“My dream is 1970’s Paris,” rhapsodizes chef Claire Welle, as she sips the remnants of a bloody mary, on break from searing pork neck in the kitchen. “I want gluttonous, I want insane, I want masculine, I want butter spewed on the tables. I grew up in a world where tableside service was a thing, so we have that, and cheese, and large format bottles. I’d say we’re at 60-percent right now.”
She’s referring to the week-old Otway (formerly Clinton Hill’s Tilda All Day), which owner Samantha Safer finally wrested control of, after a legal contretemps with her former partner. Translated to “triumphant in battle,” it reflects the duo’s original vision for the restaurant, which—as opposed to an all-day café, however ambitious the menu—truly takes advantage of two kitchens, a full liquor license and of course, the classically trained Welle, whose talents extend far beyond pastry.
Not that her laudable baking prowess doesn’t come into play at Otway; witness a rolling cart of gratis bread, which (after undergoing a 72-hour rise), reliably greets each patron. “I want us to be generous and for people to have a full meal. No one wants to sit down and immediately start thinking about the bill. So charging for bread? That’s not hospitality to me,” Welle said. “Besides, my cooks wanted to learn how to make bread, and I said if we’re going to do it we’re going to do it right, with the utmost respect and attention to quality and technique and commitment and sourcing. Because how could we not?”
Her desire to habitually educate and motivate her team contours the rest of the constantly evolving menu, where every element is crafted in house—from the basement-fermented sauerkraut that accompanies that aforementioned pork, to nubbly lardo, whipped with pine needles foraged from her Christmas tree, and deposited on crackers, formed from the whey strained from homemade yogurt. And all of it engenders Otway’s vow of unstinting opulence (and what Safer describes as a pushback against small plates). This is composed of full-on, traditionally-coursed appetizers, entrees, and desserts, such as buckwheat cake, bursting forth with chocolate cremeux and herbs (a modernist take on the retro molten chocolate cake), and tangy, tightly-rolled, dill-perfumed crepes, crowned with a good half tray of uni.
“Cooks have been clamoring to stage with her, just because they want to be part of what’s going on,” said Safer, which naturally translates to customers, too. “When you’re released into the wild and told ‘go, you’re free,’ it’s so exciting it’s hard to concentrate!” added Welle. “So we’re all having fun. We were here drinking with our diners until one in the morning the other night, having an impromptu 80’s dance party. Because the thing is, you shouldn’t take food so seriously. Even though, you know, it’s my life.”
930 Fulton St, (917) 909-1889
Photos by Sasha Turrentine