Month :

Apr ,2014

From the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/02/dining/restaurant-review-the-peacock-and-the-shakespeare-in-midtown.html?hp&_r=0

Upstairs, Downstairs, British All Around

Restaurant Review: The Peacock and the Shakespeare in Midtown

The Peacock NYT Critics’ Pick The Shakespeare NYT Critics’ Pick

My dinner date had eaten in this room before. A Williams College graduate, she remembered its earlier incarnation as the school’s alumni club.

“I practically lived here at one point,” she said, looking over her shoulder at the stuffed peacock stashed in one corner. “I took almost all my meals here.”

How was the food?

“Ghastly.”

By the end of the night, she announced it is much better now. For that, she can thank her fellow alumni for selling the building on East 39th Street to a developer who turned it into a boutique hotel. Called the William, it opened before Christmas with two upholstered cocktail lounges and two distinct places to eat reformed English cooking. We were upstairs in the Peacock, a civilized, grown-up restaurant where Ray Charles shimmies from the speakers and the wine list is refreshingly nondenominational. One floor below, in the English basement (what other kind would an English restaurant use?) is the Shakespeare, a rustic pub with a rock soundtrack, soccer on both televisions and taps for British lagers and cask ales.

Photo
A table at the Shakespeare. The pub, which is below the Peacock, has two rooms with low timbered ceilings. Credit Rebecca Greenfield for The New York Times

 

The two spots share a kitchen, a chef named Robert Aikens and just enough dishes to justify corralling them into a single review. The food I ate during two dinners at the Peacock and one at the Shakespeare was always appealing; the settings were somewhat less so.

This was particularly true in the Shakespeare, where in the early evening packs of beer drinkers can crowd out those of us who are there to find out if the shepherd’s pie made by Mr. Aikens is better than the mound of ruined groceries that went by the same name in our mothers’ kitchens.

It is, by leaps and bounds. The potato crust, golden with sharp Cheddar cheese, blanketed a lamb stew, thickly spiced with thyme and rosemary. All winter, I had hoped something would push back at my interior polar vortex. This cast-iron pot of ground meat buried under mashed potatoes finally did.

Other pub standards at the Shakespeare were true to form, like the highly credible bangers and mash and the fish and chips, with a light sheath of custardy batter around a hunk of very fresh cod. The Scotch eggs, molten at the yolk and wrapped in juicy, salty sausage before being plunged into the fryer, were good enough to eat by the dozen, although I would be round as an egg if I had tried.

I was annoyed, though, when the $16 “pint of prawns” turned out to be a pint glass of ice cubes holding up five nearly flavorless boiled shrimp. The Shakespeare needs to do better than that if it wants customers to put the emphasis on the first word of “gastro pub.” Right now, it lands firmly on the second.…

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