It’s amazing how quickly the city comes alive once the temperature hits upwards of 50 degrees. Talking about this year’s epically frigid Polar Vortex is a bit played out, but I know I wasn’t the only New Yorker who wanted to shout from the rooftops when I felt that first ray of warm sunshine.
I already had Saturday brunch on the books with a few girlfriends and we immediately rerouted our restaurant choice to one with a patio once we heard the weather forecast. A high of 57 degrees?! That’s practically a heat wave. I was a bit overzealous and left the house in a tank top, sans jacket, but luckily our impending boozy brunch would provide an extra layer of warmth.
My friends have frequented Hotel Chantelle in the Lower East Side for the great DJ and garden rooftop, but never before midnight. I was a bit skeptical about the quality of brunch in a nightclub especially as a smattering of cigarette butts and the lingering smell of beer from the night prior greeted me at the front door.
I quickly ascended a dark staircase to the rooftop and was surprised with a delightful, bustling brunch scene. After my eyes adjusted to the bright, natural light pouring in the covered rooftop, I observed dozens of brunchers happily gossiping over crepes and giant punch bowls to the music of a live jazz band. Patio, bottomless, AND live jazz brunch? We may have just found the brunch trifecta.
Our group actually recognized the dapper band, Dandy Wellington, from a party to celebrate the book launch of “I Am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman” hosted at Bergdorf Goodman earlier in the year. The three-piece suits and pocket squares of the band meshed perfectly with Prohibition-style garb of the servers and wrought-iron moldings on the rooftop. The ambiance felt like we were in the heart of New Orleans, which happens to be one of my favorite cities in the country.
Jaime and Andrea had already snagged a table on the rooftop and were well on their way through their first 92 cent cocktails. That’s not a typo; the Strawberry Lime Rickey and Easy Passage cocktails cost .92 until 5 p.m. on the weekends. We knew it was going to be a long afternoon and the punch bowls looked fun, so we settled on a large bowl of the white sangria after finishing our first round of cheap cocktails.
With inventive, French-inspired dishes such as Croque-Monsieur spring rolls, Nutella banana crepes, and a scrambled egg crostini, we decided to share an array of items in order to sample as much as possible.
We started with a half grapefruit topped with bruleed raw cane sugar. It was a refreshing start to the meal, but we wished the fruit was precut. It was difficult to extract the sugary goodness without spilling all over the plate.
Next came the bacon, egg, and cheese dumplings served with spicy ketchup. This starter was easy to share and contained the perfect amount of grease to counteract a hangover. Additionally, my spice-loving palate was satisfied by the zippy condiment.
To round out our excessive food and drink for the afternoon, we also ordered the kale caesar salad. The kale was plentiful and well-dressed, and we gobbled up the crispy garlic crouton.
For our entrees, we aimed for a balance of savory and sweet so we split the breakfast pizza and stuffed French toast. The paper-thin crust was piled high with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, chopped chives, and more spicy ketchup. The pizza was tasty and easy to share with a group, although it was a bit challenging to eat without a knife and fork.
We gasped as the waiter set down our order of stuffed French toast. It was probably the largest portion of French toast that I’ve ever seen. This gorgeous plate of carbs was stuffed with maple infused mascarpone and ricotta and coated in frosted flakes. It was so rich that we could only muster a few bites before throwing in the towel.
Brunch at Hotel Chantelle turned into an all-afternoon affair between the punch bowl of sangria and numerous courses. We were perfectly content sitting back and listening to the lively tunes of Dandy Wellington long after our last plate was cleared. After about thirty minutes of loitering, our server politely offered to buy our next round at the bar in order to gain access our table for a large party coming in for a reservation, which we eagerly accepted. We stuck around awhile longer for the .92 cocktails (you seriously can’t beat that deal in New York City) and to people watch as the crowd slowly shifted to the nightclub set.
The Bitches say: A-. Hotel Chantelle offers a lively bottomless brunch with creative French fare and cheap cocktails perfect for sunny afternoons with great friends.
Hotel Chantelle serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. (212) 254-9100