UNION SQUARE CAFÉ: WHAT SATURDAYS ARE FOR
There is not a huge amount to report about my last meal on this trip to New York.
As has become our tradition, my chum Cathy, joined me for a pleasing, leisurely and, let’s not deny it, boozy Saturday lunch. A “ thank you” for the meal she had slaved over the weekend before.
On the last few visits we have tried Bouley, Luger’s and Otto none of which provide any culinary fireworks but all of which made a great location for good conversation and a relaxed bite to eat before I head to the airport and back to civilisation.
This time, we finally decided upon Union Square Café. I had not been in about three years. Cathy in about the same time. But, it gave us a chance to walk around the Farmer’s Market and look at bags of apples before heading for our noon reservation.
The Maitre ‘D at Union Square is a really rather splendid chap called Christopher. Possibly one of the best in the city. Watching him work the room and make everyone feel at home is like watching a craftsman. It is not a task to which I would be suited but he seems to have the patience of any number of saints.
He told us that, for the first time in a while, he felt that everything in the restaurant was “on song” from the front of house to the kitchen and it would certainly need to be as it was, as ever, packed to the rafters.
The food at Union Square is what I would dub “Danny Meyer solid” there is nothing there that is going to change the face of cooking. Nothing there to make one raise an eyebrow or “ooh” and “ahh” Instead it focuses on a few classics and does them as well as any place I have tried. It also does pretty good Martini’s most notable for the fact that they are a size equivalent to an Olympic swimming pool.
A salad of tomatoes from the market showed them to their best effect with only a dressing of a fruity olive oil to compliment. The calamari ( another dish that I seem to order all the time in NYC as it is so much better than anything I can get in London ) was crunchy and crisp with meltingly sweet squidy flesh.
Similarly, main courses showed a steady hand. Like a Martini, Burgers are one of those things one would imagine is a simple thing to cook but, are equally easy to screw up. The wrong grind, poor quality meat, over cooking, bad accompaniments etc etc. Hell, we seem to get it so horribly wrong in London. Here, there was none of that. A great chunk of beautifully charred beef served with some excellent bacon and very acceptable chips.
Cathy’s Tuna version was served suitably rare too. She declared it “flavourful” and became slightly aggrieved at my suggestion that there is no such word and it is in fact, like the word “ deliciousness” the creation of users of internet food boards with poor vocabularies and too much time on their hands.
A well priced bottle of Abiouness Sangiovese from the Napa helped to take us from the buzz of the Martini’s to the point where I almost accosted a stranger and told him “ basically, I am not a happy man” Fortunately a slightly stodgy peach tart helped soak some of it up and bring me back from the brink.
So that was it. A thoroughly enjoyable two and a half hours where neither the food nor the restaurant were the stars but served competently to provide a welcome backdrop to an amiable meal with a good friend.
The perfect way to top of a good week in a very fine city.