A Wes Anderson aesthetic is instantly recognizable—the color scheme, the symmetry, the attention to detail. And when I walked into the brand-new Freehand hotel in Flatiron, I felt instantly transported to the set of one of his films.
Freehand, a hotel haven for creatives with three other locations in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami, opened in what used to be the George Washington Hotel on Lexington Avenue at 23rd. Channeling the history of writers, musicians, and creatives who used to hang at the George Washington Hotel, Freehand is aiming to revitalize the artistic community in the neighborhood.
It started by commissioning artwork from students and alumni from Bard College, and these pieces peppered throughout the space impart an elevated domestic warmth—your home but better. I half expected to come upon Bill Murray sitting in a corner reading the paper. I won’t be surprised if someone does one day.
Studio is on the second floor of the hotel, and to reach it you walk down a gallery decorated with lush greenery and a few curated seating vignettes—perfect for canoodling with a lover or having a civilized cup of tea with a co-worker.
For some reason, I thought Studio might be a small daytime café, but it turned out to be an expansive gorgeously designed restaurant, whose teal walls, fur throws, and assorted trees and plants aligned well with the North African and Near East influences on the menu.
I dined at a time outside the technical brunch/breakfast hours, but I was able to try some of the menu items that cross over to the brunch menu on the weekends: the chocolate morning bun and the Bruno sandwich, as well as a glass of fresh-squeezed OJ.
Recommended as one of Studio’s most popular breakfast pastries by my waitress, the chocolate morning bun was an indulgent start to my little meal (I dined solo this day).
Covered in sparkly sugar granules, the cocoa-flavored bun contained swirl after swirl of flaky pastry that I unfurled and ate bite by bite until reaching the best part: the soft center. It’s a great option to split at the start of the meal. Or, if you’re by yourself like I was, just house the whole thing like the champion you are.
The Bruno sandwich, a combination of halved hard-boiled egg, avocado, sprouts and charred cucumbers stuffed on top of hummus in a pita and accompanied by a side of harissa was a flavor bomb in the best way.
Even though the pita was overstuffed and overflowing, the mess of ingredients was tangy and delicious, so I didn’t mind that it kept getting all over my hands. The cucumbers tasted more pickled than charred, a bonus for my tastes, and the harissa provided an extra hit of spice that kicked the flavors up a notch without adding too much heat. I added some to practically every bite.
My only wish is that I had had someone dining with me so I could have tasted more dishes. Oh well, all the more reason to come back for round two. (And to check out Simon and the Whale and the George Washington Bar—Freehand’s other restaurant and bar.)
As I was finishing my sandwich around 1 p.m., the restaurant started to fill up with people hugging and greeting each other. Do all creatives know each other? One look at the tables of smartly dressed young people—I was totally eyeing the J.W. Anderson Converse high tops on the woman sitting next to me—indicated yes. And with its Instagram-perfect decor, impressive food, and laid-back vibes, Studio is sure to become their home base. And really who could blame them?
The Bitches Say: A. Studio at the Freehand is the total package—food to return for, a great space, and a great vibe. It’s the perfect versatile spot for a weekday brunch meeting, after-work drinks, or brunch with the family or a big group. We can’t wait to come back and try more of the menu.
Studio at the Freehand
23 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY
Studio serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and breakfast from Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.