In the few years since it opened, Burke & Wills has staked its claim as one of the most popular restaurants on New York City’s Upper West Side—and has become well known for its top-flight combination of seasonal cuisine and original, artisanal cocktails. Named for the pioneers who made an expedition across Australia in 1860, Burke & Wills is a modern, seasonal restaurant, influenced by the adventurous flavors of Australia.
Australian expats, Tim Harris and partner Matilda Boland, offer several experiences under one roof, a casual bar with excellent bar snacks, and a swanky, exclusive cocktail lounge, The Manhattan Cricket Club, on the second floor—but it’s in the elegant and confortable dining room that one can experience the best they have to offer.
Executive Chef Rodrigo Nogueira, a native of Brazil and a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, who previously cooked at Montmartre, The Monkey Bar, Colicchio and Sons, Craftsteak, The Four Seasons and Resto, has created a menu that is produce-driven, fresh, bright, and vibrant for the season. In the front room, bar snacks include soft and creamy taleggio cheese drizzled with honey and topped with walnuts.
Under the skylit atrium on slate gray banquettes in the main dining room, an ideal meal may begin with tastes from the raw bar (East or West coast oysters with cucumber mignonette, littleneck clams, shrimp cocktail, Jonah crab claw by the piece or by the platter) and small plates like tuna crudo, plump fresh chunks of sushi-grade tuna, sweet plums, watermelon radishes, seabeans and bottarga; and perfectly seared scallops with smoked tomato; or a salad of baby greens with shaved vegetables and sherry vinaigrette. The large plates are punctuated with spring produce: cavetelli is tossed with fava, peas and spring onion; roasted salmon is accompanied by morels, fava and spring garlic, barramundi, (an Australian seabass) is paired with shishito peppers, ginger and scallions, and the signature Hudson Valley duck breast is augmented by a delightful and unusual Mandarin orange puree and salsify. Ephemeral ingredients like ramps make a brief appearance as they become available.
Desserts include a deconstructed interpretation of the whipped cream, passion fruit curd and fruit-layered Pavlova; passionfruit tart; affogato (Kahlua ice cream from Il Laboratorio del Gelato doused with Kobrick’s dark-roasted espresso atop an icebox brownie), bomboloni filled with dulce de leche, and off-the-menu treats available by request.
For spring/summer, the cocktails take their inspiration from Southeast Asia—an influence on Australian culture because of the appealing climate and proximity for vacations—with flavors such as kaffir lime, Thai chili, lychee, and lemongrass. The innovative yet creative cocktails are the invention of renowned mixologist Greg Seider (Summit Bar, Le Bernardin, The Mercer Kitchen, and author of Alchemy in a Glass). Each new cocktail is named for an iconic Aussie rock song and has an Instagram linked music video to go with it. Before Too Long combines Zu Bison Grass Vodka with lychee, lime and ginger beer over shaved ice. You Shook Me All Night Long mixes Citadel gin, fresh lime, kaffir lime syrup, and kaffir bitters. Beds Are Burning is a spicy, cucumber margarita, with Arette Blanco tequila, lime, orange bitters, fresh cucumber, and Thai chili agave, and the Khe San is Del Maquey Mezcal with lemongrass, black pepper bitters, fresh lemon, and Brooklyn seltzer.
Tim Harris has curated an expansive selection of Australian wines to pair with the seasonal fair. Ten wines rotate by the glass and a bottle list of over 60 wines highlights the diversity and scope of the Australian wine industry. From well known icons such as Barossa Valley Shiraz to the wonders of Australia’s cooler climates such as Tasmanian Pinot Noir and Margaret River Chardonnay. Tastings and Australian wine dinners occur regularly.
Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays and includes Brunch Punches served by the carafe, a Build a Bloody Mary option, and more. Other specials features include $1 oysters at happy hour, live jazz, and DJs playing music on Thurs-Sat to set the mood in the bar and for the late-night dining scene, which includes a menu of featured bar snacks such as the Burger Nogueira (truffle pecorino, red wine onions, foie butter) and Salmon Rilette with rhubarb gastrique. Lunch runs Monday to Friday from noon to 3 p.m., and features seasonally updated neighborhood favorites including the Roasted Chicken with fiddlehead ferns and brown butter, and the Kangaroo Pie with tomato jam and baby mixed greens.
Upstairs, hidden in plain sight behind an upholstered door is The Manhattan Cricket Club, located in an apartment restored to its original layout and aesthetic. The décor includes a wood paneled living room and library (with real books) with an oriental rug, gold brocade wallpaper, leather sofas, and all the comforts of home. The marble bar is filled with everything you can imagine and more—handcrafted tinctures, syrups and bitters, garnishes, imported teas, and the proper style of ice for each drink. New additions to the club include Martini Service and a Calvisius Caviar program, featuring 10-gram servings of classic osetra caviar that may be paired with half bottles of Gruet Brut or Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve champagne.
A private club that is open to the public, the Manhattan Cricket Club offers exclusivity without snobbery. When space permits, all are welcome. But membership does have its privileges: priority seating with guests on a walk-in basis, reservations, access to member only events, gatherings and tastings, private liquor lockers, the opportunity to book a room or the entire apartment for private functions, and private menus with advanced ordering. Membership is your reward.