The list of things the Financial District does not feature on weekends includes: crowds, open bodegas, or respite from crosstown winter winds.
Recently, we discovered something new that this downtown does offer on a Saturday or Sunday: one of the classiest, old-school brunches in a string of restaurants that remind you how the other half lived 100 years ago.
The art deco tradition of the ‘20s and ‘30s left behind stylish towers where New Yorkers worked, wined and dined in an era known for the early days of American finance, food and cocktails. The restaurant Augustine carries this tradition forward, nestled on an upscale corner of a building housing the beautiful Beekman Hotel, The Bar Room and Tom Colicchio’s Fowler & Wells.
A golden hue permeates the cozy bar and elegant dining room, where diners enjoy classic American and French fare from the owners of a strong suite of establishments that includes Pastis, Balthazar, Schiller’s Liquor Bar, and more.
This is no casual brunch. This is eight varieties of eggs, all creative but not overthought, to meet any egg-lover’s preference. This is a range of flowery variations of classic brunch cocktails and brand new inventions. This is also where a bread basket costs $22.
Alas, pinkies out. Who doesn’t need a souffle of cave-aged Gruyere and Parmesan with horseradish fondue on a Sunday morning? This starter is light, fluffy and perfect with coffee.
I try the Bloody Mary everywhere I go, and look for a few defining qualities—balance of vodka to mix, flavor, but most of all, spiciness—and Augustine’s delivers. Their spiciest Bloody variety is offered with tequila, but they graciously substituted vodka for me.
We are those egg lovers we mentioned, and each of us opted for one of Augustine’s takes on the Benedict. I had the Eggs Cardinal, with Maine lobster, Swiss chard and sauce cardinal on an English muffin. Rich and creamy, it’s the kind of thing that might be served at a downtown banker’s country estate to European guests.
My fellow egg enthusiasts went for the Eggs Augustine, the menu’s closest cousin to the original dish, but with a few twists: whiskey-braised onions and bearnaise sauce on a toasted croissant. It’s like an Eggs Benedict went to finishing school, studied in Paris and came back with a new wardrobe.
No brunch is complete without bacon, and Augustine’s version is cherrywood smoked, giving it a sweet and salty glaze. We also opted for the creamed spinach, which came with a light sauce and crisp bread crumb topping—perfect to accompany our highbrow eggs.
Though we went classic, the brunch menu also offers more serious plates, like a burger (apparently a best seller), duck confit and even filet mignon.
As if this wasn’t feast enough, we capped our meal with the beignets, which come with three different luxurious sauces: nutella, apple butter and pastry cream.
The subsequent food coma was well worth the indulgence. Augustine is where you go for a special occasion, or, if you wake up and say, “I feel like putting on my Sunday best and having a multi-course, decadent Saturday night meal—for brunch.”
F Scott and Zelda would love this place. (Maybe they did, in one of its previous incarnations.)
The Bitches say: Five Flutes. You need a good knock-your-socks-off (and stretch-your-credit-card) brunch every now and again.
Augustine serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.