An ornate yet nondescript door hides the passageway to this cavernous basement bar at the Chelsea Market. The Tippler, owned by Michael Barrett and run by Paul Tanguy and Tad Carducci of the Tippling Bros., is a tad too new to have formed a solid identity yet. Industrial-style furnishings and decorative touches such as antique gold-embroidered books lend to a speakeasy feel, yet the large open space suggests a live music or dance environment.
For now, it's perfect for large groups slinging back the Booty Collins (with gunpowder tea-infused vodka) and the Pendennicillin (gin, whiskey, honey, citrus and smoked salt). With stiff drinks like those, food will be necessary. Start with a crudo of delicate Montauk Fluke ($11), dressed with cherry tomato and lemon soy, a refreshing starter perfect for sharing.
As the night continues, move on to heavier items, such as the Boquerones ($9), anchovies with roasted garlic spread on thick country bread. A shot of lemon adds a bright acidity to the dish. Avoid the Pan Con Tomate ($7), which tastes more like bland bruschetta than the flavorful tomato and garlic -rubbed bread you would find in a great Spanish tapas bar.
If an injection of fattiness is needed to balance out a night of cocktails, go with a jar of thick Chicken Liver Pate ($9), cut nicely by a topping of vinegary pickled shallots.
As a simple snack, you can't go wrong with Homemade Potato Chips ($3), which changes daily. Truffle and Parmesan happened to be the flavor of the day when we visited.
We wish as much creativity had been invested in the menu as the cocktails and the space itself, but to The Tippler's credit, the food is solid. If it stays strong, we foresee a great addition to the neighborhood.