Fred's at Barneys, has, unfortunately, no Flintstonian relevance. I admit I was hoping for some glimmer of childhood nostalgia to unearth, but unless that was the case when Barney named his son Fred, the nomenclature to the cartoon is but coincidence. That, and perhaps the almost barbaric portions of food provided, but they do, with that as a qualifier, live up to their price tags.
And since we're at Barneys, the price tags are expected to be steep. The scene, however, was less fashionista and ladies-who-lunch than families of tourists and a generic shopping population, at least on this particular Saturday afternoon. I don't remember our server much: he did his job efficiently, without pleasantries or joviality. Nothing offensive, but nothing to add any liveliness to the event, nor much care as to whether things were going well or not. And the food didn't really thrill at any point, but it was fresh and sagely prepared, and like I said, plentiful.
The menu is continental, with some predictable "luxury" tweaks like truffle oil or caviar, just to live up to the Barneys mystique. I mean, the floors beneath hawk Gucci and McQueen: one couldn't get away with out a little pomp in the dining room as well. That said, it reminded me a lot of a room service menu at a fancy hotel.
But onto the food, which for the most part is fairly forgettable, unless you're just looking to get fed. Their daily special omelet must comprise at least three eggs if not more, brimming with chunked ham and tomatoes, a respectable omelet, but still, just that. And if a $22 omelet doesn't kind of make you roll your eyes, then, well, have at it. (Understanding, of course, it isn't coming with unlimited mimosas.) In fact, not even potatoes: it's erved with bare salad greens- fodder for the Prada set, I assume. I admit it's a little hard to get a great gauge of Fred's after a single visit, since the menu is really formatted to suffice at one dish per person.
But I'm a sampler, so I tried a roasted hedgehog mushroom to start and some grilled shrimp after. The mushroom was severely undersalted. While I adore boldly seasoned food and am rarely one to complain of excessive salinity, I still rarely add salt at the table if the chef didn't want it in there to begin with. But this was practically inedible without a douse from the shaker: unseasoned cooked maitakes taste like dirt, even with the generous shavings of parmesan atop. A little salt helped a lot, but it still amounted to little more a heap of cooked mushrooms on a few leaves of arugula, vinegar, cheese. Lots of them, though- more than it looks like from this photo. Grilled shrimp were slightly more impressive, but just for the quality of the shrimp. The menu paired them with cannellini beans, but me liking my veggies in abundance, I requested them atop grilled asparagus instead, which turned out nicely enough. That is, as soon as I meliorated it with the salt shaker again. The seasonings here kind of go hand in hand with the geriatric cafeteria atmosphere; the clientele tipped towards the elderly side of things. I guess that's who can afford this kind of place. Especially since had I gotten the asparagus as a side, plus the shrimp, plus the mushrooms, lunch would've topped out at a whopping $52.00 for just me. With coffee, easily a Ben for the deuce. But if you just order a single plate, you can escape without breaking the bank. I eyed a lobster salad ordered by both members of a party at the table next to us, which would've served precisely that purpose. There was a good lot of lobster in that bowl, some waxy, tender looking new potatoes and crisp greens ( although they looked tragically overdressed). You get some nice bread from the basket, too, so it really makes a meal.
Although boring. But hey! This is a restaurant at a prestigious department store: I doubt there even IS a chef. The cooks are doing a solid enough job to hold the place together, though, and certainly they'll never want for business. Shopping at Barneys? Well, if you're REALLY shopping here (as in buying stuff) than you won't have a problem with the price tags. If you're looking for a fun destination with great people watching to brag about back home, go to Bar Pitti or Cafe Le Cirque. But if you do stay and dine at Fred's, at least you won't have to shop hungry.
660 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10065