The Breslin at the Ace Hotel
20 W 29th Street
Rating: 4 out of 5 L's
The Ace Hotel looks really good. The New York installment of the hotel line extracts the chintz and clutter from Old World-style hotels, but holds onto the mahogany and buttoned leather. Some ultramodern, outsized pillars and a laptop island are thrown in, and an old-timey light bulb marquee blinks "HOTEL" over the doorway. The effect is spot-on End of the Aughts New York: retrospective but irreverent, kitschy but cold. It has a certain style, and the music is cool, but it would never call itself, like, a hipster. You know?
The hotel's restaurant, the much-blogged-about Breslin, is the sister restaurant of the Spotted Pig, the revered West Village gastropub helmed by April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman. The hotel's lobby bar can serve as a sneak attack for Bloomfield's famous food: avoid the wait for the Breslin (no reservations!) by sampling snacks under the lobby bar's car-dealership-sized antique flag. Bloomfield and Friedman bring their taste for upmarket bar food to the Ace lobby: on offer are perfectly prepared renditions of grilled ham & cheese ($16), Caesar salad ($12) and goat cheese tart ($16). Bar snacks include malt vinegar and sea salt chips ($4), caramel popcorn ($5) and pork scratchings (WHICH ARE JUST $5 PORK RINDS).
The lobby bar's cocktail menu differs a little from the bar in the Breslin, but anything can be ordered from either menu in the lobby. Try the 23 Skidoo ($12) off the Breslin bar menu—it was the tastiest and most complex drink of the night, with a big hit of smoky tequila up front that's relieved by a finish of rich creme de mure and elderflower liqueur. The Hound on Fire ($10), a Greyhound rimmed with chili salt, is appropriately scalding, but the heat pretty much obliterates the drink's grapefruit flavor. A dollar is donated to the Madison Square Park Conservancy with every purchase of a Flatiron ($12)—Rhum Clement, ginger beer, lemon whiskey bitters, and basil. It's an easy-to-drink, minty, grown-up lemonade. Get two! The bar also serves the restaurant's signature cask ale, the Breslin Aberdeen ($7). Cask ale, as it turns out, is served warm and flat. Ask for a small taste of this peaty, smoky brew if this is your first cask ale experience. Ask for a pint from inside the restaurant if you can't hack it: it's a little cooler, a little more carbonated than stuff served at the lobby bar. The barstaff's happy to oblige: they're cheerful and unpretentious, and the gratuity's already included on your bill. Fine food, some great cocktails, and a weird hot beer: the lobby bar's a straight flush.