It”s nice to know that you can rock up to somewhere like the venerable and historic Minetta Tavern and immediately get a table. Maybe my jetlag helped that I was eating at 6p. The place comes as an unexpected refuge from the McDougal vibe, speakeasy-ish as you enter a room with indisputable charm and class.
Red banquettes, white linen, black and white tiles and signed photos on every inch of wall. You get the picture – or you can check it out below.
The dining room was full within minutes of opening – tables are generous enough, but I was eventually hemmed in on both sides by Brazilians. The people, not the shave. Maybe they were all escaping the World Cup, God knows why, but New York seemed to be like a mini Rio that sultry week in early June.
With alumni including Hemingway and Dylan Thomas, and given it was 6am Hong Kong time, I thought it only fair to test the barman. He aced the test with his own version of ‘Old Man and The Sea’, featuring Ilegal Reposado Mezcal, Manzanilla Sherry, Gran Classico Bitter and Sea Salt. The bearded, belligerent bear of a novelist would have approved – and so did I.
Next up I dived straight in for the day’s special starter, namely crab, prawn and English pea risotto. It was definitely a solid dish, decently executed, but just not quite the sum of its parts. If there was any crab present, then it was doing a really decent job playing hide and seek. It should have been the lead of the dish but instead played the smallest of bit parts. Maybe I should have known, eating cheese with seafood, a total anathema in most self-respecting Italian households – but that argument is for another day and let’s just say that once The Smithsonian has weighed in, you know it’s a serious cultural meme.
It’s farcically unoriginal but, relatively newly landed in New York, I was feeling burgery next and with Rocky Marciano looking down at me, I felt he would have approved. It was a cracker. And the fries. Oh my days. Worth the epic journey from Hong Kong alone.
Given my 9 miles walking that day, thanks Fitbit, I finished with the chocolate caramel Maldon sea salt tart. It was glorious, a walk in chocolate heaven. My wife would have loved it so I generously took a photo of it for her:So overall, Bravo Minetta. Just give the crab some more screen time.