Just in time for the return of limited indoor dining in New York, Michelin-starred chef Shaun Hergatt is unveiling his latest restaurant downtown on Oct. 2. Vestry, a casual restaurant within the forthcoming Dominick Hotel, taps into the chef’s fine-dining pedigree while emphasizing accessibility and community. And while the pandemic has taken a hard toll on the dining industry, Hergatt is optimistic about building something new.
“We’re investing back into the restaurant community. It’s taken a devastating toll; a huge amount of restaurants are closing because of the situation right now, so we feel really fortunate,” says the Australian chef. “We want to give the community back something that’s going to be fun and positive. We’ve all had a tough year, and I want to make sure that people can come and enjoy and lose themselves in the experience.”
Hergatt is also the culinary director at the Surf Lodge in Montauk (closed this season) and the private restaurant inside 432 Park Avenue (New York’s tallest residential building, home to many billionaires’ investment properties). The chef landed within the SoHo hotel for his latest project thanks to relationships he’s cultivated over his two-plus-decade career cooking in the city. But while many of Hergatt’s other restaurants have veered toward high-end and fine-dining, he conceived Vestry with approachability in mind; he wants the restaurant to be the sort of place that diners can return to on a weekly basis.
The succinct menu taps into Hergatt’s refined take on cuisine. The 20 dishes are organized by size — bites, small plates, large plates — with a few dessert options. The cuisine is American-based with Japanese influences, whether in the form of a shiitake handroll, shigoku oysters or wagyu beef. Dishes are fish-driven, accompanied by local vegetables and ingredients presented with minimal manipulation so as to let the natural colors, texture and flavor shine through. Hergatt also makes use of a binchotan grill. “The charcoal gives it that beautiful sensation of flavor profile and that smokiness,” he says.
The dining room, designed by Jason Volenec Studio, uses contrasting materials — concrete and oak floors, leather and velvet alongside brass and marble. But while the restaurant opens Oct. 2, just in time for the return of limited indoor dining in New York, it will continue to prioritize outdoor dining.
“That happened to be a gift. We all had a small celebration on the inside when we found out,” says Hergatt of the indoor dining announcement. “We’re very conscious about people’s sensitivities, and if you decide you want to come in or eat outside, we’re going to give you the same experience in front of our restaurant.”
For now, Vestry will seat around 30 diners outdoors, and 30 indoors. While they’ve had to scale back the team to make the economics of the space work for the current situation, Hergatt is excited about bringing some of the bustle back to the social and restaurant hub of downtown New York.
“We want to make sure we’re really careful in our strategy and deliver something that brings people together,” he says. “We’ve had such a separated life this last year. We want people to come and celebrate and enjoy their time, and we’re here to serve them.”
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