In the seven years since Tyler Anderson opened his first restaurant in Simsbury, he’s explored several diverse concepts: farm-fresh New England cuisine, craft barbecue, Spanish tapas and soon, pizza. But for the first time, he’s brought his culinary expertise to a new Connecticut area code, taking over the restaurant and bar at The Blake Hotel in New Haven.
In late June, he and his team, including partners A.J. Aurrichio and Tim Cabral, began managing the hotel’s full-service bistro Hamilton Park, and High George, its rooftop bar with a food and beverage menu inspired by New England summers.
This is the first opening outside of Hartford County for Anderson, a six-time nominee for a James Beard Foundation award in the Best Chef: Northeast category and a contestant on season 15 of Bravo’s “Top Chef.”
And it won’t even be his sole opening in 2019 — next up is Square Peg Pizzeria, a Glastonbury red-sauce joint with arcade games, debuting this fall in partnership with “Top Chef” cast mate and friend Bruce Kalman. But the New Haven opportunity came up quickly, he said, and he decided to jump on board.
“It’s a vibrant city, the diversity is great; there’s always something going on here,” Anderson says about the Elm City. “It has a different pulse than Hartford, which I like. It’s nice to spend time in both cities, and be a part of both communities.”
The Blake, owned and operated by RMS Companies, is Anderson’s second hotel venture. RMS also runs The Goodwin Hotel in Hartford, where his culinary team opened Porrón & Piña in May 2018. Initially, Anderson thought to do a “quintessential New England hotel restaurant” at the Hartford property, but decided a Spanish-themed restaurant was a better way to fit a niche in the capital city.
With the New Haven restaurant, “to be able to highlight what New England does is still the goal,” Anderson says. But he notes approachability is also important, with hotel guests coming in from around the world.
Hamilton Park’s menu is stylistically reminiscent of Anderson’s flagship restaurant, Millwright’s in Simsbury, melding elements of its dining room and downstairs tavern offerings with composed entrees and then more casual items like a cheeseburger and a crab melt.
But Anderson is careful to say it’s not a replica. “I want every place to have its own identity.”
Instead, he and co-executive chef Ashley Flagg have created several dishes inspired by their personal experiences, pulling more from memories than trying to fit certain flavor palates.
Hamilton Park’s take on chicken cordon bleu represents the first dish Anderson ever cooked for his parents, after telling them he wanted to pursue a career as a chef, and its side of “mushy” peas mirrors a recipe his mother used to make. As a young chef, Anderson once tried to hide a kitchen mistake by adding butter to burned soy sauce, and now a brown butter soy flavors Hamilton’s tuna tartare appetizer.
Hamilton Park, New Haven
Hamilton Park’s take on chicken cordon bleu served with “mushy” peas. (Lindsay Bukowinski / The Hartford Courant)1 / 4
A starter of baked beans with pork belly is Flagg’s addition, a dish her best friend’s mother used to make, that she craves often. Other popular appetizers ($10 to $19) include a smoked bluefish dip with “everything bagel” crackers, a tomato tart with melted onions and horseradish curds and corn fritters with Mediterranean flavors like tzatziki, feta and olives.
Hamilton Park honors its proximity to the Connecticut coastline with a “lobster bake,” featuring mussels, potatoes and creamy corn, and a cod dish with summer vegetables and a tomato horseradish crust. Other entree options ($14 to $39) include steaks (12-ounce prime ribeye and steak frites), duck breast with pomegranate and coriander, lamb loin with eggplant, cashews and sumac yogurt, and pork Milanese.
Hamilton Park is also the first time Anderson has had “true pastas” on a menu at one of his restaurants, he says, and pastas are made fresh in house and offered in two portion sizes ($14 to $32). Options include radiatore with lobster, fennel and Calabrian chili, Anderson’s take on fra diavolo, and gemelli with peas, mint, parmesan and lemon crumbs.
The restaurant also serves breakfast seven days a week from 7 to 10 a.m., with dishes like lemon ricotta pancakes, yogurt and granola parfaits, breakfast sandwiches and smoked salmon toast ($9 to $16.) Dinner starts at 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Sunday brunch launches Sept. 8, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and lunch begins Sept. 10, available Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Blake Hotel’s rooftop bar and deck opened with plenty of time to become a summer drinking destination, but its retractable glass roof and other weather enclosures will ensure virtual year-round enjoyment. The space, which is bathed in bright sunlight during daylight hours, features dark wood accents, a marble bar top and seating for 80 guests at the bar, tables and banquettes.
High George, New Haven
A sampling of the raw bar selections at High George. (Lindsay Bukowinski / Hartford Courant)
A raw bar features a daily oyster selection and Jonah crab claws ($3 per piece) and smoked bluefish dip, shrimp cocktail, crudo and tuna tartare ($11 to $18). Sandwiches ($6 to $13) are served on steamed buns, with bourbon-buttered lobster, cornmeal-crusted whole belly clams, crab salad, shiitake mushrooms, chicken cutlet with caper sauce, cheeseburger with sharp cheddar and onions. A coal oven turns out meat and vegetable skewers ($4.50 to $7) with mushrooms, asparagus, chicken thigh, tri-tip beef and pork belly. Desserts ($5 and $6) are limited to whoopie pies and sorbet.
“We sell lots of little things, and we wanted the price point to be affordable,” Anderson says of the rooftop offerings.
The bar continues the New England summer theme, with easy-drinking spritzes ($10) going beyond traditional Aperol with sake and sherry, and tonics ($12 and $13) with gin, mezcal and white rum. Non-alcoholic versions of each are available for $6. Classic cocktails ($12 to $14) include a Bee’s Knees with Greenalls gin, margarita with rotating shrub, daiquiris and “bold and boozy” options like a Sazerac and Old-Fashioned.
“Beach house creations” ($12) are a getaway in a glass, like the Bird of Paradise with Angostura rum, Campari, roasted pineapple and lime cordial, and the Red Eye to Mexico, with mezcal, toasted coconut infused Aperol, amaro, lime and bitters. The Category Five, with Appleton rum, banana liqueur, orange, lime, spiced cherry and bitters, is discounted to $5 during rainy weather.
“We conceptualized this really, really fun menu, and then brought it to life and it’s been working well,” said partner Tim Cabral. “Fun, light, bright, fresh flavors.” As the weather cools, the menu will shift toward fall and winter flavors, he said.
High George is open Wednesday through Saturday, starting at 4 p.m. Happy hour, from 4 to 6 p.m., features $1 buck-a-shuck oysters, $6 wines, $8 mojitos and a rotating cocktail, and $4 beers.