It doesn’t get more achingly cool than Highline: clean lines and white marble table tops, a stylish crowd of the city’s tastemakers circulating in and out all night, and a high-powered team with CVs including hip nightclub Le Baron
, chic French bistro Coquille
, Italian trattoria Scarpetta
and modern gastropub Liquid Laundry
. It’s the newest in the portfolio of Muse, the group most recently behind slick destinations like The Cannery
and The Nest
Drinks from the Highline bar go down easily, but not particularly memorably. Knock back a Highline Ice Tea (98RMB), a bourbon-spiked red tea with Grand Marnier, peach and lemon; then, suck down the gingery rum-and-fernet Light & Stormy (88RMB), and you should still be feeling fine. Unobtrusive and inoffensive.
The Highline kitchen belongs to Anna Bautista (Coquille and Scarpetta) and Sean Jorgenson (Liquid Laundry and Maya), and they’ve created a menu that reads like a California exile’s empty stomach fantasies – roasted baby scallops in butter, basil, garlic and chilli with macadamia nuts (98RMB), apple wood smoked salmon with winter bean quinoa salad (158RMB) and so on. The reality, though, is a lottery of home runs and strikeouts.
Bautista and Jorgenson shower the sweet potato fries (58RMB) in a nori-parmesan and serve with a side of Korean chilli aioli – truly delicious. The winter Caesar salad (78RMB) sounds promising (‘Brussels sprout, kale, crispy baby anchovies, lemon yoghurt dressing’), but falls short; the raw kale is tough and unforgiving. You’ll wish it’d been massaged for a hot second. A superb blackened shrimp etouffee with blue lump crab, smoked tomato and pepper risotto (138RMB) redeems the misstep. But then again there are more great ideas that don’t quite pan out – the rigatoni is tossed with a ‘cauliflower cream’ and sprinkled with parmesan, pork rind lemon crumb and Yunnan black truffle (98RMB), but it doesn’t hit the satiny, rich notes you’d expect.
If you want the one reason to come, it’s the fried chicken and waffles (128RMB). Bautista and Jorgenson have got it down: massive pieces of chicken (juicy inside, crispy outside) with outstanding Cajun-spiced waffles and a side of maple bacon butter. It’s showstoppers like this (and all of its atmosphere) that will be putting Highline on the map.
By Cat Nelson