Since its opening in the fall of 2017, the Freehand Hotel is one of the buzziest, most popular, see-and-be-seen spots in the city, adding a much-needed stylish hotel to the Flatiron District. The hotel has quickly become one of the “it spots” in Manhattan, due to the chic aesthetic, and its tropical rooftop cocktail bar, the Broken Shaker, which bears the same name as its award-winning sister in Miami.
The Bitches have visited — and fallen in love with — the Freehand in Miami, both for the Broken Shaker with its charm and cocktails, and 27 Restaurant for its delicious, eclectic brunch with international, tropical brunch vibes. There’s something about Miami: the Freehand Chicago doesn’t quite enchant us the same way Miami does, but nonetheless we were eager to give the Manhattan outpost a try. We’ve waited in the massive line (Bitches hate lines) to enjoy rooftop tiki drinks at the Broken Shaker, and recently enjoyed a great dinner at Simon & The Whale, the hotel’s new American restaurant. We immediately made reservations for brunch three weeks out, which is about as soon as you can get a reservation.
Arriving through the doors of the Freehand, you’re taken by the chic, retro aesthetic of the hotel and restaurant, Simon & The Whale, with its bulbous, 1960s-style light fixtures, wooden bars and paneling, and its blue tiled walls. The low lit space gives off the vibes of a 70s style cocktail den, but modernized for present-day New York. The light fixtures, mirrors, potted plants, and greenery toe the line between casual and elevated.
Despite opening a year ago, the Freehand maintains its popularity: reservations on Resy are not easy to come by, and at noon on a Saturday, Simon & The Whale is positively packed with stylish groups of brunchers. We cozied in to a table and promptly ordered coffees and cocktails. The service is friendly and effective — and surprisingly unpretentious when compared to the service you receive when trying to make a reservation.
Simon & The Whale has a cocktail menu that’s unique but not bizarre. We opted for the two most feminine drinks; the “Becky with the Good Hair” is the restaurant’s variation of a mimosa, with prosecco, Chinola (passionfruit juice), Campari, and orange. Served simply in a tumbler, this cocktail was tart, sweet, and frothy — this is something that you would order five of if you were day drinking. (Although, at $14 a pop, you may not want to do that.)
The “It’s Not Me, It’s You” was a lovely purple cocktail crafted with Zubrowka vodka, Lillt rouge, cinnamon, and apple. It was a beautiful beverage, served in a crystal lowball glass, garnished with a rosemary sprig. Despite its lilac color, it tasted like cinnamon and apples—like apple picking in a cocktail.
The fresh, house-made pastries, presented table-side from a large board full of mouth-watering confections, are really something. The must-order is the coconut-caramel Kouign-amann, a fluffy, flaky pastry with croissant-style dough with a crunchy, caramelized outside. Woven through the layers of flaky, pull-apart pastry was a delicious, dark caramel very similar to dulce de leche. It was sweet, decadent, and utterly satisfying — perhaps the best pastry we’ve had all year.
The Little Gems salad, an elevated take on a Caesar, is a solid order off the starters menu. Served in a massive bowl, the romaine and kale were drenched in a unique tonnato vinaigrette, loads of fresh shredded parmesan, and several halves of cured eggs. Atop the whole dish were dark black bread crumbs. This is not a healthy salad, but a flavorful, enjoyable one — we particularly enjoyed the runny yolk of the cured eggs with bread crumbs mixed into the salad.
The baked eggs have a Latin flavor, with black beans, cilantro, and lime crema, topped with tortilla crisps and served in a skillet. They were rather bland, and could have used a lot more flavor. We’d recommend skipping these.
The pork hash is a solid order: a skillet filled with roasted pork, topped with sunny-side up eggs, and packed with flavor from tomatillo and chilies. The pork was moist but not too fatty, and the fat, tomatillo, and chili added a rich flavor.
The Bitches say: four Champagne flutes. The ambiance and aesthetic is chic, as are the servers and brunch guests. Aside from the décor and ambiance, the food and beverage hold their own, though the restaurant won’t be taking home any Michelin stars.
Simon & The Whale serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m.