Church of the Heavenly Rest
Shaded by a big umbrella, I take a seat at the table close to the entrance of the Episcopal Church, which celebrates its annual summer Jazz Vespers. The Metropolitan Museum just closed. The Guggenheim Museum and Cooper Hewitt will close shortly. Tourists and locals stroll by, surprised to see all those tables, chairs, and umbrellas on the sidewalk of New York’s fashionable Upper East Side.
The Heavenly Rest Stop by Bluestone Lane
reads the sign inviting bystanders to take a seat at one of their tables. I like to stop by on Sunday, around 5 o’clock, after the rush hour, when they are winding down.
My favorite dish is their Classic Avocado Smash on Balthazar toast, with pieces of feta, cherry tomatoes, sunflower sprouts. Smash is the perfect word for the heaping avocado that makes the bread all but disappear. At $13, the dish is a bargain. However, if I want to splurge, I could add a poached egg ($3), prosciutto ($4), chorizo ($5) and smoked salmon ($6). The dish is so copious, chances are I’ll take most of it home.
Lately, I have discovered their Breakfast Bowl. It features cherry tomatoes, feta, and avocado, with the addition of red quinoa and a poached egg. As such, it is an abbreviated version of the Bluestone Lane Rainbow Bowl which includes carrots, spinach, lentils, pickled beets, w/turmeric ginger yogurt dressing.
Avocado appears on a variety of dishes. In fact, it seems that Bluestone Lane has put avocado on today’s culinary map. What really stuns me is the perfection of the poached egg which appears in several dishes. No matter how many times I’ve tried to poach an egg, it ends up being a disaster.
The soup of the day is another winner, particularly since it comes with two slices of toasted Balthazar bread. That bread is so tasty, I’m tempted to buy a loaf at the Balthazar Bakery retail store in Soho. The Drinks menu includes anything from a variety of hot or cold Coffee, Cold-Pressed Juices, Wine, Mimosa, and Beer. Since there is a big bottle of water, plus glasses on each table, I don’t require anything else, with the exception of an occasional Iced Latte.
Bluestone Lane was founded by the former Australian professional football player Nick Stone. Looking for a location on the Upper East Side, it rented the former chapel of the Church the Heavenly Rest. A Gothic arch with a heavy glass door leads into a vaulted stone space. Brass lighting fixtures, antique mirrors, wood-and-metal furniture combine to set the tone for the café. Tables and benches are set into alcoves, and a communal table runs down the middle. The space is relatively small and tends to be noisy. But, once the season has changed and the tourists are gone, it gains brownie-points because of its unique location.
I am about to pay when an acquaintance of mine stops by.
“Coming to the Jazz Vespers?” she asks.
I catch it toward the end. The reverend rector, music director, and Jazz Vespers band, stand by to say hello.
“Thank you for coming,” says Reverend Matthew Heyd. “Hope we’ll see you again soon.” Although I do not mention it, they certainly will at the Church’s annual Christmas pageant.
Outside, they are clearing up the tables, closing the umbrellas, folding the chairs, and piling them into the corner.
“See you next Sunday?” asks my waiter.
“I hope so,” I say.