While most people tend to think of a neighborhood restaurant as small, homey nooks in quaint residential areas, the owners of Manhattan’s first Bluebird London hope that the new NYC location of their British restaurant will serve the same purpose — even though it’s on the third floor of the indoor mall that is Time Warner Center.
Des Gunewardena and David Loewi, co-founders of the renowned British restaurant group D&D, are bringing one of their most successful restaurants to the Columbus Circle property next week, opening the new Bluebird on Monday, Sept. 17. The duo, which runs more than 40 restaurants and hotels worldwide, already had plans to expand to New York with a location at the Hudson Yards when they decided to bring Bluebird over, too.
That restaurant in Hudson Yards, which like Time Warner Center is owned by developer Related, won’t open until next year, and the concept is still shaping up. But Bluebird, which opened in the the Chelsea neighborhood in London in 1997, is an existing, known staple in London for locals, who stop by for a traditional English breakfast in the morning, beef Wellington in the afternoon, and a gin cocktail in the evening.
“We hope that that’s what Bluebird will become here: A meeting place where people come to Columbus Circle to meet each other from different parts of Manhattan,” Gunewardena says.
In London, though, a ground-floor cafe with an all-day menu serves as a stop at all hours of the day, while in the Time Warner Center, diners will have to walk through the suburban-like mall to get to the restaurant. Most of the best known restaurants in the mall are pricey destinations like Thomas Keller’s Per Se or omakase restaurant Masa.
Still, D&D’s team think the neighborhood feel of London’s location can translate to its first Manhattan outpost, which will also offer all-day fare. A casual cafe sits up front, which will turn into a wine bar in the evening. Further back, a sunken dining room with views over Central Park fits up to 100 people and is decorated in funky, colorful patterns throughout, with a live tree planted at its center. On the weekends, a DJ will be in the space during brunch. A cocktail lounge is in the complex, too.
Gunewardena points to Time Warner Center’s many layers, including residences, offices, retail, and the Lincoln Center nearby — making it a location that people visit for many reasons. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as classic afternoon tea, are all part of the effort to draw people in during the course of the day.
“We think because of [Bluebird’s] different aspects, it will function like the one in London does,” Gunewardena says.
For the dining room, executive chef Nicolas Houlbert, previously from Bar Boulud and Epicerie Boulud, will whip up dishes like Cornish chicken pie, beef Wellington, and fish and chips served with minted English peas and tartar sauce — “the sort of food that Londoners enjoy on a day-to-day basis,” Loewi says. Bluebird will also offer steaks and salads, as well as seafood dishes like monkfish and shrimp curry, crispy squid with Sichuan pepper, and tempura shrimp.
The cafe portion will feature pastries prepared by chef Jared Sexton, who previously worked at Dominique Ansel Bakery. Chelsea buns, as well as shakes, smoothies, and breakfast bowls, will be on offer. And a lighter lunch menu will feature salads and sandwiches until the space transforms into a wine bar in the evening. Bar snacks will include Sipsmith Gin-cured salmon with dill, mustard, and cucumber, while the cocktail lounge will pour plenty of gin and wine.
“Bluebird is not just a restaurant open for lunch and dinner,” Gunewardena says. “It’s a social hub in Chelsea [in London]. There’s always something going on at Bluebird.”
Take a look at more photos of the space and food below. Bluebird makes its NYC debut on Monday, with breakfast starting at 8 a.m. and brunch and afternoon tea starting later.