Birds & Bubbles - New York City, U.S.A.
***This establishment is now closed***
Praised as the latest incarnation of the comfort food craze, Sarah Simmons’ posh, subterranean restaurant on the northern edge of Chinatown has been packed nightly since its September opening. The concept - fried chicken meets champagne.
The restaurant, hidden down an iron stairwell off the sidewalk, stretches from the bar to a dimly-lit, narrow dining room. Brick walls are hung with playful photos of chefs and beautiful people eating fried chicken. A busy space at night, Birds & Bubbles is (at least for now) positively empty for brunch on weekends, making it the perfect place to linger over baskets of delicate fried chicken beignets and flutes of champagne.
Simmons grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and draws inspiration for her winning menu from the American South. Traditional buttermilk biscuits, shrimp and grits, gravies, and marmalades all feature prominently on the brunch menu alongside fitting additions like flavorful shakshuka and green eggs & ham. Simmons uses only the highest-quality ingredients, sourcing her organic, free-range chicken from D’Artagnan in Amish Country.
A recent weekend brunch at Birds & Bubbles opened with the celebratory pop of a crisp sparkling bottle from the Loire Valley and a shared order of the toasted banana bread, topped with candied walnuts and drizzled table-side with a delicious espresso cream. The sausage gravy empanadas were a surprisingly good combination of sweet and savory flavors; spicy sausage with fennel was excellent alongside smoked orange marmalade and candied orange peel.
The main courses, less inventive than the smaller baked dishes, were well-balanced and comforting. The winning dish by far was the Birdies in a Blanket, bits of chicken dipped and fried in waffle batter and finished with a dusting of smoked cinnamon and powdered sugar.
Essentially chicken beignets, these tasty mouthfuls were delivered in a paper-lined wire basket with a rich maple sauce and were impossible to stop eating.
The drink menus were comprehensive, and a knowledgeable staff is happy to make suggestions. The sparkling bottle menu features pops of champagne grouped by flavor profile, from lighter to full bodied, and includes a pretty selection of vintage champagne and a choice of less expensive, high quality bubblies from across Europe and the United States. A separate menu profiles brunchbubbles available by the glass, listed by their flavor profile. With names like “Tangerine” and “Toasted Almonds” these offerings range from $13 to $22 and make it easy for a champagne novice to choose something she likes.
A meal of biscuits, eggs, banana bread, and fried birds finished with a last complimentary glass of sparkling Taltarni Brut “Tache” rosé from Australia. (“Flowers” from the bubbly menu). Strongly impressed by the attentive and gracious service, we’ll be sure to make a trip back for a round of chicken and egg biscuits before the New York brunch crowd floods in.
Images © Emma Stencil
After a few years traveling around Europe, Emma traded Parisian cafés and marchés for the New York dollar-slice. Currently based in Manhattan, Emma works in travel PR and writes about food, wine and destinations. Find her brunch recommendations at www.goodbrunch.wordpress.com