Entries in Meghan Dorman (3)


The Peacock

The Peacock strutted into town in late 2013, aiming to prove that British pub food is fit for fine dining.

The British invasion is hardly big news any more: The Spotted Pig opened in 2003, and there have been many that followed, including Jones Wood Foundry on the Upper East Side, whose owners are also behind this new venture.

But these older places are fundamentally casual, reflecting the cuisine’s humble origins. The Peacock asks diners to contemplate $26 fish and chips in sumptuous rooms, alongside three-figure Bordeaux served by suited sommeliers.

We liked it, but I’m not sure it will last.

The two adjacent townhouses on a Murray Hill side street were formerly the Williams Club, one of many establishments that catered to affluent alumni of Northeast liberal arts colleges. It was a place where locals congregated with their fellow grads, where those not based in New York could find a place to stay. As the Wall Street Journal explained:

The demise of the university clubs comes not from economic recession or a dwindling population of grads but a change in leisure interests. Younger generations of men and women, for good or ill, seem to prefer boutique hotels to the gilded clubhouse. They perhaps don’t see as much prestige in drinking and dining in swanky clubs with their alma mater’s name, when they can just as easily stay in touch with college friends on Facebook.

(There are still a few of these around: the Harvard, Yale, and Princeton clubs are in no danger of disappearing.)

The Williams site was acquired by restaurateur Yves Jadot, who converted it into a boutique extended-stay hotel (30 days minimum) called The William. There are two restaurants, The Peacock and a casual pub called The Shakespeare. Jadot’s other properties supplied the culinary talent, chef Jason Hicks of Jones Wood Foundry (who is listed as a co-owner), and Meghan Dorman of the speakeasy-style cocktail bar, Raines Law Room. Robert Aikens, formerly of Stephen Starr’s The Dandelion in Philadelphia, is executive chef.

There are two lounges with wing-back chairs and plush sofas, where you can kick back on Dorman’s painterly cocktails. They’re over-priced at $16–18, and the pours are not generous, but you are paying for atmosphere. For dinner, you move onto one of two comfortable, dimly-lit dining rooms, where tables are generously spaced and you will not struggle to hear your companion. (See Eater’s photo essay for a look at the décor.)

There are no tablecloths, but everything else about the place screams fine dining, and I don’t take issue with that. I just wonder about the viability of Gammon steak and bangers & mash in this setting. The quality of the cooking is better than most pubs, but it still feels like eating a pub menu at Per Se. Prices are not out of line, considering the elegance of the room and the skill of the cooking, with starters $11–18, mains $21–33, and sides $9.

The wine list (available online) runs to five pages, with a good range of selections below $60. A 2005 Château Ramafort was fairly priced at $55.

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Rum House and The Lantern's Keep

The formerly desolate midtown cocktail scene is improving, with several new bars that bring the downtown bespoke mixology revolution to the Times Square area. I tried two of these last week, Rum House and the Lantern’s Keep.

Rum House is in the Edison Hotel, although it also has its own street entrance. There’s been a Rum House here for decades, but it closed in 2010 after 37 years. I never visited the old Rum House, which was described as a dive. The new version has been brightened up and remodeled, though it retains bits and pieces of the old décor, and there’s a piano for live entertainment (not in use when I visited).

The folks from the Tribeca cocktail lounge Ward III are in charge, and there’s no denying they know their cocktails. But the space, which seats 60, is more raucous than most downtown lounges, with a large crowd clogging the bar at happy hour. Its Theater District location attracts a lot of tourists who drink beer and merlot and gin & tonic. The bartender is almost relieved when a real cocktail customer walks in the door.

To its credit, Rum House charges only $12 a drink, which is at least $2 lower than any other serious cocktail lounge I’m aware of at the moment.

The Lantern’s Keep is in the boutique Iroquois Hotel, a few blocks east of the Times Square mêlée. It’s in a quiet back room, with no indication of its existence at street level. Nevertheless, its 25 seats (21 at tables; 4 at the bar) were packed on the Thursday evening before Easter weekend, and like many downtown lounges (including the Raines Law Room, whose staff run it), standees are not admitted.

I returned on an atypical Saturday, the night before Easter Sunday, to find it nearly empty: staff outnumbered the customers. The quiet, luxurious vibe is very much like Raines: if you like one, you’ll like the other. I started with a Poet’s Dream, an orangy gin-based cocktail resembling a martini, then went off-menu with a Paper Plane, a bourbon-based drink that originated at two other downtown places, Milk & Honey and Little Branch.

Cocktails at the Lantern’s Keep are $14 apiece. I’m more likely to return here, as it is a more focused cocktail place, and it’s far enough away from the Theater to deter the casual visitor who just wants a beer.

Rum House (Edison Hotel, 228 W. 47th St., near Broadway, Theater District)
Lantern’s Keep (
Iroquois Hotel, 49 W. 44th St. btwn 5th & 6th Ave, West Midtown)


Raines Law Room

I stopped by the Raines Law Room the other night. This is the new Flatiron speakeasy-themed cocktail lounge that can’t buy any love, because speakeasies are just so last year. Or so the cocktailians say.

My own theory is that the theme is outdated only when the customers stop visiting, and Raines doesn’t have that problem. They were already about half-full at 6:00 p.m. on Friday night, and pretty close to fully committed an hour later.

The speakeasy motif is everywhere you look. The storefront (a former antique store) is unlabeled, and there’s no phone number nor reservations taken. You ring a doorbell to gain admission. (If they’re full, the host takes your cellphone number, and you cool your heels somewhere else till he calls.) The “bar” is an upscale kitchen counter—as if this were somebody’s basement, and the “lounge” their living room.

The main room is a plush, pretty space. As I was alone, the host gave me the option of “visiting the kitchen,” without mentioning there was nowhere to sit. No matter. I chatted up the bartenders and had a couple of cocktails ($13 ea.), rye and bourbon based, with balanced, forward flavors.

Some of the modern cocktail ritual is just a gimmick (hand-crushing the ice—can anyone really tell?), but they’re doing a good job here. The place could use some food. The only option offered is a $15 plate of miscellaneous munchies (cheese, sliced meat, olives). They ought to be able to improve on that.

Oh, and in case you didn’t know, “Raines Law” refers not to a school for attorneys, but to an 1896 prohibition-like law that restricted alcohol sales in New York. So drink up and enjoy.

Raines Law Room (48 W. 17th St. between Fifth & Sixth Avenues, Flatiron District)