Saturday, 16 July 2011

Joseph Leonard, New York - June 2011

Where: Joseph Leonard and Fedora, West Village, New York 
With who: me, myself and I (and a great deal of pig)

It's a quirky and cosy two-level West Village pub that rapidly became a favourite on my recent trip to New York. Partly for the welcome, somewhat for the atmosphere but mainly for the most decadent piece of ham I've ever eaten.

With only seven tables, each the epitome of the ragged-rustic house style, and a slew of bar seating mean Joseph Leonard is an intimate space, perfect for solo diners such as myself propping up the zinc counter or a quiet dinner with close friends. 

A sign of the resolutely local restaurant, they don't take reservations, so get there early or you'll be hovering around the doorway waiting for someone to vacate their place. Tonight being Gay Pride in New York, and Joseph Leonard being situated opposite the Stonewall Tavern in the heart of the festivities, the crowd is a little on the camp side. Someone's gone all in on the stereo and the music tonight (I hope only for tonight) is utter cheddar.. Cindi Lauper into Chaka Khan into Bohemian Rhapsody went wrong...

It's a relatively small menu, no more than 5 or 6 items per course, focussing on seasonal American fare. The aforementioned pork hock is the permanent house speciality. I was briefly distracted by the interesting cheese and oyster selection, a European cheeseboard with a focus on the raw and oozy, but I put that down to hunger and no one other than the barman to talk to. 

Thankfully I didn't pay too much attention to my conversation with the barman, he tried to upsell me the appetiser of the day, a crispy fried medley of dark chicken meat. If I'd taken the bait, I'd have been in the hospital by now. See, the ham hock had been pre-identified as the must have dish, and I'm not a man to let 95 degree heat get between me and a leg of fried animal.

The speciality deep fried ham hock hits with the subtlety of a moreish, porky brick. It's cooked twice overnight, first in brine and then in pork fat before being deep fried. And my god is it satisfying. Served with a caper and a rocket salad that cut through with sharpness but do nothing to negate the salty kick of the hock. Best served with beer, lots of the stuff. Handy considering the selection at the bar, one might think the two were linked.

It isn't the most obvious combination, a bar / restaurant metro enough to feel like the girls of Sex & The City might drop by for lunch, with as macho a main course as I've ever had. New York, city of contrasts, town of meat...

Stumbling out of Joseph Leonard, flushed with the meat sweats and discombobulated. I felt like a chubby Brit who'd just ingested a week's worth of swine. I needed somewhere to go and drink / sleep it off. Luckily the team behind JL have taken over Fedora, a basement dive round the corner and turned it into a low ceilinged macho speakeasy. It has a small but successful cocktail list, and an old fashioned hit the spot perfectly. It has it's own menu, but after the challenge I'd just been through I didn't have the guts to check it out. I would however recommend it for pre or post-dinner drinks.
Joseph Leonard on Urbanspoon
Fedora Restaurant on Urbanspoon


  1. Rich! I was looking for reviews of Coppelia on Urbanspoon and I stumbled upon yours, which then led me to reading all your other New York reviews. I love them and the fact that you pack in so much good eating in such short stays in the city.

  2. @ Labuonaforchetta - Hey Angie, thanks for that! It's the reason I keep fighting to get out to NYC (just ask Steve or Stas!) Sorry we didn't see you when over last time, will give you more notice next time!