The modern-Victorian wallpaper at The Parish, executive chef Casey Lane’s new Downtown gastropub, might cause you to have flashbacks of your grandmother’s living room. Then again, Grandma didn’t play the Wu-Tang Clan during dinner.
[Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Casey Lane was a former chef at the Tasting Kitchen. Lane is currently the executive chef at the Tasting Kitchen and The Parish.]
The discordant atmosphere plays off the quirkiness of the menu, which can be described as comfort food with a kick. Deviled eggs arrive with Indian spices topping the fluffy swirls of yolk. These are two-bite deviled eggs, and the second of the two bites should mop up the warm, paprika-like sauce on the plate.
Cherubic breakfast radishes — pink and chubby, long green stems still attached — arrive with an equally chubby sphere of butter, thick squares of salt and pepper on top. Cute as they may be, their flavor bites back.
These small plates possess just a hint of edge, as they should at any Spring Street restaurant worth its weight in fried chickpeas and craft cocktails.
Those chickpeas, paired in a silver bowl with fried olives, elevate the ubiquitous bar-menu options of Downtown. The olives are — there’s no other word — transcendent. As you pop them like savory, briny Gushers, you’ll wish you had another bowl on the way.
Daal Mahkani, an Indian lentil dish, exemplifies the British-Indian fusion at which Lane excels. A bowl of spicy, starchy lentils, in their own thick broth, tastes familiar without being boring. Credit must also go to the slab of toast, generously slicked with cherry chutney. wedged into the lentils.
Porter sausage atop parsnip puree brings the meal into more traditionally British territory, a sort of variation on the pub favorite bangers and mash. A perfectly cooked and delightfully fatty sausage patty leans against the sweet puree, and the addition of pickled cherries takes the dish to new heights. As with those sidekick fried olives, cherries prepared any other way suddenly seem unimportant.
Fish and chips — which should arrive in a paper cone, but doesn’t — is a mixed bag. The tender, buttery fish is technically perfect, but set atop flavorless slices of spud, the combination falls flat. Pairing these fried morsels, though, with a tiny dice of vinegary geleé is a pleasant and unusual way to accent the fish. And the Johnny Cash and Cold War Kids playing through the sound system will still keep a smile on your face.
Still, any British pub incapable of knocking “chips” out of the park needs to rethink the dish they are serving.
A pile of fried chicken is a true success story, though, crunchy and peppery as fried chicken should be. But what even the best coating often lacks is a means of sticking to the poultry once bitten or cut. This is not an issue here, however, with the juicy meat and a sticky currant vinaigrette keeping it all intact.
But, again, there is an underdog that steals the spotlight: sliced peaches with smoky juices that wash down heavy bites of chicken. You won’t be able to get these peaches off of your mind.
Dessert might be sticky toffee pudding, a more loyal and tasty adaptation of a British staple than those fish and chips — a dense, syrupy cake redolent of burnt sugar with thick cream and plum slices floating beside it.
For an Indian dessert, one could do worse than the Indian fried dough balls known as gulab jamun. They come soaked in a honey-sweet sauce of rose water, with bits of apple and pistachio adding crunch.
When your waitress arrives with dessert menus, quite possibly to the sounds of Ray Charles belting “I’ve Got a Woman,” order both the “pudding” and the dough balls. Like the gold digger of Charles’ song, it’ll be easy to justify your greediness.
And, giving in to greed once more, here’s a request to Lane and company: a dish consisting only of smoky peaches, pickled cherries and fried olives. Please. The combination, after all, is as improbably perfect as the Parish’s music and decor.