Suppose you’re teleported into the dining room of a random restaurant. Could you take one look, and guess what neighborhood you’re in?
If it’s Desmond’s, you probably can: the Upper East Side. Situated in a gorgeous alabaster neoclassical townhouse that was once a bank, and later a design studio, the room makes an instant impression, with a soaring double-height ceiling, skylight, and a witty modern-art chandelier.
Comfortable banquettes line either side, with white tablecloths and pineapple-shaped silver lamps on each table. It has the same clubby look as other successful places in the neighborhood, like David Burke Townhouse and The Mark by Jean Georges. (See the slideshow at nymag.com.)
This is the first solo venture for the chef and co-owner, David Hart, who was previously at Soho House and Claridge’s in London. The place opened quietly in early March, with little notice in the usual media sources and no professional reviews to date.
According to Eater.com, the opening press release described Desmond’s as “suave and clubby”; Time Out calls it a “supper club,” a term likely to repulse more diners than it attracts. As far as I can tell, it’s simply a restaurant, albeit one that the downtown crowd will probably not find very appealing.
If you’re more broad-minded than that, Desmond’s is an easy restaurant to like. It’s a beautiful space, service is just fine, and if the menu strikes you as unadventurous, at least it is executed well, and fairly priced for the neighborhood, with appetizers and salads $11–18, entrées $22–34, side dishes $9.
We were there late on a Friday evening and ordered only entrées. Crab Risotto ($29; above left) was wonderful. Double-cut Lamb Chops ($34; above right) with mint sauce were tender and flavorful. There was no bread service.
Tables are rather close together, and even with the restaurant less than half full at 10:00 p.m., it was a shade on the noisy side. I am not sure I would want to be there at prime time. There is a mezzanine with just a few tables that looks to be a bit quieter.
The proffer at Desmond’s falls a bit short of destination cuisine, but there are never too many refined, dependable restaurants, and this one delivers on its promise with considerable charm.
Desmond’s (153 E. 60th Street between Lexington & Third Avenues, Upper East Side)