“An 8th-Century Ritual Modernized Into An Enchanting Restaurant with An Aeroponic Rooftop Garden”
BELL BOOK & CANDLE
The bell, the public character of the act. The book, the authority of the words. The candle, the repentance. Whether the title draws memories from John Van Druten 1950’s Bell, Book and Candle play, which turned into a smash 1958 hit film, or the 8th-century ritual used by Latin Christians as a method of ex-communication by anathema imposed on a person who had committed exceptionally grievous sins. These three simple words muster clever quips and imagination. Lucky for us, we can experience this century’s version at a one-of-a-kind, subterranean escape in the West Village. Bell Book & Candle has modernized its ritual into an idiosyncratic restaurant seething with natural elegance and charm. A ritual continuing the sinful qualities of its origins but in a delectable seed-to-table concept.
One could almost walk past the secret hideaway if you aren’t paying close attention. This hidden gem is tucked neatly away on a small street on 10th ave in the village. A minute’s walk from the stable Jefferson Market clock tower that symbolizes you’re in the heart of the downtown grit of the city. A small menu enclosed in a wooden frame is subtly displayed outside the restaurant behind a black fence. One would have to know or be emboldened enough to wander forward.
This kind of je ne sais quoi feeling builds as you descend the stairs. The glass door teases a sneak peek of what’s inside. You’re immediately greeted by a dimly lit room with exposed brick walls filled with old newspaper clippings, antique lamps and candle-lit bar tops. People are engulfed in conversation, some at the bar, others in a dark corner in an intimate kind of way. As you look around for a hostess, there is an undeniable curiosity to venture further into the deep-seated venue.
A Friday spring night in the city ignites a bustling crowd with a thank-God-the-weekend-is-here vibe. Our hostess, wearing a black beanie cap, sweater vest and cargo pants, was only a few feet ahead in a secret enclave adjacent to the bar. Her warm greeting and charming accent fit perfectly in this quaintly tucked away, secret private dining room. As we followed her to our seats, we couldn’t help but take in the intentional artistic detailing of the space, from the abstract art on the walls to the African masks to the library of books cascading around the stone white Greek goddess sculpture, where we were ultimately seated. There was no denying we were in for a memorable evening. Olivia, our server, came within minutes to say hello. She, too, had a charming accent, leading us into a delightful guessing game of its origins well into our first meal from the trailblazing venue concept, to the state-of-the-art cocktails, to the comforting yet sophisticated menu to the ultimate splendor of the revolutionary rooftop garden. Our minds and appetites danced with anticipation.
Opening up with a signature seasonal cocktail, Smoke Show (chipotle infused illegal mezcal, Aperol, cynar), two starter plates, fresh creamy burrata, and lobster tacos. We didn’t know which to eat first. The aroma of the fresh greens and tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and just the right amount of salt and pepper nestled under a ball of homemade burrata showered with fresh rooftop pesto immediately pulled us in. The famous lobster tacos were two bite-sized portions and looked more like sushi rolls than a traditional taco. But make no mistake; the small but mighty appetizer packed a lasting punch with serious loads of flavor and robust texture. Even the table next to us followed suit. The mood was set, invigorating our senses, tantalizing our palettes and leaving us eager for more.
Executive Chef John Mooney
This intentional adventure of the senses is courtesy of Executive Chef John Mooney and business partner Mick O’Sullivan. The duo, who had worked on various projects, wanted to create a memorable dining experience using the freshest ingredients possible. Birthing is a concept with an array of seed-to-table dishes concentrated only on local, organic, and responsible procurement of its components. Bell Book & Candle food aims for an element of originality and individualism. All seasonally influenced by its own sustainable aeroponic rooftop garden.
Executive Chef John Mooney trained at the Kendall Culinary School and completed his internship as Tourant atop the prestigious John Hancock Centre. He went on to become Sous Chef of Red Sage, where he met his Bell Book & Candle business partner, Mick O’Sullivan. By 2004, Mooney joined Michel Nischan to open PURE, which Conde Nast recognized as one of the top 20 restaurants globally. Mooney then partnered with Mick O’Sullivan and industry veteran, Paul Nicaj at Highland Manor and, since then, received recognition by the James Beard Foundation as one of the “Best Hotel Chefs in America.” John’s meritorious career took him around the world including Dublin, Ireland. Where he was appointed Executive Chef at the renowned restaurant The Saddle Room. At the end of 2008, John returned to the United States to open Highland Manor in Apopka, Florida, alongside partner Mick O’Sullivan and then the two collaborated to open Bell Book & Candle in 2010, which has unequivocally stood the test of time for over a decade.
Salmon with Bearnaise
A mainstay for a reason. Our culinary journey continued with that night’s specials because when in Rome, right? Olivia, our server, arrives with an eye-popping RibEye steak, adorned by purple potatoes and green snap peas and a creamy homemade lobster ravioli. The impeccable flavors of the sauces stood out just as much as the main courses. Each taste
Now you may be thinking a rooftop garden, renowned chef, and organic ingredients can only add up to Park avenue prices hidden behind the city Village facade. But let me enlighten you. The menu also features the ‘living leaf & spoon’ section (salads and soups made from rooftop produce) is surprisingly reasonably priced. From $10 crispy jalapeno deviled eggs to $16 garlic butter shrimp with fresh garden herbs. The restaurant also offers an impressive happy hour available at the bar from 4pm-7pm. It includes $4 off specialty cocktails, $7 glasses of wine, $6 draft beers, raw oysters for $1.50, baked oysters for $2.50 and Yellowfin tuna nachos for $2.
Bell Book & Candle even offers patrons an opportunity to dine at a large farm table in the back of the restaurant with the kitchen in full display. Enjoy sophisticated sustainability with innovative cocktails, and live music at this motif of venues.
Bell Book & Candle
141 W 10th St #A
New York, NY 10014
Written by: Ashley Foster