At the start of 2019, The Blake Hotel opened in Downtown New Haven. In the spring, a rooftop lounge, High George, and a restaurant, Hamilton Park would open. Normally, hotel restaurants garner a reaction of “Meh,”—this is Connecticut, not New Orleans—but when the restaurants are under the direction of Tyler Anderson, chef Ashley Flagg, and Tim Cabral (of Ordinary fame) handling the beverage program, all of it is enticing from the jump.
When High George had its opening, I’ll admit to being disappointed that I couldn’t attend. I wasn’t free to do so but driving from Norwalk to New Haven for anything happening around rush hour is a fool’s errand. I could’ve put off other work “stuff” but that traffic is a form of torture I’m not willing to endure. Thankfully, High George was covered, and covered well, by my colleague and real life friend, James Gribbon. James will also complain about traffic, so I’m certain if he was in my shoes, he’d have done the same thing.
They did, however, promise me a raincheck. I waited a bit but finally pounced on an invite that wasn’t for High George—that I still want to experience, by the way—but for Hamilton Park, located just past the hotel lobby. And it was for brunch. It should be noted that because Hamilton Park operates in a hotel, they’re open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.
Because of the brunchy nature of this invitation, I couldn’t think of a better companion than my friend, Shamika. I’m certain she owns more than one cutesy brunch themed shirt and she’ll openly express her love for brunch to anyone willing to listen.
We decided on an early brunch just after Hamilton Park begins their 11 a.m. service when it wasn’t bustling with hotel guests and New Haven locals, and light listening live jazz as a backdrop. Shortly after, say 1 p.m.-ish, business certainly picked up in the dining room, just an FYI for reservation purposes.
We’d forgo the salads, the parfait, and the toasts and instead started with cocktails. Brunch starts with booze. It’s a rule. While there are some light, spritzy drinks offered, and we did suck those right down, I ultimately moved onto a smoked cocktail. Smoke on the Water (Old Henry Clay Rye, sugar, locally made Liberation Angelic Root Bitters) is a variation of an old fashioned; it’s strong with a touch of sweetness and some herbal, juniper notes from the angelica root bitters. Once it’s mixed, it receives an infusion of Applewood smoke as it’s locked inside a lantern. Expect the whole place to stare at you when it’s delivered to your table. Points for a spooky, witchy presentation. More points for a well-balanced drink that I haven’t soon forgotten.
Food was imminent. Carbs were needed. We immediately ordered three sandwiches, two of them of the yolky variety, to start.
The “Brunch Burger” was the no-brainer choice and a wise one. This fancified fast food burger comes as a beefy double, American cheese envelopes the patties and oozes down to the plate. It’s brunchy form involves a runny sunny egg and plenty of béarnaise sauce. It’s a messy task with the yolk-sauce-cheese combo but it’s a satisfyingly beefy, juicy experience. Push your chair close, rock a bib if need be, and don’t put it down ‘til it’s gone.
Our second sandwich, a breakfast sandwich (egg, cheddar, spicy aioli, greens, homemade sausage), we found just OK. Not bad by any means but didn’t wow us. Did the burger set the bar too high?
Not at all! That’s where the kimchi and pork belly sandwich comes in. Our waiter said it was his favorite. The manager said she eats one or more every week. Man, they didn’t lie! The pork belly (smoked in-house) was equal parts crispy to fatty with appropriate saltiness that married well with the funky kimchi and vinegary pickles. Need again. Now.
The steak & eggs, lobster pasta, and buckwheat gemelli would be saved for a future visit. We did not pass on the lobster Benedict (lobster patties, veggie succotash, hollandaise) served on Atticus sourdough bread with two perfectly poached eggs. We continued with something sweet; two frisbee sized, ultra-fluffy lemon ricotta pancakes with fresh blueberries. They weren’t too sweet—although I’m guilty of heavy maple syrup pours—and the lemon popped just enough. I could eat these on a regular basis.
The pancakes set the tone for dessert. Shamika had all but tapped out but I convinced her we had to try the PB&J opera cake, a dessert you don’t see on very many menus. Kinda old school. Not the easiest to pull off technically. Its alternating layers of salty, creamy peanut butter, sweet raspberry jam, and cake looked as good as it tasted.
The only thing really wrong with brunch at The Blake? The rooftop is closed on Sundays! Brunch is a reason to return but a High George bites and booze experience is inevitably next.
9 High Street (at The Blake Hotel); New Haven
(203) 390-5192; http://www.hamiltonparknh.com/