Orient Express, the new wine and cocktail lounge from bar owner and antiques dealer Osman Cakir, sits on an unusually quiet stretch of West 11th Street. Like its neighborhood, the bar offers a mellow place to begin an evening or unwind at the end of a raucous night, perhaps spent at Cakir’s Turks & Frogs Wine Bar next door, or the Spotted Pig down the street.
The cocktail menu, developed by Cory Mason (the mixologist behind Boom Boom Room, Employees Only, Smith & Mills), offers a range of British-themed options, heavy on the gin and cognac. For something tart and sweet, there’s The Agatha, comprised of Old Tom Gin, lemon and house-made strawberry-sage soda, drunk through a metal straw. Leopold is a bit more refreshing, with its cognac, honey and herbs du provence garnish. If you really want to get blood flowing, The Nagelmackers combines rye, rum and port with an absinthe rinse for an intense mix.
But the Orient Express moves at a leisurely pace. Dimly lit with miniature lamps that mimic those of an early 20th century train car, the lounge exudes a low-key ambience, with old-school jazz playing on the speakers—a contrast to the more energetic Turks & Frogs. Mirrors positioned like train windows against the wood-paneled walls and vintage suitcases set on shelves (or perhaps luggage racks) overhead complete the sense of luxury travel during an earlier time.
The small-plates menu of Hungarian skillet dishes and Austrian pastries also emphasizes casualness, encouraging sharing and snacking. Tarama, a red caviar spread blended with olive oil and lemon, has the appearance of hummus (and is served with pita bread) but an incredibly light, fluffy texture and a complexly salty taste that will keep you coming back for another taste until it’s gone.
Another strongly flavored menu option is the baby artichoke hearts, topped with sautéed sweet peas, carrots, potatoes, fresh dill and lemon. The soft artichoke hearts and firm vegetables create a wonderful combination of textures. For something heartier, Orient Express offers Hungarian sausage, served over a sweet mixture of roasted cabbage, sour apple and black currants.
Satiated and slightly intoxicated, I got off of the Orient Express eager for another trip.
325 West 11th Street
New York, NY 10014