“There used to be a tunnel here that [went] over to the old Penn Station,” says chef Scott Campbell, standing in the former Manufacturers Trust Company bank vault space underneath the New Yorker Hotel. The room had been transformed from its past life into steak-centric restaurant Butcher & Banker, the first time in over three decades that the area has been seen by the public. “The good thing about forgetting history is it’s a new era,” he says.
The self-described “history aficionado,” who has worked at NYC mainstays such as Le Cirque, The Oak Room at the Plaza, and most recently with Bette Midler at New Leaf up in Fort Tryon Park, seems just as excited reminiscing about local history as he does cooking. Many of the space’s original details were left intact — the large open round vault door is a bait for the social-media set, and rows of safety deposit boxes continue the nod to a past era in Manhattan history.
“These were all boxes,” says Campbell from within the vault room. “What they did was they cut the backs off and then artistically attached them to the wall. My bank just got rid of the safety deposits, so I had to go to another one. They’re like, very few people have safety deposits anymore.”
The main dining room is cozy with old-town charm, festooned with large vintage photographs of butchers, ornate sparkling chandeliers, and cheeky bull references — a wink to both the meat and finance components.
“I think in the last couple of years people are trying to reinvent [steakhouses],” he says. “In my wordage, I say it’s almost like a hybrid between a brasserie and a steakhouse.” Campbell notes that he incorporated a strong vegetable component to the menu, a play to appeal to health-conscious Millennials and also intermeshes the CSA partnerships he had built up through his relationship to Fort Tryon Park.
Located a block from Madison Square Garden and avenues away from blossoming Hudson Yards developments — not to mention the hotel stacking the floors above — Butcher & Banker has a unique positioning to appeal to a variety of guests, both transient and local.
“We do get a good amount of everybody,” Campbell agrees. “It’s a New York City restaurant, yes you’re going to get some people because they’re in the hotel, but you also have the Garden, you have people from Long Island, Jersey.”
“We just gotta get the Dolan family now that [James L. Dolan] got bumped up to ceo again,” Campbell adds. “We’ll have to create a relationship and have him pull people in.”
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