First Look: Bowood by Niche in the Central West End
Bowood by Niche, the newest restaurant from chef-owner Gerard Craft’s Niche Food Group, opened on Thursday, Nov. 4, for breakfast and lunch at 4605 Olive St. in the Central West End in the space that previously housed Cafe Osage.
After Niche Food Group acquired the beloved space, a renovation took place that involved adding more seating to the main dining room and transforming the entryway landing into a bar area with a few two-tops and bar seating. The retail section remains but has been pared down. If guests are waiting for a table, they can grab a drink at the bar, walk around the retail space and have a pleasant waiting experience. The dining room is inviting; the whole space is serene, sun-drenched and elegant. The service is warm and friendly, a tone set from general manager Savannah Thomas, who was previously food and beverage assistant manager at Four Seasons St. Louis.
The menu was a collaborative effort from Craft, executive chef Dakota Williams, a Niche alum and former executive chef at Nixta, and executive pastry chef Suji Grant. The menu is composed of breakfast, pastries, soups, salads and sandwiches. It aims to please the casual brunch-goer with familiar items buttermilk blueberry pancakes — fluffy and absolutely delicious topped with house-made cultured butter, or a classic breakfast plate (eggs, toast, potatoes and meat), or the eggs Benedict with brown butter hollandaise. Look for some throwbacks from the now-closed Sardella era, like the egg sandwich, which was served with pepper jack cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, hot sauce aioli and red pepper jelly. It comes on a house-made English muffin and is served with a lemony arugula salad and a hash brown topped with dried herbs from on-site herb garden. A version of Sardella’s cacio e pepe eggs have returned … and we’re here for it. The team is also sourcing locally through places like Find Your Farmer, a local co-op and also Double Star Farms.
On the pastry side, the honey bun is reminiscent of a honey doughnut crossed with a cinnamon roll. Its light dough is spun with a thin ribbon of cinnamon inside and then topped with a glaze. The coffee cake is moist with whole blueberries and finished with a crumb topping. Both are perfect for the expertly crafted cortado we tried made by lead bartender Robbie Crew. The Bowood mocha latte, with its house-made dark chocolate, has sophisticated sweetness. Additionally, look for a selection of wines, beers, zero-proof drinks and a cocktail menu with brunch favorites including a mimosa, a bloody mary and an espresso martini.
The lunch portion of the menu has classics like a cheeseburger and a turkey sandwich, as well as creative salads like the mixed greens with red wine vinaigrette, beer cheese, vegetables, almonds, garlic breadcrumbs and chickpeas. Similarly, the chile-fried tofu was an unexpected find. The tofu is pressed for 24 hours, seasoned and dusted with panko and fried for a shatteringly crisp, slightly spicy and totally craveable bite. It’s served with bread and butter pickled cucumbers, shredded lettuce and green goddess dressing, resulting in a balanced and deeply savory sandwich. Williams explained that they wanted to offer vegetarian menu items that were substantial on their own, and this certainly achieves that goal.
Along those lines, the avocado toast, served on Union Loafer’s toasted semolina bread, came with a little mashed, seasoned avocado at the base and is topped with pickled sweet chiles, herb salad, charred avocado and garden spice. For the spice, herbs from the garden are dried, then they add lemon, lime and orange zests that are dehydrated and powdered for brightness, as well as a little nutritional yeast for a cheesy bite. “The charring adds a layer of flavor, a light smokiness and a little more depth to the avocado," Williams said. "When I was at Nixta, Ben Poremba showed me how to sear it correctly so it’s almost like a vegan foie gras … that’s what it kind of mimics, and that’s always stuck with me. You don’t want to go too adventurous at breakfast. People are very particular on how they want their eggs cooked and everything, so we’ll get to be a little more adventurous when we open for dinner in 2022.”
The outdoor area, which will seat about 40 when it opens in the coming months, is already scenic with plants from Bowood Farms on display. In the near future, look for an outdoor kitchen with a brick oven that will be used to make pizzas and finish dishes. There are also plans to have fire pits added.
Bowood by Niche is open Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reservations are recommended.
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