Augustine has a certain charm to it. It’s based in the heart of Financial District in the Beekman Hotel which bodes an art deco feel which is not typically associated with the neighbourhood. In the restaurant, there’s hand-painted tiles which are plated across the walls, vintage mirrors, a main antique clock and wooden tables covered with white paper and a red leather banquette flows through the edge of the restaurant’s interior. It’s a mix of an eclectic French bistro, New York lunch diner & hipster club lunch spot; and the crowd mirrors the diversity of the vibe.
The staff prove friendly and the sommelier is gorgeous and she immediately assists me in finding a beautiful bottle of wine.
L’esprit De Chevalier, Pessac-Léognan, (2012), France
Now, given I am having duck later, I would normally go with a Pinot Noir, but I wanted something a little heavier. The wine is a gem and right up my alley and the Cabernet (65%) is blunted by a good portion of Merlot (30%).
The wine flows effortlessly; beautiful dark fruits (berries, red cherries) dominate with a medley of rich chocolate and liquorice notes which follow. The wine has a distinctly chalky texture from its beautiful light silty tannins. In the finish there’s some light sweet spice with touch of soft earthiness which lingers.
Hand cut Steak Tartare with yuzu koshu, nori and quail egg
The richness of the quail egg and the soft jelly like texture tenderly represents a flow of flavours. There is a wonderful mix of spice, salinity and tartness mixed in the tartare to accentuate the steak’s natural flavours. The toasties to spread the tartare mix on provides some crunch to an otherwise moist / soft dish. It’s a flow of textures and flavours which balance each other well.
Duck à l’orange
Duck Breast, Grand Marnier marinated duck leg, turnips, greens and orange marmalade
It’s the unmistakable flow of game and fruit – it’s as classic a pairing as one would ask. The strength of citrus stands up to the duck flavours with the poise and precision required for the dish.
The beautiful tender duck breasts which have a little smoky crisp outer edge and skin which oozes the natural oils of the duck into the breasts where the light pink juices exude deeper flavours. The citrus “impose” fuses with the duck to deliver the perfect sensation on the palate. The turnips and vegetables prove a nice balance to what is a pretty strong dish. On the side is the confit duck leg is stored in a wrapped pastry which offers a delicate crunch with the moist duck leg and vegetables – it’s a touch of comfort.
Baba au Rhum
Baba au Rhum with Vanilla Chantilly
The doughy cake is drenched in a rum syrup with even more rum poured on top for good measure. The cakes crumby and doughiness is transformed into a soft moist texture which melts on the tongue. Each scoop of cake has a good dose of syrupy sweetness with thick Chantilly crème and proves to be a decadent tasting experience. It is a little sweet but proves to be the touch of comfort I need.
I have a Bénédictine DOM to pair with the baba au rhum. It adds further strength to what is already a rich, alcoholic dish. I do enjoy the smooth mix of sweet spice, citrus, honey and herbs flavours of the liqueur and gently see out the evening.
Here is a little video diary of the restaurant experience. Hope you enjoy it.
The food hit the mark; the steak tartare was lovely, duck was perfect, the wine list had some pretty decent half bottles which were perfect for the solo diner. The rum baba as quite sweet but that’s more a personal preference as I usually skip dessert as I’m not a sweet tooth. The service was good and on the mark but more substance than flair. There wasn’t any fawning over, it was professional and polite. The dishes were explained as they were plated and the wine glass continually refilled.
A couple of points to note; the lighting is a little dark and if you’re seated at the back and there’s very limited natural light. The table was covered with just white paper and I’m a huge fan of nice linen on tables (especially white linen) so that was not the style I would have gone for.
Those are only minor grievances, as the restaurant delivers a solid dining experience which makes it one of my go to spots next time I’m in New York.