Located on 255 Smith Street in the newly gentrified area of Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, Battersby will fool anyone by its humble exterior. But what sounds like a? British pub is actually a restaurant, whose doors first opened in October 2011.
Chefs and owners Joseph Ogrodnek and Walker Stern are used to preparing some pretty savvy meals and have worked at Gramercy Tavern and the Vanderbilt, to name a few places. They met at the Culinary School in 2002 and worked on an off together in various places in New York City including The Essex House under Alain Ducasse. They started talking about opening a restaurant a year ago, and gradually “it came together,” says Ogrodnek.
The restaurant itself is small (elbow rubbing possible) and very intimate ? so much so that you could likely whisper and it would be heard by the other end of the room ( we don’t recommend yelling). What immediately caught my eye were the fixtures, authentic old-fashioned brick walls and a commitment to standards. You won’t find velvet or chandeliers here ?you’ll find quality, class at extremely affordable prices.
The kitchen itself is tiny, and shared by both chefs, and the owners pretty much do everything from soup to nuts. There is a long, shiny bar stocked with choice beverages, and there is a beverage pairing service, gratis, thanks to the fine people who work there and who know their stuff.
In this aspect, it feels very much like a New York restaurant that’s really for “those in the know.” But the fame is spreading, and I know it won’t be a hidden gem for long.
The menu is genuinely fresh and inspired by produce from the locale, and one of the star appetizers that’s thankfully still on the menu today, the Crisp Kale Salad with Kohlrabi, Thai Basil, Chili ($10) was both thoroughly enjoyable yet with the most surprising and careful blend of non traditional ingredients. As a vegetarian/ vegan, I was concerned that I’d end up eating salad for my entree, but the truth is I could have lived on the Crisp Kale Salad itself.
“The menu itself rotates weekly,” says Stern, and it’s always a collaboration between both chefs who visit local “smart farms” and find out what’s in season before they compose their dishes. “We do all the purchasing, visit markets several times a week and develop very close relationships with the people we buy our products from and we make dishes with what they give us.”
Stern says that over the course of week, you can find as much as three to five changes on the menu, and such a feat can only be possibly with such attention to detail, a smallish space, and a commitment to freshness and quality.
“It’s very fresh in that sense and keeping it interesting and working with great products,” says Ogrodnek. Which restaurant do you know of that changes its menu thrice weekly?
While the menu itself is more a seafood and meat lover’s cup of tea (Octopus with Chick Peas, Chorizo, Lemon; or a Striped Bass entree with Braised Fennel, Tomato Confit, Taggiasca Olives), the chefs are more than eager to attend to your culinary wish. For vegetarians, the chefs and their team whipped up a decadent, filling entree comprised of braised greens and a fennel panna cotta dessert (seriously, who does panna cotta with fennel?) that left you pining for more.
Both Walker Stern and Joseph Ogrodnek are chatty and very friendly, and will take the time to explain the dishes to you, and answer any questions. This makes the restaurant all the more palatable, because I’m not a fan of too stuffy places. While you may think the portions could be small they really aren’t (they’re not family style either, but like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, they’re “just right”).
By the time I had finished my four course meal, including a very delicious butternut squash soup that was not overly drenched with the traditional cinnamon, I wanted to make reservations to return, but was told that it was “first come, first serve” only. This is actually a good thing because every dish at Battersby is a one of a kind, and a sort of tour de force that one would normally only associate with very high end restaurants. Thankfully, the place doesn’t accept reservations otherwise they would be booked for months.
Try your luck and arrive early to get a table.
Battersby, 255 Smith St., Brooklyn (718-852-8321)
The team at Battersby (from left to right): Walker Stern (chef/ owner), Mike Sowa (sous chef), Joseph Odrognek (chef/owner)
Delicious rosemary flatbread
All photos courtesy of Battersby. This visit was possibly thanks the Marriott Fairfield Inn in Gowanus, Brooklyn.