Having amassed a crowd of followers in New York already, Hotel Chantelle jumped over the pond to open its first restaurant earlier this year and no, despite its name, it is not a hotel. That said given it’s black exterior and neon sign, had it been another part of town you might be forgiven for thinking it was some sort of hotel.
The first thing about Hotel Chantelle is that it’s very unapologetically New York. Music was blaring, cocktails were being shaken and it was full of the most beautiful people all dressed in black. Not the customers, no they were all just your average joes, it was the waiters, all devilishly handsome and the waitresses who all looked as if they had just stepped out New York fashion week who were the glamorous crowd here. No aprons and stuffy uniforms here, it was all body con dresses, pencil skirts, tailored waistcoats and heels.
New York dishes might be more sophisticated than their central counterparts but the menu was still playful. You might not find deep fried butter but you will find chicken battered in waffle and coated in candy floss, it might sound like a sickly concoction of a child pairing its two favourite things together when asked what it wants for supper, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, seriously.
Salty Jamón was strung up on a washing line standing on astro turf, yes it was novel and we weren’t exactly sure why, whilst a Caesar salad tumbled out of a cheese cone. In fact cheese featured a lot, crumbled on grilled asparagus, hidden in amongst potato and if there is one dish you can’t afford to miss it’s the mac ‘n’ cheese. Order it once, order it twice just make sure you do. The chef Seth Levine also sent out chicken coated in the richest tomato sauce, topped with yet more cheese, it was big, it was bold – it was very American and I’m glad for it.
I was disappointed to find there wasn’t a pudding menu, not that I needed it, but I hoped there might be some chocolate drenched, sugar coated American concoction. We were told the puddings that night were a banana crème brulee and a frozen strawberry meringue, but we decided after all the cheese to head straight to the nightcaps.
And we were pleased to see there was a strong cocktail list, cocktails to toast the success of a good week, cocktails to drown out a bad a day, cocktails to commiserate and consolidate. My friend went for the Wanderlust – silver tequila, mezcal, lime, hibiscus, pistachio and egg white – the waiter proclaimed it was the best on the menu and then looked at my choice and told me it was nice too – it was rather like being told it’s the taking part that counts. I had gone for the Penicillin C – smoky scotch, ginger, muscovado sugar and lemon partly because you can’t beat scotch and secondly because I was so ill in New York earlier this year that I was on penicillin and couldn’t drink, so it all seemed rather fitting.
Would we go back? Yes, for that little slice of New York, all American dream. Yes we would.