Posted On: 05/01/2016
With imaginative cocktails, stellar small plates and a sexy, chic ambiance, The Preston is the shot of adrenaline The Chase Park Plaza has long needed. It emerged this winter in the former Cafe Eau Bistro location. Though the name Preston might invoke thoughts of that wimpy kid in grade school you hated (just me?), any residual childhood anger issues are dropped the moment you step into the warm, smartly updated space. The splendiferous name comes from Preston J. Bradshaw, the local architect who originally designed The Chase in the early 1920s.
A tasteful blend of contemporary and classic, The Preston would no doubt make its namesake proud. Slick maple flooring adds warmth, a gleaming white marble bar adds luxury and a gallery wall adds imagination. Comfortable modern chairs surround butcher block-type tables, offering a mellow intersection of urban and rural. A classic hotel club room in the best sense, it’s OK to wear jeans, but a decent sportcoat should probably accompany them.
The wine list was well curated, and there were a handful of microbrew bottles someone obviously put some serious thought into, but the cocktails on my visit were so well executed that it would have been a sin to focus on anything else. At $8 to $12, the signature drinks and the modern classics were well worth the price of admission.
The bar staff swiftly delivered standouts like the Forest Park Carnival, a luscious take on a classic caipirinha that incorporated blood orange, lime and sprigs of mint along with healthy doses of Novo Fogo cachaca and agave nectar. The Mayfair was another gorgeous treat, mixing Plymouth gin, an egg white, sugar, Sorel and a hit of lemon. Bourbon fans would enjoy Nancy’s Night Out, which merged black tea-and-vanilla bean-infused Bulleit bourbon with Big O ginger liqueur and a splash of grapefruit juice.
While meticulous and decadent in its bar program, The Preston artfully dodged the arrogant and precious tendency of too many high-end cocktail joints. If the signature drinks sound too sweet or contrived, forgo them entirely. A few sips of a simple, classic Manhattan or Pimm’s Cup will convince you how few equals this bar has in town. Feel free to go off menu.
The kitchen likewise fired up impressive selections. Around $10 apiece and nothing more than $20, the approachable yet upscale menu of small plates was as eclectic as it was delightful – drinking food rather than drunk food. Five entree-style super tapas were more than enough for two people. The best of these was the bay scallop chowder, a savory-sweet, bacon-laced clam chowder topped with a half-dozen good size bay scallops that were jealously fought over. A layer of sunchoke puree served as a base for the charred octopus plate, which paired healthy portions of grilled octopus in a smoked paprika vinaigrette with brown butter gnocchi. Though they may sound too simple or trendy, the crispy battered spicy Korean chicken wings were worth coming back for.
The smart surroundings and shareable plates make for an ideal gathering spot for groups or date night couples looking for a fun alternative to the whole formal, white linen tablecloth scene. The atmosphere is easygoing, as is the well-groomed crowd of all ages. Buzzing with energy, the only disappointing thing about The Preston was that it didn’t open sooner.
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