I heard about this restaurant for the first time in a Tasting Table daily email that was featuring the restaurant’s onion soup. The friend from the Smorgasburg post is a huge onion soup fan, so I put this on our list – I generally have a restaurant list with each friend. When I discovered that the restaurant had a secret, private room with pink naked lady wallpaper that could hold 6 people, this restaurant moved to the top of the list and I made a reservation about a month out.
When we got to the restaurant the room did not disappoint. They open up a wall near the bar at the entrance and you walk down a very tiny corridor into a room with a velvet couch, chandelier, and mod pink wallpaper with attractive naked women in paisley. I emphasize attractive here because my roommate’s first response to the dinner invite was: “I might find naked lady wallpaper a bit unappetizing (I’m picturing the artsy fartsy, fat, ugly, naked ladies Jillian likes, as opposed to the playboy model, hot, naked ladies that I’d enjoy).” Hey, I was an art history minor. The room perfectly fit six thin women around the table, though the table space for six is on the more cramped side. Another cool feature was the side window where we could in theory get drinks directly from the bar; however, the restaurant did not utilize this.
Though the room was in fact awesome, I have to note that the service was pretty terrible. Yes, if you’re choosing to eat in this room you’re looking to have an intimate, slow-paced meal, but we were more than neglected. The waitress would say she’d be back in 5, and 20 minutes later she would resurface. The worst part was that one of my friends wasn’t served a dinner, and we had to leave the room to track down the waitress to get my friend’s dish at the table. The door to the room was also left open so that the waitress and buss boy could get in and out easily, which makes sense, but this left us vulnerable to being put on display. Many groups wandered into the private room to see what was back there and awkwardly interrupted our meal. The restaurant should have put up a sign signaling that this was in fact a private area.
In the end, I don’t regret coming here at all. The drinks were good, the food was good and honestly the room was really, really cool (not just really… really, really). The portions were on the larger end, which I appreciate considering NYC prices, and BB&C produces certain vegetables and herbs in their aeroponic roof top garden; I’m always a fan of trying to be green and fresh with the food that I eat. Though some of my friends didn’t care for their dishes, I felt that everything I ordered was for the most part fairly good. So if you’re looking to do something different and are willing to risk the chance of having some shotty service, you can’t go wrong with booking the private room at Bell Book and Candle. As I’ve said before and I’ll say again, at the minimum you’ll certainly impress a girl on a date! Perhaps it’s not a first date location with the naked ladies and all, but certainly a date several days, months or years in.
W 10th Bitters: Though most of the drinks on this list sounded great, I went with this: “Plymouth gin, aperol, homemade jalapeño syrup, fresh lemon and grapefruit juice.” I’m a sucker for anything jalapeño, grapefruit and I LOVE gin… and the drink didn’t disappoint. It was certainly bitter with a nice after burn from the jalapeño syrup. I liked it.
Hydro Basil: If I were going to get any drink next time it would be this one. It had Don Q Rum with combier royale, fresh basil and lime, homemade vanilla-ginger syrup, and was topped with ginger beer. With an amazing fresh, basil flavor, it was my favorite of the drinks that my friend’s ordered.
Lobster Taco: This fell under the bites/sides section of the menu and the words I used to describe it in retrospect were “That shit was bangin.’” It came as two taco halves with a spicy avocado sauce that I just couldn’t get enough of. I would come back just to eat that sauce again.
Crisp Pork Belly: Two pieces of pork belly came atop a salad of arugula and cherries from their rooftop with shaved fennel and sweet onions. This was a sizeable portion of food, specifically for an appetizer. The picture above shows half of the portion that came because I split the dish with a friend. The salad was really great. The arugula was just so delicious and I loved the touch that the cherries made. I even enjoyed the fennel in this context! As for the pork belly, it was good but very average. Considering how much pork belly I order, this is probably the least impressive pork belly I’ve had recently. Though it certainly tasted good, because pork usually tastes good, it didn’t melt in your mouth like pork belly usually does. Instead, it was tough like the pork you would find on ribs. Since the pork belly didn’t really do it for me, in the future I’d probably just order a salad on its own.
Irish American Onion Soup: I let my two friends order this dish. The Smorgasburg friend liked the Knockanore Irish Cheddar that came atop but was unimpressed with the soup itself. My other friend, however, liked the soup in its entirety. I had a bite with the cheese and I thought it was delicious, though I’m not sure I’d want to consume an entire bowl of it.
Asparagus and Roasted Pistachio Soup: This was a really interesting and delicious flavor combination. It comes warm, with a strong taste of asparagus and a hint of the pistachio. I’d love to order a bowl of this myself next time, and may even consider trying to make it at home on my own.
Roasted Halibut: The halibut, perfectly cooked, came atop a really flavorful sweet corn succotash with double smoked bacon. I loved everything about this dish; however, I thought the bacon was too salty. Bites that had halibut and bacon tasted good. But if I took a bite that was the corn and bacon on its own, I found that my mouth was just overwhelmed with salt. Nevertheless, the bacon would not deter me from ordering this dish again.
Food Rundown (Food Ordered That I Didn’t Try):
House-made Burrata: This came with blistered tomatoes and basil and garlic from their rooftop.
Roasted Asparagus and Poached Organic Egg: This came with smoked bacon and pleasant ridge reserve. The friend who ordered this hated the dish. She said it lacked any flavor, with the bacon being the only enjoyable part.
Amish Roasted Half Chicken: This came with a bread salad, rooftop arugula, heirloom tomato, cucumber and herbs. The friend who ordered this liked the dish.
Grilled Hangar Steak: This came atop spinach with blue cheese, onion marmalade and steak sauce. While I’m normally more inclined to go for the steak or pork dish at a restaurant, I’m usually very skeptical of ordering steak if it comes with any kind of steak sauce. If a steak isn’t good enough to be served medium rare with some basic seasoning, I’m not interested. One person in my party did order it though and she seemed happy with her choice.
Bell Book and Candle: 141 West 10th Street, New York, NY ($$-$$$)