The Noortwyck Is Everything You Want a Neighborhood Restaurant to Be
Two Eleven Madison Park alums want their regulars to enjoy elevated food in a convivial setting
I still remember the breakfast sandwich. It was a chilly, sunny Saturday when I walked into The Noortwyck, the new American restaurant that opened in June of this year and began serving brunch in September. Blue skies poured into the space, which has the appearance of a modern yet casual Paris bistro where only the locals go. The West Village restaurant is minimalist and midcentury, with some luxurious touches like velvet couches and leather-topped tables.
Co-owner Cedric Nicaise seated me at the sleek wooden bar at my request. I drank coffee from a slim white mug, and one by one dishes appeared on matching white plates. They seemed standard at first — avocado toast, Eggs Benedict, a breakfast sandwich — but in true Noortwyck fashion, nothing is quite so simple, and delightfully so. The avocado toast is topped with labneh and a michelada spice that adds a zesty tang, and the homemade bread is a voluminous seeded parkerhouse that’s still warm from the kitchen. Similarly, the Eggs Benedict appear on a homemade English muffin, which makes me hard-pressed to return to Thomas’. And the breakfast sandwich. Served on a homemade Japanese milk bun with applewood smoked bacon and a side of cheddar mornay for dipping, every bite had a sweet, salty, cheesy and fluffy chew I have not since forgotten.
According to chef and co-owner Andrew Quinn, the brunch menu was mostly devised by executive pastry chef Ileene Cho, but it also reflects much of Quinn’s own ethos. “When you come here, you get recognizable food,” Quinn says. “But we hope it’s the best version that you’ve probably eaten in the past year, or maybe even in your entire life.” His roast chicken, for example, is a classic dish with a global twist. Green Circle chicken from the Hudson Valley is marinated in a mixture of yogurt, black pepper, cilantro and honey for 24 hours, which was inspired by the Indian foodways from Quinn’s hometown of Leicester, England. The chicken caramelizes as it roasts before it’s finished over coals to add smokiness. It’s served with romesco and chimichurri sauces, as well as triple-cooked steak fries made from Chipperbec potatoes, which Quinn landed on after trying something like 20 different kinds. They take three days to make. The potatoes are peeled and cut, soaked overnight, steamed, frozen overnight, blanch fried, frozen again overnight, and fried to cook.
“I guess with our background and all the kitchens that I’ve worked in, it would kind of be lazy to just make crushed avocado on a piece of toasted bread,” Quinn says. “It’s just taking it a little bit to the next level, or elevating it in some way, or presenting in a way that makes it a little bit interesting.”
Both Quinn and Nicaise were previously employed at Eleven Madison Park, Quinn as a sous chef and Nicaise as the wine director. And while the famed three-Michelin star restaurant became known the world over for its tasting menu, Quinn and Nicaise sought something different in a place of their own: Approachability, accessibility and comfort. “At least for me, it just didn’t seem like the right time to open another very fancy, high-end tasting menu situation,” Nicaise says. “And so we opened a casual restaurant that could be really fun and delicious and accessible.”
Quinn’s concept for The Noortwyck was initially inspired by the pubs of his native England. And while the pub stereotype might include televisions playing football games and meat hand pies, he says, “where I’m from, what the pub represents is a little bit different, and it’s somewhere you can go and get a great meal. It’s incredibly hospitable and welcoming.” So no, The Noortwyck is not a pub and was never intended to be, but Quinn and Nicaise did seek to duplicate their warm, welcoming nature, coupled with great food. It’s a neighborhood restaurant that’s special enough for a date but relaxed enough to pop in casually.
“The only thing that was really missing in my experience working service at EMP was to have real regulars,” Nicaise says. At Eleven Madison Park, a regular was often someone who came in a maximum of four times a year. This is the opposite of their experience at The Noortwyck — even though they’ve only been open for five months, he recognizes people have been back as many as 10 times. “I want people to be really familiar and for our guests to really share the ownership of the restaurant,” he says. That neighborhood aspect is important to them as they move forward, as is the high quality of the food and the service, something Nicaise says he feels you rarely get in a typical neighborhood joint. “That’s the goal of the restaurant. When people walk out — and whether it’s the next day, the next month, six months from now — to be like, ‘Fuck, I can’t wait to come back here, this place is great.’”
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