First Look: Whitehall
You'd expect the newest restaurant from the team behind Highlands and Mary Queen of Scots to have some sort of British Isles theme (and you'd be right). But whereas the first two are warm and publike, dark-wooded and cozy, Whitehall is more stripped-down urban London. Like its logo, modeled after London street signs—instantly familiar to anyone who's ever wondered what an NW8 is—it's clean and spartan, all white tile and exposed bulbs, more cool than cushy. Gin, not scotch.
The menu, too, the work of chef Chris Rendell, is a little lighter on the plate; raw oysters rather than fried, a simply grilled pork chop rather than venison Wellington. Mushy peas (in fritters, no less) and the occasional sausage don't let you forget it's British, but this isn't pub fare.
It's in a West Village space that once held Sweetiepie—better known as "that pink restaurant with the birdcage"—though it's unrecognizable as the same space. ("People asked what we did with the birdcage," joked chef Rendell. "I told them I brought it home.") In back, it's a bit darker and cozier, a dining room that adds a good bit of additional seating; the front is dominated by a gorgeous rough-wooden bar, the surrounding small tables with stools and parklike green benches, rather than banquettes.
A drinking destination as much as an eating one, Whitehall has a few proper taps (Guinness, Old Speckled Hen, Blackthorn cider), more beer by the bottle, and a cocktail list designed by bar manager John McCarthy. While his drinks at Mary Queen of Scots are, predictably, a little heavier on the brown stuff (more on those next week!), Whitehall makes more use of gin and genever for cocktails generally refreshing but complex, often making use of elements (teas, fig jams) that I associate with Britain but not necessarily with cocktails. A few classics, like the Negroni, Aviation, and the genever-based Martinez, make the list as well.
Take a look at the drinks, dishes, and desserts of Whitehall in the slideshow above.