I know it’s a formula, but it is a formula that works. Keith McNally’s, Augustine at 5 Beckmann Street may remind you of his other successful restaurants, Balthazar, Pastis, Morandi and Minetta Tavern to name a few. But this is McNally’s first French foray into the Financial District. He opens the same type of restaurants over and over again, but why not, they are hugely successful. This one may be his best yet, situated in the gorgeous Beekman Hotel, he has hired two exceptional talents to run the restaurant. Shane McBride is a co-executive chef alongside Daniela Padilla. Shane worked previously at Aureole, Lespinasse, Craft Steak and Balthazar. Daniela cut her teeth at Cafe Boulud, Bouley and Minetta Tavern. The duo both worked together at McNally’s Cherche Midi, as well.
The restaurant is stunning. You would never know it is brand new and just opened in November of 2016. It looks like it is right out of Belle Époque Paris, with 90 seats, the spacious room has vintage mirrors, brown banquets, and ornamental hand-painted art nouveau glazed tiles with flowers that climb the walls. There are heavy wrought iron chandeliers. The room really evokes Paris. Not everything works on the menu, but that doesn’t stop patrons from coming in scores to pack them in. The Financial District seems to be the next new up and coming area, but you don’t have to work here or live nearby, people are coming in droves from everywhere.
The menu reads similarly to his other classic restaurants with a few new elements in the mix. They serve rustic versions of French brasserie classics and some lighter dishes focusing on seafood and vegetables. Of course, there is always oysters. Things like leg of lamb, salad nicoise, bouillabaisse, duck a la orange, foie gras, steak tartare, tarte tatin. Much of the food is unremarkable and can be heavy. Yet you still feel special being there.
Brunch is more relaxed and the menu has things like egg dishes, pancakes, salads and pastries. We found the burger to be really heavy and didn’t sit right. The avocado and crab salad with hearts of palm, grapefruit, and mâché was tasteless. The sea urchin spaghettini with crab and pickled jalapeño is a good dish, as is the avocado toast with poached eggs. The best thing we ate was the fabulous pastry basket with monkey bread, canelé and chocolate croissants. The beautiful bar served a section of, “hangover” drinks.
The bar is packed in the evenings serving old-school favourite cocktails plus a special selection of martinis. The wines focus on France with a nod to American producers as well.
I am one of the few people who is not bowled over by Keith McNally’s restaurant empire, and this place is no exception, it’s reminiscent of many of his other spots. But this one is a stunner and is worth checking out.