Black Safe, Dining, Drinks

NYC Restaurant Review: The Henry at Life Hotel – Objectively Black

“Black Safe” – A discussion and review of restaurants and bars that we’ve visited. The point of these reviews is to give people of color a sense of how we felt or were treated when we patronize these establishments. We’ve all been there. Your service seemed extra slow. Maybe people are looking at you crazy. Either way, we know that our treatment in public spaces is much different than others. We aren’t going out looking for fights, and hopefully soon, Black Safe won’t even be necessary. But for now, we gotta report back to y’all on what we experience.

How was the food? How were the drinks? We’ll each give our take on what we experienced, then we’ll give a score out of 5.

F. Dougie: Henry at Life Hotel is an African, Caribbean, and African-American inspired concept by head chef J.J. Johnson. He took over the restaurant in the fall of 2018 and it quickly jumped to the top of many New York restaurant critics must-eat lists.

From the moment we walked in, we could tell this was going to be a different dining experience. The staff was diverse and the music was expertly curated. I can’t remember the last time that I stopped in the middle of a dinner conversation to sing “Hypnotize” (Biggie) “I Get Around” (Pac), and “Electric Relaxation” (Tribe). My man Idris almost started freestyling to “Get By” (Talib) during a conversation about the government shutdown. This expertly chosen playlist helped inject some much-needed blackness into lower-midtown. After a long ass day of dealing with entitled-ass clients, sometimes “Gon’ blast, squeeze first ask questions last” is just the shit you need to hear to keep you motivated.

The food was on point, but you didn’t really expect a brotha to get African and Carribean food wrong, did you? The drinks were pricey, but much to be expected from a hotel restaurant. I had a Captain Lawrence ‘Golden Delicious’ and couldn’t have been happier with my decision. I know what y’all are thinking. “Why would he drink a Belgian ale with Afro-Carribean food?” Sure, I’m certain there are many different cocktails that would have paired better with my meal, and I’m sure the head chef and mixologist worked hard to create some great cocktails that complement their menu better….but I got a baby that needs to go to college one day and you know damn well how much a cocktail costs in New York City so Y’all can go to hell.

The Lamb Suya Kebabs with Za’atar Yogurt and Roti were an excellent starter and you already know I had to go with the Roasted Jerk Chicken for my entree. Yeah, I got chicken for dinner. I did this for Y’all! We gotta make sure if someone is putting Jerk Chicken on the menu, they representing. It was tender, succulent, and had a crispy, almost fried skin. If you like spicy (white people beware), this should give you juuuust enough of that Caribbean kick without overpowering. We’ll definitely be back.

Black Safeness: 4.6/5

Idris Gray: “Mazel tav, it’s a celebration bitches!” – Jay -Z (Roc Boys). This was the mood as soon as we entered Henry at Life Hotel, right on 31st between 5th and 6th avenue. It’s the one with the big neon pink sign in the window. You can’t miss it.

As you walk in the restaurant you are immediately greeted with great service. You’ll want to make a reservation before coming, but walk-ins are definitely welcome. There’s a good sized bar as well, which is ideal for those after work drinks. We made a reservation for 7:30 but they were able to seat us a bit earlier. Now let me warn you, as you walk to your table you may be stopped in your tracks by the sound of 50 Cent, Talib or HOV over the speakers. Do not adjust your TV set fam, this real life, you’re at home. At several times during the dining experience, you may find yourself breaking out in song just to remind everyone that you know all the words to Let’s Ride by Q-Tip.

We can’t say enough about the diversity of the restaurant. It’s not that hard to find good service at a hotel restaurant but it is hard to find a staff as diverse as the one here in midtown Manhattan. That diversity doesn’t quite resonate in the seats of the restaurants from our sample size, but this was one night. And this is why we are here! To let Y’all know about these gems!

For drinks, I did the Captain Lawrence ‘Golden Delicious’. Cocktails looked good but I’m never sure what type of glass a mixed drink will come in, so I just get beer. Weird, I know. Don’t @ me. Either way, the beer was good. Now for the food and the menu. Being of West African descent, I could definitely appreciate the menu choices. I think the chef does a great job of incorporating different parts of the diaspora. That being said you don’t have to be African to enjoy every part of the experience here. In fact, if you’d like to enjoy every part of the menu there’s an option for that. It’s called the “It Was All a Dream”. I imagine that the food coma you are put in post meal is the main reason why, but it incorporates the main dishes in the menu into one and feeds the whole squad.

After the Lamb Suya Kebabs with Za’atar Yogurt and Roti appetizer which was amazing. I chose to go with the Salmon Noodles with  African Nectar Broth, Bok Choy, Edamame, and Rice Noodles. I had no idea what “African Nectar Broth” was. But now I’m mad at moms for never making it. The broth was delicious and the Salmon perfectly cooked. I really can’t say much more than you need to try it, and try this restaurant. We’ll definitely be going back.

Black Safeness: 4.8/5


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