Traveling to New York over the holidays? I hope you will consider putting Prune on your 'must do' list, especially for brunch. Camille can fill you in on the details below and I can attest to one of life's great truths...Prune is not just good for the palate, it's good for the soul...
Whether the June sun is brightly shining or unyielding rain is pouring down from a cold December sky, come weekend mornings there is always a huddle of hungry New Yorkers outside Gabrielle Hamilton's tiny restaurant, Prune. They know that what awaits them is one of the most comforting, satisfying, and best brunches in New York City.
Brunch at Prune is popular for good reason.
The cozy interior of the East Village restaurant feels like the perfect mix of quintessential Manhattan neighborhood eatery and Parisian cafe. Decorated with simple, antique charm, the space is full of character and warmth. A long, comfortable, wooden pew sits along one wall on the tiled floor below one of the restaurant's many large, beautifully aged mirrors. The French doors, opened on warmer days, offer a floor to ceiling view for those who wait outside, in promise that they too will soon have their own pillows of poached eggs, crisp potatoes rosti, and kickin' Bloody Marys.
The Steak and Eggs, flavored with parsley butter, comes with potatoes rosti and an english muffin.
Ambitiously squeezing 30 seats into the small square footage makes the place quite intimate; there are always a few bumps and jostles as patrons and staff move around the bustling restaurant. However, I was content to include this in the charm of it all, especially as it allowed me to easily ogle the plates on the neighboring tables while plotting my own indulgence.
The food offered at dinner, the only other time to dine besides brunch, sticks to Mediterranean fare, mostly of the French and Italian kind. Hamilton's mother is French and Gabrielle herself spent time cooking in France and Greece. She also spent many summers in Italy, with her then-husband of Italian birth, soaking in the cooking of her mother-in-law. Dinner at Prune is pleasant; I thoroughly enjoyed the escarole salad and the whole pan-fried trout. And the milk punch with sesame cookies was a delightful way to end the meal, satisfying my desire for both a dessert and digestif.
Fluffy fresh ricotta, Egg en Cocotte, and Spicy Stewed Chickpeas.
Even so, brunch is the must-eat meal at Prune. Mediterranean cuisine sings on this menu too, like in the spiced, stewed chickpeas, where olives and preserved lemons are studded throughout a hearty tomato sauce. Accompanied by grilled flatbread and soft boiled eggs coated in fried breadcrumbs it becomes ultimately satisfying. The egg en cocotte is baked over pieces of chicken in it's ramekin; mixing together as you dig your spoon in results in a rich and delicate chicken soup, of sorts, that becomes more comforting and soul-warming with every dip of your buttered white toast. Saucy Spaghetti al a Carbonara doesn't come to mind at first as a breakfast food, but in Hamilton's genius, she recognized before I did that it has everything I love for breakfast: eggs, bacon, and carbs!
Hamilton does expand her culinary map for brunch, traveling north in Europe she offers a Dutch-style pancake as big as the plate itself and a “youth hostel”
breakfast platter. Flying west, she sets back down in the U.S. for a Monte Cristo and an outrageously delicious steak and eggs. Even the often-tired huevos rancheros is treated with tasty attention to detail. Other breakfast menu classics like eggs benedict and omelets aren't forgotten either and there is a beautiful array of hot and cold bowls of cereals and grains.
The cozy dining room gives a great view of the small open kitchen.
As you peruse over the tantalizing menu, I implore you to do it with one of Prune's incredible Bloody Marys in your hand. I'm a “classic” kind of gal when it comes to Bloodys, but if you feel adventurous, choose from one of their nine variations on the original. Don't be shocked when they set a shot glass of Red Stripe next to it as a wicked little chaser.
No matter what, I beg you to start your meal with the fresh ricotta. Soft, mild, fluffy, and so delicately creamy, it's scantily clad, drizzled with a touch of honey and studded with fresh figs and raspberries. Pile it atop one of the merveilles served alongside, which tastes similar to a fried scone, and you will be seduced by the heavenly balance of hot, buttery pastry and fresh cheese like whipped cream.
Licorice candies (no, not prune flavored) come at the end of the meal.
The food Hamilton serves at Prune envelops you in comfort, even in the midst of its lively atmosphere. Don't be deterred by the wait, which isn't always very long, and take it as a promising sign that for fifteen years there has been a line of eager customers outside those doors. Put your name on the list and hop down a few doors to Bluebird coffee shop to grab a drink while you wait. In celebration of it's fifteen-year anniversary, Hamilton released the Prune cookbook last month. You can also find out more about the chef in her autobiography Blood, Bones, and Butter. And don't fret about missing out; Hamilton has another fifteen years on her lease. Prune will be here as a NYC staple for a while longer.
54 E. 1st St.
Brunch: Sat & Sun 10am-3: 30pm
Dinner: every day 5:30pm-11pm