On a lush West Village stretch flush with options for those who haven’t felt the pinch of economic pain, some of them shuttered (Osteria del Sol is currently decorated with orange “SEIZED” signs), Wilfie & Nell is a welcome respite for the cold and suffering masses, with good beer, good food, good prices and a friendly crowd. Sure, it’s not really a restaurant per se, but it’s not a bar either. Wilfie & Nell is a pub in the grand British tradition, a public house where you can while away the hours reading a book and nursing a beer in a comfy chair (there is one) or drink yourself stupid at a communal, reclaimed-wood table while chowing down on scotch eggs (this fortifying delicacy from the kilted north is a hardboiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, breaded and deep-fried).
But don’t let such disregard for one’s arteries scare you away. The food, though not terribly healthy, is impeccably sourced. A gooey, crunchy grilled cheese is crafted from Tallegio from Murray’s and bread from the Blue Ribbon Bakery. And addictive, outrageously sweet and juicy pulled-Berkshire-pork sliders use Piccinini Bros. meat and McClure’s pickles. Even those with uncertain provenance clearly depend on artisanal ingredients, like the Irish salad’s spinach, egg and lemon dressing (and about 8 oz. of bacon), which is a perfect pairing with a fruity glass of Brooklyn Brewmaster’s Reserve. Nearly everything on the small-plates, ready-for-sharing scale is some of the best of its kind in the city, even the Shepherd’s pie with Guinness and lamb (audaciously expensive at $12). That is, except for what drew me here in the first place: the beef pie ($5), a small handheld Cornish pasty, notable only for demonstrating the strength of the rest of Wilfie & Nell’s fare.
But where this new haunt of mine falls short is in service. It’s the kind of place where the waitstaff — though not the speedy, knowledgeable bartender — shot low. Clearly, they signed up for regular bar job to fetch beer at a leisurely pace, not one where they’d have to be on top of multiple kitchen orders, and they’re sticking to it. So don’t expect to be able to order food unless your glass is dry. But that’s all the more reason to sample what’s on tap — or a seasonal cocktail. Times are tough, and you’ve got to keep your strength up — have another slider.