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The new cocktail spot downtown, Bailiwick (756 5th Avenue), has a cool look about it. It’s a mixture of shabby chic and Edwardian cool, like the Titanic is going to sink at any moment behind the bar. Clawfoot tubs and lighted birdcages as decor? Yeah, sure, why not? I dig it. The name’s a reference to the jurisdiction of a bailiff, which makes no sense whatsoever but I guess we can roll with it.

I hoped for food when I went there, as the outside gave no clue of what the menu would look like, or even if there would be a menu at all. For the most part, it was drinks drinks drinks, but a few nibbles and bites snuck their way onto the bottom of the menu.

Grilled oysters ($12) came out in a wooden bowl filled with flaming salt. Very cool to look upon and quite delicious to boot, but not much for the consumption. Four, lonely little oysters don’t make much of a meal, even with the “prosciutto chips” in the middle of the plate that demonstrated a good way to ruin prosciutto with a fryer.


Along the same vein, the “Bailiwiches” ($12) weren’t much of a meal though they were scrumptious. Miniature waffles sandwiched equally small burgers with a slice of Emmental cheese and some shaved radish. On the side, tater tots (maybe eight of them) and maple aioli looked precious but didn’t do much to fill the belly.

I’d say I’m pointing out the obvious, but it was hard to tell from the outside what kind of place Bailiwick would be. I’m neither miffed nor flustered over not getting a meal, especially since the morsels I received were very pleasant, I just wanted to find out the facts.

And the fact is, the drinks are awesome. The talkative, knowledgeable, friendly bartender whipped up a svelte take on the Blood and Sand, an old-school whiskey and orange concoction that drinks smooth and looks classy in a stubby cocktail class. The bar’s Daiquiri is about the best I’ve ever had, with smooth, strong rum and just the right balance of tart and sweet.

Perhaps the coolest thing at the bar is the huge block of ice kept waiting on a chilled stone slab. If there;s a few minutes to spare, the bar staff will chisel a perfect sphere of ice to chill fine whiskey. I tried it in a glass of Tuthilltown rye whiskey.

One word: classy.


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