As we know, Brooklyn is all fancy now, and the whole concept of the humble and scrappy Brooklyn restaurant seems like a thing of the past. But Chez Ma Tante, a new restaurant in Greenpoint that bills itself as a British restaurant, opts for more of a neighborhoody vibe. There are no fancy blue banquettes or expensive looking wood paneled walls inside, just a modest bar and basic tables and chairs, clean and functional like they were the best pieces from Ikea.
But this is the type of neighborhood restaurant that everyone wishes were in their corner block, and as such, it’s attracted a clientele that’s willing to trek from all over to a quiet block in Greenpoint. We decided to try our luck at brunch as walk-ins, arriving a few minutes before it officially opened, and already there was a line of 4 parties deep waiting. I overheard the host saying that they were almost running out of tables reserved for walk-ins, but luckily there was one for three of us + a baby in a car seat.
We came here for the brunch, having heard amazing things about the fabulous pancakes, which exceeded expectations. They’re got a bit of a crust to them, which were branded onto them from the cast-iron grill, like the craggy surface of a freshly cooked roti canai, and underneath it all is something soft and billowy that tastes like a mild yellow birthday cake. It’s a big order, so I’d advise splitting it with a group as an appetizer or a dessert, but whatever you do, saving room for them is a must.
The brunch menu is one of those that encourages you to steer away from the typical plate of eggs and attempt something more interesting like a British dish called kedgeree. The kedgeree is a hearty plate of sustenance, where flaked fish, curried rice, creamy potatoes and boiled eggs coexist in a homey tasting casserole mix. The presentation is elevated but the flavors are comforting, a lot like those of bacalhau, a Portuguese dish of cod and potatoes. I liked that my tastebuds were challenged by the kedgeree, but it was also nice to retreat to something that was more familiar, like the excellent egg and sausage sandwich, which came with a strong bun game and a sausage and American-cheese like combo that was reminiscent of a traditional BEC.
When you think British food, you think lots of potatoes, like the chips in fish and chips. The chips and aioli at Chez Ma Tante are fancier versions of those served in the mother country, but they have the requisite thickness, punctuated by a crispness that makes all the difference. Our meal felt a little lopsided with a lot of robust dishes, so to even things out we did order a caesar salad. And even that managed to be more interesting than the usual creamy, eggy variety. The lettuce was dressed in a tangy and garlicky sauce that resembled more of a vinaigrette and was coated with toasted breadcrumbs. It was the light, wholesome vegetable dish that we needed to make ourselves feel better about the huge spread, and not in a throwaway dish sort of way.
Restaurants that shine at brunch usually dim when it comes to dinner, but apparently at Chez Ma Tante it’s also worth visiting during the later PM hours. Looks like a sleepover’s waiting to happen at aunt’s house.
Chez Ma Tante
90 Calyer St (between Franklin and West St)
Brooklyn, NY 11222