Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Clover Club soft opening

June 17
Edit: Now with downloadable menu goodness. (Click here)

I hopped off the F train at Bergen in Brooklyn and found myself strolling down Smith St. yet again. The last time was for the Jakewalk event, this time I was going to check out Julie Reiner's new joint the Clover Club.

While I was busy taking pictures of the storefront, I spotted Bon Appetit restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton and Imbibe author, Esquire contributing editor and all-around very knowledgeable about cocktails person Dave Wondrich enter. I realized I probably should actually go in the place.

The space does this thing where it gets more complicated and ornate the further you go in. The entire storefront is paned glass, but when you first enter there's maybe 2-3 tables, a hostess stand and the floor is a simple two-toned mosaic/tiled affair. It almost feels like you're sitting outside or in some brightly open atrium.

Once you start heading towards the back, the floor transitions over to hardwood. Then there are leather banquettes and the bar itself is large, old-fashioned and superbly fancy. I was impressed by the generous size of the bar stools' circumferences. Lo have there been many a times where I felt as though one wrong move would have me sliding off the edge of a stool.

Then there was the drawing room type area in the back separated from the front half of the bar with curtains. It looked like it was taken straight out of Wodehouse story. You could imagine the likes of Bertie Wooster, Rupert Psmith or any of the other character who are members of the Drones Club lounging about lazily. The back room had its own fancy, fully-stocked bar, but what really threw me off was the real fire roaring in the fireplace. I wasn't expecting to see one of those in the middle of June.

There have been several soft openings and Julie informed me that the one I was attending was the third one. From what I heard elsewhere, this one was supposed to be mostly media. As if to confirm that, I saw furtive dashes into notebooks hidden under tables, on laps and under purses throughout the evening. My note taking was as obvious as a Mack truck barreling down a park's bike lane. I always feel weird conspicuously taking notes but then I remember it's not like I'm a reviewer who nees to stay incognito. On top of that there are very few places on your person that you can hide a standard-sized reporter's notebook comfortably, and there was no way I was going to juggle drinks while reaching in and out of my bag every couple of seconds.

Clover Club's head bartender Giuseppe Gonzalez handed me my first drink, the Bermuda Rum Swizzle. It was dangerously delectable. Crushed ice always worries me because it makes me think "never-ending drink," but I managed to drink it fast enough that no such thing happened. Let's just say I was very parched.

The second drink was the Clover Club's signature cocktail, the Clover Club: Plymouth Gin, fresh raspberry juice and fresh lemon juice, dry vermouth and egg whites. After that was some punch served up in a huge punchbowl with teacups that included Pimm's Cup, Beefeater Gin, cucumber and strawberries among other things, a New York Sour (made with bourbon, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and some claret floated on top), and a Tequila Daisy (tequila, fresh lime juice, Cointreau, simple syrup).

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