“I don’t get the whole burger thing,” says Tom Colicchio, half-laughing.
The acclaimed cook and Top Chef judge is at one end of the long, marble-topped bar in the lounge area of his soon-to-open restaurant Fowler & Wells, standing next to a handsome green leather stool. It’s an inviting view that makes you want to pull up a seat and order a classic-styled cocktail. Alongside, you could get superb clams casino or a skirt-steak salad with horseradish, but as of yet, no burger.
We are inside the just-opened Beekman hotel in Manhattan’s Financial District. The bar is part of the show-stopping renovation of an 1890s building that you might not have noticed if you were walking by. Now the place has captured New York’s attention, especially since pictures of the towering, nine-story atrium began blowing up Instagram a few months ago.
It can be boring to hear people go on about a grand space you haven’t visited—like listening to someone talk in detail about their convoluted dream—so I'll spare you much more except to say that the new Beekman beats all the descriptions. Underneath a giant skylight are floors accented with gleaming ornate railings, glowing lights, and arched doorways. It could be the most magnificent doll house hotel, on a giant scale.
This time-traveling view is what drew Colicchio to do his first new restaurant project in six years, in a part of town that he’s never had a restaurant. His last was Riverpark in Kips Bay.
Fowler & Wells is named for a pair of phrenologists who worked in the building once upon a time. (For most of its history, the Beekman was an office building; the restaurant was an unassuming retail space in its last incarnation, before the Thompson hotel group took over the property.)
That evocative nod to a 19th century pseudo-science is reflected in the glamour of the décor: a series of chandeliers, a tiled mirror that dominates one wall, stained glass windows comprising dark-colored rectangles, red wine-colored chairs set at well-spaced tables. It’s unlike many of Colicchio’s other restaurants, which are modern and minimalist. The room feels like a European train station restaurant from a time when you wanted to travel by train.
The menu, too, is a departure from anything the chef has done recently.