Slideshow SLIDESHOW: First Look: Bellwether in Williamsburg

[Photographs: Jessica Leibowitz]

The space that Bellwether occupies has had a long, at times sordid history. For 150 years it's been a food and drink establishment, most recently home to the rowdy Royal Oak. And back in the day, when Williamsburg was the territory of heavy industry and hipsters were more akin to vagrants, it was yet another bar, the party scene of North Brooklyn, though disreputable enough in its own way.

But Williamsburg has matured, in a fashion—just ask the soaring modern condos across the street for confirmation—and the new Bellwether seeks to be a part of that transformation while still honoring the location's saturnalian past.

The Bellwether's owners, a family and friends team of Williamsburg locals that's also behind Anella and Calyer, sought to rescue the space's vintage charms and create a full-service restaurant where people can sit down to dinner like grown ups. The interior design and general vibe of the place are meant to inspire the dinner parties young people wish they could afford: "if you had more space and could have more fabulous parties, you'd have them here," says partner Christopher Zalla.

Rear dining room

The menu leans Spanish in ingredients and vibrant preparations. It's dominated by light vegetables and plenty of seafood, augmented by a sizable raw bar. Stretches of North Williamsburg still echo undeveloped post-industrialism, but you wouldn't know it at the Bellwether as you sit down to the artfully and architecturally plated food by chef Andres Grundy. His influences—drawn from stints at Le Cirque, Aquavit, Boston's Clio, and other restaurants in New York, Paris, and Madrid—are clearly present in this very pretty, share-able menu: continental food with subtle modernist touches for a new generation of Brooklynites.

But at its core, nothing here is too fancy or too complicated. The owners aim to keep the menu accessible and easy-going, and more meat-and-potatoes dishes are apparently on their way. The aim, it seems, is to keep the food in step with the social verve of the space. Around midnight, the rear dining room transforms into a dance hall: tables fold away, a disco ball appears, and a DJ booth rocks a seriously impressive sound system that's drawn audiophiles from around the country. The restaurant's hours fit the vibe: it's open until 4 AM for dinner.

New developments are in store for the Bellwether. Brunch service has just begun and plans for outdoor seating are in the works. Check out the slideshow above for a look at some of the Bellwether's menu offerings.


594 Union Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211 (map)

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