Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Café St. Bartholomew's

Midtown, NYC

Review by Susu, ThePlazaQueen, MaceVindaloo, Rosie, SteakGrrl, Runt, Diana, Wraith6, Csillag

We'd just been to church and were ready for brunch. We were going from the world of the spiritual to the world of the carnal, and it seemed too abrupt a transition to just go and eat brunch somewhere random. There is a solution -- why not eat brunch at a church? Not just any church, but at St. Bartholomew's Church on Park Avenue, a Romanesque church with Byzantine features and decoration. Like any distinctive landmark in New York, this church has been the backdrop of movies and shows. We once drove past it during high summer at night, and noticed many bright, bright lights. Upon getting closer, we noticed ... snow? They were shooting a movie scene, and we bet those actors were baking in their winterwear in the 90+ degree heat, pretending to be chilly.

The Café is located on the south side of the church, where there is a terrace on which outdoor concerts are still given. It's been taken over by the Sage Group, who run small restaurants and provide catering services. The meals here are elegant, but not big in range, given that there is not a true kitchen on-site, but instead there are grills and temporary heating facilities, a lot of carrying about of chillchests and food moving from some space inside the church to the serving areas. The café also occupies a reception space inside for the non-warm months. Sounds like a picnic, don't you think? So when ordering food at a set-up like this, try to think about what would be good if cooked or carried to a picnic (that's a serious piece of advice, by the way).

The waitress and the hostess were very nice. We'd made the reservation online, and it was honored without any trouble. We love the Internet. The place is set up with what looks like pricy lawn furniture, covered with white linens, cloth napkins, nice flatware and kind of funky plates. They brought out a flowerpot lined with a bright white starched napkin filled with various quickbreads: cheese biscuits, raisin scones, nut, banana. Very brunchy. (Jacques Torres says the US in unique in it's variety of breakfast quickbreads. Hooray for us!) The variation on breadbaskets in New York is quite amazing, actually.

The brunch menu is a prix fixe, and includes things as eggs benedict, lox, a Caesar salad with chicken, waffles, french toast, egg on a biscuit, etc. at $20 per person. The children's menu is half that price, and includes things as chicken "fingers" or hotdog and fries. The plates and bowls are pretty, the presentations are really nice. The waffles came with a little bottle of maple syrup with a label from Sage. The chicken was breaded and sautéed in olive oil and it was soggy. The same chicken breast was sliced into ½-inch strips for the kids' meal and the kids didn't care for it — it was not what anyone would consider to be "chicken fingers." The fries are the coated type, very good and crunchy / chewy, different from the homemade fries we'd had at other places. The Caesar salad was good, redolent with tiny grape tomatoes stuffed with anchovy butter. The other items were very good. The winners for the meal were the lox and the eggs benedict -- they were perfect and beautiful. A request for extra Hollandaise came without question, and even though it was a premade sauce, it tasted good, not gritty like some premades. (Just don't order anything with the chicken, okay?)

The kid's meals come with ice cream, which they serve in a stemmed martini glass. We got tea; they didn't ask what type, they just gave us a bunch of Tazo teabags and a pot of hot water. These are great teas, filled with herbs and spices.

It was a nice place, and a good transition from holy to secular. And it's a beautiful setting. We hear there is a lobster dinner special on Tuesday nights. Don't know how we feel about dismembering one of God's creatures in one of His houses ... but we should try it. It's not the chicken, after all.

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