Keith McNally Brings the Party Downtown with Augustine
Keith McNally may channel France at several of his iconic restaurants, like Balthazar, Cherche Midi and the much-missed Pastis, but there are few more essentially New York restaurateurs than McNally. And tomorrow, he will bestow his newest restaurant, Augustine, upon the city. The French restaurant is inside The Beekman hotel, a revived landmarked building from the 1800s near City Hall, which is also home to Tom Colicchio's newest spot, Fowler & Wells.
McNally, who says the project has been in the works for four years, named the restaurant after Saint Augustine, who before becoming a devout priest was quite the partier. “It was the sinning not the saintly aspect to Saint Augustine that appealed to me,” McNally says. Fittingly, the cocktail program comes from strong drink proponent Dale DeGroff.
McNally describes the restaurant as “an elegant and somewhat-feminine French restaurant from that (Art Nouveau) period just before the First World War.” (Fans of Balthazar are likely to feel rather at home in the space.) But don’t expect Augustine to feel too much like a time machine, McNally adds. “The food, though based on French classics, was very much a contemporary version of French classical food.”
That means rotisserie meats like a play on duck à l'orange, cheese soufflé and a petite aioli of seafood and vegetables from chefs Shane McBride and Daniel Parilla, who oversee three other gems of the McNally empire: Balthazar, Cherche Midi and Minetta Tavern. In the tradition of that last restaurant, Augustine also has a signature burger, which McBride and Parilla say took them quite a while to develop. “We tried lots of blends, lots of breads, lots of toppings. Then we found a great combination of meat, caramelized onions, Scotch and Comté. There were a lot of little touches we added to it at the end that really brought it together, like finishing it on the grill to add more smoke, and buttering the bread, because it needed more fat and richness.”
And since Augustine is in a hotel, there’s also breakfast, with dishes like egg in a hole with smoked salmon; eggs Augustine, which are poached eggs served with lobster and a tomato-tinged béarnaise known as Choron sauce; and roasted apples with sheep's milk, yogurt and honey.
The Financial District hasn’t been a dining destination—at least not in recent memory. Let’s see if McNally and Colicchio can change that.
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