Before you go to a restaurant, what do you want — or need — to know most? In our series, The Rundown, we’re sharing all the essentials about newly opened (as well as some of your favorite) restaurants.
This time, we’re taking a look at Clover Hill, which opened its doors for lunch last month on a tree-shaded, brownstone-lined street in Brooklyn Heights. The cozy, 34-seat restaurant offers a thoughtfully sourced menu of French and new American flavors and techniques from executive chef Charlie Mitchell (Eleven Madison Park; One White Street), who partnered with restaurateurs Clay Castillo and Gabriel Marino. By day, Clover Hill serves a laid-back breakfast and lunch menu with a sophisticated twist (think French omelets with tarragon beurre blanc and croque fromage sandwiches with truffles). Come March 18, the restaurant will introduce Mitchell’s seven-course dinner tasting menu, which showcases some of his more ambitious creations.
Here’s everything you need to know before you go.
1. This is Clover Hill’s second launch.
Castillo and Merino first opened Clover Hill in December 2019 with a different culinary team, but the pandemic quickly led to the restaurant’s closure. During the pandemic, the duo got to know Mitchell, a Detroit native who had worked at New York City’s three Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park and Tribeca’s new farm-to-table restaurant, One White Street. Castillo, who moved to New York City 10 years ago from Venezuela, worked for Danish chef Claus Meyer (Agern), and was the manager of the popular Iris Café when it occupied Clover Hill’s current location. He has always loved the residential feel of both the area and the landmarked 19th-century building where the restaurant now resides.
“The first time I ever stepped into the restaurant, I just got this special feeling about the neighborhood and this space in particular,” he said, pointing out that Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade are just a couple of blocks away. Even before the restaurant’s reopening, Castillo experienced that feeling of community he loves so much about the neighborhood when area residents showed their enthusiasm for Clover Hill’s next chapter. “Every so often people would just open the door and walk in and ask, ‘When are you guys reopening?’ Or they’d just tell us how excited they were,” Castillo says. “It felt like people were really embracing the fact that we were coming back.”
2. Lunchtime is a casual — but curated — affair.
Since the intent behind Clover Hill is to be a restaurant that serves the neighborhood, the breakfast and lunch menu is a collection of simple but well-sourced and thoughtfully presented dishes. “The way we approached the menu was for it to be accessible and approachable in the daytime, but also at least raise some eyebrows a little bit with flavor or techniques so that people would be interested in trying dinner,” says Mitchell. The French omelet, for example, is simple, but Mitchell showcases some serious French technique and adds tarragon beurre blanc. A chicken stuffed with housemade ‘nduja sausage is served with a chicken jus and Molokai sweet potatoes. The croque fromage — a French-style grilled cheese — is laced with truffles. The six-minute soft-boiled egg, wrapped in feuilles de brick pastry dough and ever so slightly fried, is served with farro and spiked with sherry sabayon. “It’s not your normal soft-boiled egg,” said Mitchell. “But we also didn’t try to fancy it up too much and put caviar on top or something crazy like that.”
3. The obsessively sourced ingredients and advanced cooking techniques of the dinner-only tasting menu aim to be on par with top Manhattan restaurants — but with gentler prices.
The seven-course dinner tasting menu, which initially debuts on March 18 for just Fridays and Saturdays, is what especially excites Mitchell about Clover Hill. That’s because he can show off the full range of his culinary skills with top-quality ingredients. The $135 price, while still a splurge, is easily half of what a diner might pay for a similar tasting menu in Manhattan, according to Mitchell. “I want [the menu] to feel bountiful and delicious. We’re using products that you might find at the two- or three-Michelin-starred restaurants in the city, but we’re doing it our way in this little brick-and-mortar spot in Brooklyn Heights.” The constantly changing menu will have a heavy focus on seafood, and might include langoustine, lobster, or scallops, procured from the best sources available at a given time, whether it’s fishermen in Maine or the top fish purveyors in Japan. They’ll be paired with seasonal vegetables like white asparagus and rhubarb. Sourcing holds equal weight on the beverage program, which features everything from Queens-based Finback Brewery ales to Bourgogne Rouge wines from Burgundy, France.
4. The dining room exudes a cozy neighborhood feel — with a touch of history.
The interiors reflect Castillo’s longtime fascination with the history of Brooklyn Heights and New York City, which started 10 years ago when he first moved to the city. The restaurant’s name, Clover Hill, is the original name of Brooklyn Heights, and the restaurant itself is located in a landmarked building with whitewashed brick walls and original 19th-century dark wood floors and wall paneling. Inside, the open-plan kitchen is offset with residential-feeling décor, like paintings, antiques, and mirrors that Castillo sourced from various flea markets and vintage shops around the city.
“From day one, I wanted the [décor] to feel like it’s been here for a long time,” Castillo says. He wanted to give guests the feeling that they’re dining in the home of a friend who’s cooking for them, an ambience that Mitchell prefers as the setting for his fine-dining cooking techniques. “Instead of paying some bigwig designer to come in here and put velvet and chandeliers everywhere, we took a different approach,” Mitchell says. “It has a more inviting feel to it because of that. And I think it helps make the hospitality part of it a little bit easier. You have this nice cozy dining room to invite people to, and then you give them food that is executed differently from what they might expect in a space like this.” Equally personalized is the restaurant’s soundtrack, which ranges from hip-hop to funk depending on the time of day. “We’re all very into music; Clay plays [guitar and bass], Gabe plays the drums, and I grew up listening to a lot of music,” he adds. “A good playlist really sets the vibe.”
Clover Hill is open from 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays. Starting March 18, it will also be open from 6 to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.