Via ventures like Banc Cafe and Cask Bar and Kitchen, Ronan Conlon, Mark Fox, and Andrew Breslin learned the fabric of Murray Hill, and they noticed neighbors were looking for something beyond the taverns that have become so thoroughly ingrained here. “There’s a proliferation of sports bars in Murray Hill,” Conlon says. “People were looking for an escape and alternative, and they were going outside of this neighborhood to get that experience. We said, ‘Why not give them what they want?'”
That notion led to Whitman & Bloom (384 Third Avenue, 212-725-4110), which Conlon describes as a homey spot that feels like a “country kitchen meets farmhouse library,” thanks to the hundreds of books that line shelves on the walls. (Whitman & Bloom, by the way, is named for Molly Bloom, a character in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and George Whitman, an American who became a famous Parisian bookseller.) The partners also transformed the basement of the bi-level address into a speakeasy-like supper club, where you’ll be able to order from a separate bar while you take in live piano.
That space sets the stage for the seasonally focused and Mediterranean-influenced menu from executive chef Eldad Shem-Tov, who has done time in formidable kitchens like Aquavit and Alain Ducasse. “He’ll have a farm-to-table approach,” Conlon explains of his chef. “The food will be casual, and there will be small and medium sharing plates. That’s kind of his philosophy.”
Conlon cites touches like focaccia baked in house daily and a cheese and meat station where you can see boards prepared right in front of you. Other highlights include grilled zucchini with hazelnuts, lightly pickled sardines, and a rib eye roast beef. That food matches to an equally seasonally focused cocktail program, a 12-tap craft beer lineup, and a sizable wine list, says Conlon.
After tonight’s opening, Whitman & Bloom will serve dinner nightly. In three to four weeks, says Conlon, the spot will also add brunch. “There’s nothing like this around Murray Hill or Gramercy,” Conlon promises. “We’re excited to be getting on with it.”