New York is famous for some uniquely US eating-house genres – the deli, the diner and the grill – each of which run to a tried-and-true formula and service approach. I’m a fusspot about authenticity on menus and establishment names, so if you are going to call yourself a ‘New York Grill’ then I’m expecting certain things.
Smith and Wolensky in New York City will probably forever set my expectations for what a ‘New York Grill’ should be. In a low-lit atmosphere, wood, brass, leather and green predominate, giving the space a clubby, traditional, masculine vibe. It’s a haven for the tasselled loafer, Ralph Lauren stripes and preppy types, and it’s very Upper East New York. I ate beautiful New Zealand lamb chops there as a solo diner, made comfortable by the truly hospitable staff.
My next ‘New York Grill’ experience was in Tokyo, at the Park Hyatt, famous as a location for a sexy movie. Vastly expensive, indifferent service and I’m sorry to say I had to send my steak back to the 35-brigade grill kitchen. It’s a fabulous room with an extraordinary view and a very New York vibe but it’s the antipathy of what, in my view, a NYG should aspire to offer: great food, slick service and a sense of tempting you back.
With no previous knowledge, I fell into the New York Grill on the rooftop of Westfield Mall. Sale shopping had me hankering for a Bloody Mary and I presumed any self-respecting NYG could mix a good one. They got it, and I was impressed enough to check the menu, from which I ordered a Caesar salad. They got that, too, with the right lettuce, ‘home- cured’ bacon bits, croutons, good grated parmesan, a perfectly just- poached egg and an anchovy fillet.
After five further visits, dropping in for coffee, post-shopping pick- me-ups and a snack or two, I go to try out the full menu. I’ve been impressed to date by the friendly, willing service and so I take my expert witness with me, a knowledgeable aficionado of eating out in New York.
The menu is on point, following the NYG formula with options for express eating and slower dining, consisting of American classics with the expected New Zealand ingredient inclusions. It’s very fairly priced and covers the bases for dining any time of the day; it has a short breakfast menu on a card and a similar approach to the desserts. The bar offer is sophisticated and the wine list (curated by Cameron Douglas) is comprehensive and fairly priced.
We order a clam chowder to start, which was exceptional, with the fattest just-opened Cloudy bay clams in the soup base. The base stock is made with clamshells, fish stock and potatoes; it was light enough to be eaten on a summer night and well complemented our other choice, a crunchy Caesar salad
Of course, the star of any grill room has to be the meat. Here it is offered by variety, cut and weight, with many sauces and butters to enhance it. Despite the temptation of grain-fed Japanese wagyu, we kept it simple and decided to share an Angus Florentine T-bone, grass-fed in the Manawatu, with Béarnaise sauce and an extra porcini and truffle sauce. The side dishes are classic NYG, so we ordered creamed spinach and truffle and parmesan duck fat fries. Simple, honest food is the hardest to present and depends on a kitchen that shows respect: we were well satisfied with what we were served.
The NY cheesecake is what it says though I suspect it’s bought in. It was too firm and not very distinctive. I’m sure this kitchen could do better.
The interior is fitted out with leather banquettes, steel, brass, copper and wood, and through a library-style area you spy the exterior courtyard’s sunny, green backdrop. The ambience is Kiwi-meets-NYC though the lights could be a bit lower in my view and the music more background.
Adrian Loy, the owner, is a serial restaurateur and this is his latest eating-house. His core team has impressive credentials. As chef James Laird previously headed up The Grill kitchen, and floor manager Jeremy Bayet smoothed the way at Gusto, Sean Connolly’s influence lives on here. The kitchen team dry-ages and butter-cures its own meats and boasts a grunty charcoal oven.
This is not a place for our friends on plant-based diets or wanting flower- decorated plates, but it is a destination for those that like classic flavours, traditional sauces and excellent cooking.
Does it tick the boxes for a NYG? In the context of its mall location I think it’s getting the point: the interior has the look, the menu has the formula, the intention is right, and it feels like the offer will be consistent. The service attitude is good though it still needs a bit of fine-tuning in terms of NY slick, but hey, this place has just opened and needs time to settle.
Do I want to join this club, use it as a go-to for many reasons, revisit and recommend? Yes I do. GRANT ALLEN