business, " so she made the decision to follow her dream and left her job in advertising. "I decided to go into it full time knowing nothing. " Along the way, she had "a few side street jobs, " including opening a bakery and she did some food styling, but in the back of her mind, a restaurant was waiting for her. While traveling in Ireland, Elizabeth met Paul Farrell. They dated for seven years between New York and Dublin until he finally agreed to make the move to New York. It was also during these excursions overseas that her business concept crystalized, and she began looking for a space. When she walked past a three-storied townhouse one day on East 82nd that had been a Hungarian bookstore, and found it to be empty, she began her pursuit of the landlord. It took a year where Elizabeth continuously put notes in the mailbox inquiring about renting the building. She was determined to share her concept with the owner, and in 1994 she was finally able to persuade him to listen to her. It turned out that he was hardly ever in town, and she became the trustee of the building, even renting the apartment next door. "Life was so different then. We opened on a shoestring, but we sold out every night for a really long time. " Elizabeth described how the neighborhood supported her, wanting to see her flourish, but there were also celebrities coming in on a weekly basis, and then as Kings' Carriage was written up in the New York Times diners from abroad also began seeking them out. " Our concept resonated with people around the globe. It was an amazing time, just fabulous. " Mrs. Astor even had her 99th birthday party here. When Elizabeth and Paul's daughter was born, "people would see her in her jammies as a little girl. " Kings' Carriage has always been a different experience - a charming, intimate family restaurant. "The magic of tea is about the moment - slow down, soak it in, be a bit reflective, or share it with another person. " Thus, Kings' Carriage is known for their traditional afternoon tea service in an elegant British setting with English china, teapots, paintings and crystal chandeliers filling every nook and cranny. And, for decades their dinner menu has been prix fixe with three scrumptious courses. Elizabeth and Paul wanted people to come in and have a leisurely, beautiful meal. "I knew from the beginning that I wanted people to have the experience that we had in a Manor House restaurant in Ireland with lingering hospitality. " The restaurant continues to have a different menu every day. "We were farm to table thirty years ago before people knew what this was. " They have always chosen the menu based on what the market had. Elizabeth has written the menus since day one and when it is busy, "I am the add on in the kitchen. "