When we last saw this space, it was Elizabeth, a train wreck of a restaurant that endured a series of chef shuffles, and finally closed in early 2011. Its one redeeming feature was a lovely back garden with a retractable roof that annoyed the neighbors. To get community board approval, the chef had to agree not to use it. Musket Room has turned out so beautifully that it hardly matters.
Chef–Owner Matt Lambert came out of the stable of restaurants owned by the design firm AvroKO (Public, Saxon + Parole, and the now-closed Double Crown). He learned his lessons well. Musket Room feels just like an AvroKO spot, with its exposed bulbs, low lighting, reclaimed wood, and whitewashed brick/plaster walls. Seating is stylish and comfortable. A stately indoor cherry tree (or what looks like one) anchors the bar, which has cute little study lights plugged in every few feet.
Those design elements have been repeated in an endless number of restaurants, but I don’t remember very many that got them so right. The space strikes the right balance between casual and upscale. The sound track is soft rock, played at an unobtrusive volume. The space feels immediately comfortable.
The restaurant is named for the Musket Wars, a 35-year conflict fought 200 years ago between the Māori tribes of New Zealand, the chef’s homeland. A big musket hangs over the bar, and there are little bits of musket imagery throughout the restaurant.