The Parlour Midtown
247 West 30th Street
(between 7th and 8th Avenue)
New York, NY 10001
This past Tuesday night, John Kelly's The Parlour opened its doors to a very exclusive crowd of media affiliates for a sneak-peek at the restaurant that's soon to be blessing the Midtown-West area with its Irish-style gastro-pub. My editor and I were two of the lucky ones whose eyes got to grace this sophisticated space before its public opening (Wednesday night), gingerly sipping drinks from the open bar whilst enjoying music and tasty samplers from the menu. Oh! And we saw Robert Verdi. What did you do Tuesday night? It's not a contest...but we win.
Walking through the glass doors of this fine establishment, the first thing you notice is the dark oak bar, circulating with drinkers juggling anything from cocktails to glasses of ice cold beer. With the state-of-the-art frosted beer taps imported from Europe, illuminated shelves upon shelves of liquor-lined excess, bartenders diligently keeping glasses filled (...and four vodka cranberries later, I was thrilled to pieces), and enormous flat-screen televisions hanging throughout, the bar is the heartbeat of the restaurant, constantly pulsing with conversation, warmth, and entertainment.
As far as selection goes, the pub serves Guinness alongside local IPAs from New York breweries, in addition to a wine selection hand-picked from renowned expert Andre Compeyre. Whatever kind of drink you fancy - be it straight Jameson or Pinot Grigio - the bar has your thirst covered.
The dark oak, however sleek in appearance, stops at the bar. Owner John Kelly, a charming Irishman with blue eyes, ash-blonde hair and freckles, told us that he made it a point, when laying out the restaurant, to step away from the expected wooden interior found in most pubs. "We're trying to take the wood out of the Irish pub," Kelly said. "We're Irish, yes, but we're trying to take it into the next century."
Seeking out the help of Ireland-based design company - Berington Group Interior Designers - to achieve his vision for clean, glossy surfaces and modern simplicity, the space unfolds, the farther you walk, into little seating coves, den-like almost, of plush brown leather banquettes and wrap-around booths perfect for getting close and cozy with handsome potentials. Between the main floor dining area, the above alcove and the private room downstairs (that seats 16 at a long table and has internet access for business meetings, a large flat-screen TV, and gold-embossed framed mirrors), the facility houses 220 guests.
A definite conversational aspect of the restaurant, and possibly the most memorable for my editor and me (aside from the kick-ass Dyson hand dryer in the restroom that took six seconds to dry my hands), was the display of artwork that lined the walls. Satirical portraits of famous Irishmen like Oscar Wilde, Bono, Samuel Beckett, and Luke Kelly hung from the high walls of the main floor, while more continued to the upstairs dining area. Going hand-in-hand with this theme, the back of each menu features one of these same portraits, drawing the eyes upwards to the ones on the walls and all around the restaurant. According to Kelly, these pieces represent the diversity of Irish culture - they're actors, they're poets, they're visionaries, and they're all joining you for a bite to eat.
Kelly's plan to transform the way people think about Irish pubs doesn't stop at just interior decorating details. He plans to use his menu as a way of communicating the sophisticated evolution of Irish eats, while still staying true to authenticity. "We're evolving, but we want to keep it up to date," Kelly said. "We're trying to add good food to what people think of when they think of an Irish establishment.
Recruiting the French-Canadian chef Jacques Belanger to create his vision, Kelly explained that, "I give him the ingredients I want, and he puts his own spin on it." Sourced from quality producers, The Parlour offers traditional Irish cuisine alongside updated and refreshed American-influenced dishes. One of the appetizers being served was the Smoked Salmon Boxty, a slab of guiltily-scrumptious salty fish atop a crispy potato puff, crowned with creamy crème fraiche and American cavier. We each took one, but after devouring them like a bunch of crazed leprechauns, we both wished we had taken more. But to the relief of our salivary glands, the Lamb Slider was presented to us next. The amazingly warm and - again with the sodium - salty piquancy was one thing, but the suppleness of the house-groun meat was completely another. It was so soft and perfectly cooked, that it felt like the culinary gods had formed it perfectly just for me - not to mention the cool Irish-imported yogurt (Irish yogurt? What?) that topped this masterpiece, and the picholine roll it so sweetly sat between.
And don't just take my word for it. Marketing director Daryn Mayer, of Daryn Mayer Media, was also one of the many that experienced the culinary spell that Jacques Belanger has put us all under. "The Parlour space is fabulous, the food is delicious," Mayer shared. "I like the brand concept of a gastro spin on the Irish pub. The diverse menu gives the restaurant the ability to market their culinary uniqueness to all who enjoy excellent food and drink, fair prices, along with a welcoming staff in a magnificent midtown space."
Experiencing this next generation take on the "Irish Pub" firsthand has completely sold me on the evolutionary vision of John Kelly. My pre-conceived notions have been wiped clean, leaving only affectionate appreciation for the thought that went into each menu item, each layout concept and each personal touch of Irish charm. Visit them yourselves, Monday-Friday, 11:30am-3:00pm (lunch), and Monday-Saturday, 5:00pm-11:00pm (dinner).