Bar Henry somehow manages to snag a niche spot in the crowded Soho bar scene. It has the opulence of a plush fancy restaurant, the prices of a student-friendly spot, the mystery of a hidden bar, and the food of a comfort food den. Now, while all this sounds great, Bar Henry isn’t perfect. On a Thursday night, it’s eerily quiet, which makes me question why the slightly triste atmosphere – poor marketing and PR? hit-or-miss food? creepy bartender?
On my first visit, none of the above were obvious flaws. Upon descending the steep flight of stairs, illuminated by the seedy red glow of the neon sign, to the subterranean watering hole, you enter the dark bar room. To the left, a 100 year old mahogany wood-paneled bar, meticulously arranged and well-stocked with liquors, lit by the glowing pin pricks of recessed lighting. The right, the obligatory exposed brick wall, an eating bar with black leather stools, brass antique light fixtures. A black and white tiled floor adds a touch of nostalgia to the sultry vibe. Through the bar, past the partially-open kitchen, in the back, is the petite dining room. Surprisingly luxe for a restaurant where entrees price between $15-$30, the back room is furnished with red velvet chairs edged in gilt. White tablecloths cover the wooden tables; red brick pillars complement the distressed exposed brick walls; dim golden light flickers from vintage lamps and reflects off the copper ceiling. The look is old New York mixed with French haute – compelling, rich, luxurious.
The food blends French and American comfort food, offering everything from Mussels Mariniere to the ‘Hamburger Henry’ to a Manhattan dry aged steak, provided by Pat LaFrieda’s outfit. The bedeviled eggs, made even more wicked than the old-school classic by black truffles, are a decadent ‘snack’, while the deep ruby beet gazpacho, thick yet refreshing, is fantastic way to cool down on a steamy night. The hamburger is not for the faint-hearted, big, juicy and flavorful, topped with sweet caramelized onions, funky Valdeon cheese, and served with truffle fries. If you’re looking for rich but don’t want to take down a whole burger, opt for the smooth and flavorful chicken liver mousse, served in a generous creamy dollop with raspberries and crusty bits of toast.
Bar Henry is an all-around surprise; it is surprisingly sexy, surprisingly haute, surprisingly intimate, and a surprisingly good value. Due to the quiet on a Thursday night, Bar Henry is either set to close soon or is refreshingly undiscovered. Judging by my remarkably pleasant experience, sans crowds and any inkling of pretension, let’s hope it’s the latter.
Perfect For: first dates and secret trysts, stolen kisses, haute bar snacks, luxuriating under budget, large parties, late-night treats, wine-fueled conversation