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The hotel, at 3rd and Warren, is still a work in progress, scheduled to open in 2019, but the elegant bar/lounge and outdoor terrace are open and serving cocktails, wine and interesting light food.  This venture is from the owners of the Bartlett House in Ghent, a bakery and restaurant that has been very successful.  We stopped in with some friends this past weekend for a drink.  Interesting cocktails, a piano, sofas and chairs, a fireplace.  This is definitely much more upscale than what Hudson has been used to.

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Left Bank – New to us, maybe to you too

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Left Bank opened more than five years ago in the West Village, but up to now had escaped my attention.  As often happens, an offer from Blackboard Eats arrived yesterday, just as we were considering where to have dinner.  Looking up user reports, I thought it looked promising, so we gave it a try.  It was definitely worth it, and it is likely we would return even without the discount.

Though the name would seem to imply a Parisian bistro, the food encompasses French, Italian and American, with interesting twists on classic dishes and an emphasis on local ingredients and humanely-raised meats.  We noticed a definite similarity in style to the Red Cat, which is one of our favorites, and a little research provided the explanation.  The owners both previously worked at Red Cat.

I do wish they had a more extensive beer list (the Founders Dirty Bastard ale that was listed on the web is no longer offered), but we made do with Stella Artois.  I started with soft shell crab with fiddleheads and Stanley had octopus with sausage on a bed of chopped salad.  Both were vibrantly flavored and complex.  My main course of roasted brook trout was perfectly done, topped with salsa verde and served with endive and multicolored carrots in an aioli-like sauce.  The chicken was a perfect example of French-style roast chicken, served with shaved asparagus.  For dessert we shared ricotta cheesecake with stewed berries;  a generous portion and nothing really wrong with it, but not something I’d go out of my way for.

On the whole, a delicious meal, attentive service, and a nice atmosphere (not too loud, either).  This is a lovely neighborhood place, but also destination-worthy.

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Ha Noi House – Intriguingly Different Vietnamese in East Village

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We have now been to Ha Noi House twice.  The first time was in January, and as there were just the two of us and they don’t take reservations for fewer than six, we put aside our usual requirement of eating at 8:30 and prepared for an early Sunday dinner, arriving at 5 and being first in line for the 5:30 opening.  Note that when we left at 7 they were quoting a 2-hour wait.  So, when we returned this past week, we put together a group of six, and calling three days ahead, managed to get a 7:15 reservation.  It’s a bit of an effort, but worth it.

Interestingly, the owners are American but the kitchen staff is Vietnamese.  The cooking is different from the typical New York Vietnamese style, in that it is North as opposed to South Vietnamese, which to us makes it more interesting.  Our other favorite Vietnamese restaurant is O Mai, and I wouldn’t say one is better or worse than the other.  The one exception I will make in that regard is the pho, which we found richer and more rousing at Ha Noi, definitely the best we’ve had, though we are not experts on this cuisine.  Other dishes we’ve tried are octopus, crispy pig’s ear and papaya salad, and summer rolls for appetizers, and for main courses the grilled shrimp with corn porridge, crispy skate with peanuts and pineapple, and bun cha (grilled pork in broth with crab spring rolls, pork meatballs and rice vermicelli, with lettuce for rolling).  These dishes were all outstanding.

There is a very diverse and interesting beer selection.  Seating is tight, service attentive, noise level is high.  Anyone willing to tolerate some inconvenience will be rewarded with some very tasty food.

Gladstone Library Reception


Century Association – New York

Last Tuesday we found ourselves attending a reception for The Gladstone Library in Hawarden, Wales., which was held at The Century Association.  Invited by our friend Scott, who is the president of the U.S.  Friends of the Gladstone Library,  Stanley had thought he had a prior engagement, but found he had confused dates in his calendar, so we were suddenly available.  Created by the eminent British Prime Minister toward the end of his life, the Gladstone Library  is both a library and residential “hotel” for twenty-four residential scholars and occupies a splendid Victorian gothic building not far from Gladstone’s home at Hawarden Castle.  We’ve gotten as close as Chester, which is just across the Welsh border.  It is the only prime-ministerial library, and was the model for Presidential libraries in the U.S.


Hawarden Castle

Vartan Gregorian, the former president of the New York Public Library, arrived and was recognized for having recently secured a sizeable grant from the Carnegie Foundation to allow the library to begin digitizing its collection.  He brought with him the newly-elected President of Armenia, Armen Sarkisian, whose presence served to affirm how deeply William Gladstone is venerated by Armenians.  The Rev. Peter Francis, Warden of the library, spoke about the modest fund raising effort the library is launching to meet current expansion needs prompted, in part, by the fact that they currently have only one ladies loo.  Among others present, we found ourselves chatting with Hugh Hildesley of Sotheby’s.  At the end of the presentations, Hugh moved to the center of the room and surprised the entire gathering with a most spontaneous and generous fund-raising proposal, the details of which it would not be prudent to make public, but if realized will certainly bring relief to the ladies in the long line for the loo.  A very splendid evening, and a great inspiration to make a visit to the library on our next trip to the U.K.