Three centuries after they occupied Revolutionary War-era NYC, the Brits are back, happily in a more hospitable fashion. A new English-style gastropub has popped up in the residential neighborhood of Murray Hill (named for the Murray family, which owned a large farm in the area 300 years ago; legend has it that, during the Revolution, Mrs. Murray and her daughters entertained the Redcoats so long and so well, it gave Gen. George Washington's army a chance to sneak out of the city and escape capture. But I digress.
The Shakespeare occupies the basement of a townhouse, formerly The Williams Club. One houses the long wooden bar, the other has a series of tables and booths. Both are cozy and woodsy and feel like they've been there forever. The drinks include a variety of drafts, casks and bottled brews from the the USA, the U.K., and Belgium, with delightful names like Old Crafty Hen, Youngs Double Chocolate Stout, Crabbies (a ginger beer) and--my favorite--Laginitas Lil Sumthin Sumthin. Naturally, plenty of whisky (as the Brits spell it) and cocktails are on hand too.
Now to the grub. Once widely derided, English cooking is getting a lot of respect, largely due to the advent of gastropubs, which, despite their casual settings, use market-fresh ingredients to create fine fare, of all types. The Shakespeare opts for traditonal British cuisine. You can start with various tapas-size dishes like Welsh rarebit, pumpkin on toast with chedar, potted rabbit, and Scotch eggs. The menu proper changes daily, but you can count on classics like London Particular (split pea and braised ham hock soup), prawns, bangers and mash, beans on toast, a warm roast beef sandwich, fish and chips, and several types of meat pies. You want fries--excuse me, chips--with that? or perhaps some bubble and squeak (cooked cabbage and other vegetables). Save room for a sweet: treacle tart, or chocolate sponge with ginger and Guinness. Banoffee trifle (graham crackers, three types of puddings and pastry cream) if you've a real sweet tooth. The frozen lemon mousse, if you haven't.
Service is convivial and knowledgable. The digs can get a little noisy, but then, what's a bar without a buzz?
The Bard would have been proud.
» The Shakespeare, 24 E. 39th St., 646.837.6779