One of my favorite restaurants is New York staple, Balthazar. I go there too much. So they are nice to me. It holds a fascination for me above and beyond the untouchable customer service I receive. And most of this stems from the genius of conception which turned a leather factory into a $30M+ a year nod to a particular style of French eatery, the brasserie. Some might say (and I wouldn’t disagree) that it actually out-brasserie’s a real brasserie in its natural habitat – France.
Words by: DUNCAN QUINN
Photos by: MICHAEL VERDES AND NICOLAS RAMIREZ
I often wax lyrical to my lunch companions about why this is. In essence I believe its a combination of factors some of which are basic wrote in any successful restaurant operation. Of course the food has to be of a certain standard. And it has to be consistent. And the service has to be good. But there’s also a certain je ne sais quoi which separates the merely successful from the absolute money printing machine that is Balthazar. And I think that je ne sais quoi is what the magician behind its success does so spectacularly well. Atmosphere. A sense of authenticity. And a sense of occasion.
It makes sense as Keith McNally seems to have always really wanted to be in film and theatre. Luckily for us his special gift for set design and theatre became his restaurants and us his clientele the lucky actors on his stage. The attention paid to the small stuff that most would not consider important is what transports you to another plain whenever you are there munching on your steak au poivre or confit de canard. Close your eyes just a little and you’re in France in an old, established brasserie that’s been around since the dawn of time. Except it looked that way the day it opened. And therein lies some of the magic. Does it look old now because it really is starting to get old? Or was the patina of age already there when it opened. I’ll defy anyone who doesn’t work there to tell the difference.
Which brings me to my recent ride of choice.The Moto Guzzi V7 Cafe Racer. It looks like something your grandad may have tooled around on in the 1960’s racing from the Ace Cafe to the infamous roundabout and back. It may even go a little like something from that era. But it does do the ton. Just. And it turns more heads than almost any bike I can remember having the luxury to ride.
It has that special sprezzatura only an Italian machine can pull off. It does British cafe racer better than any British cafe racer does. At least any one you can buy new from a dealership.
It has character in spades and puts a smile on your face as well as everyone who spots you zooming around on it. Its not fast, and it wobbles a bit in high speed long sweeping corners, but its all a part of the personality that shines through. From hustling through the traffic of New York City to enjoying the beautiful open roads of MA its just all around fun that you don’t often get in one single package.
Well built, well conceived, and damned well the best looking Cafe Racer you’ll get without buying an old one that never runs or a custom built one that costs more than your house.
So what are you waiting for?…
V7 Cafe Racer: 5*…a true character
Chateau Maxime: 5*…the best dinner in MA
Balthazar: 5*…all the world’s a stage
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