This Transportive New Restaurant Is a Collector’s Paradise

Above: The bar showcases treasures including the brothers’ grandmother’s lamp, a ’30s-era Virgin Mary salvaged from Nazareth Nursery Montessori School on West 15th Street, and blown-glass and brass pendants that resemble buoys.

“Clutter in its highest and most organized form is called collecting,” said the late architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable. Nowhere is this more true than Holywatera maximalist and cinematic subterranean restaurant that recently opened in New York’s TriBeCa neighborhood.

The first on-land spot from Alex and Miles Pincus, the two nautical-obsessed, second-generation restaurateur brothers behind New York’s iconic shipboard restaurants Grand Banks other pilot, Holywater is a master class in collecting and curation. “In designing Holywater, I tapped into three things I love most about bars: atmosphere, escape, and potential—and we built those out in a personal, almost autobiographical way,” says Alex.

Ephemera in the bar area includes a painting given to the brothers by their mother, a vintage shark, a piece by prolific outsider artist Jimmy Lee Sudduth, and vintage newspaper clippings about oystermen.

Douglas Lyle Thompson

Every inch of the cocktail bar, lounge, and dining room is artfully layered with photographs, paintings, works on paper, nautical memorabilia, eclectic ephemera, and an assemblage of furniture that spans the centuries—all collected over the years. Works by Pablo Picasso and Cy Twombly share wall space with photographs by architectural photographer Robert Polidori and noted surf photographer Jeff Devine. Jean Prouvé and Mexican Campeche chairs keep company with Philippe Starck gnome stools and a 19th-century French country farm table that sat in the brothers’ childhood kitchen in New Orleans. Items that hold deep sentimental meaning like a business card given to Alex from legendary restaurateur George Lang of the iconic Café des Artistes, are beautifully framed and hang next to old newspaper clippings about oystermen and Hunter S. Thompson’s daily routine.

holywater restaurant new york city

A fireplace is surrounded by artwork including a 1980 Cy Twombly lithograph, a framed business card from George Lang of iconic Cafe des Artistes, and contemporary works by Chris Cran and Timothy Hull. A photograph that Alex took of his son hangs above the mantel.

Douglas Lyle Thompson

For Alex, a trained architect and former professor at the graduate architecture programs at Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania, there is definitely a method to what seems like decor madness. “The juxtapositions of medium, material, and mood are a reflection of our experiences growing up in New Orleans and New York and are unified by a strong sense of holistic design. Everything in the space shares a sense of craft, attention to detail, and personal history,” says Alex. “If you have objects that are made and collected with thought and integrity, they will in all likelihood work well together.”

holywater restaurant new york city

Miles (left) and Alex Pincus at Holywater, their latest (and most personal) hospitality venture in New York.

Douglas Lyle Thompson

It’s no surprise that seafood is the star at Holywater. Culinary director Kerry Heffernan and executive chef Sam Gasner have created a straightforward and delicious menu of shellfish towers, caviar tater tots, lobster frites, crawfish étouffée (a nod to the brothers’ Louisiana upbringing), one of the best burgers in town, and mom Anne Pincus’s famous New Orleans chocolates. For libations, celebrated bartender and beverage director Erik Trickett has created a long list of NOLA- and NYC-inspired cocktails as well as a nice selection of wine and craft beers.

“We wanted to create a space where the atmosphere is authentic to our lives in and on boats, bars, and restaurants but that also avoids being a maritime one-liner…a place that truly expresses that depth of experience and interest. We also wanted to give people a transportive respite from the everyday,” says Alex. They have succeeded without a doubt.

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