The edict was simple: Let there be light. The success of those marching orders will be apparent to anyone who remembers the dim lighting and dark wood of the now-shuttered Cuffs. The subterranean spot has found a strikingly different ambiance as Precinct Kitchen + Bar, which opened at the end of March in the Loews Boston Hotel.
The new restaurant and bar, which seats about 120 people, is part of a $10 million hotel renovation that began last year when Loews took control of the hotel. And there have been many design tweaks besides the brighter look. The wider entryway to the patio better connects the outside space to the lounge, and the energy of the lounge’s new L-shaped bar flows freely into the dining room. Books, birch branches, copper pots and wine bottles line the shelves along the walls. A large bread and pickled vegetable display grabs your attention in the dining room, extending the vibe from the open kitchen. But the hotel’s management knew they had to create more than simply an arresting atmosphere at the former Boston Police Department building. They had to fix the food as well.
“The food when we took over wasn’t very good. Lots of frozen products, which we’ve gotten away from,” says John Maibach, general manager of the hotel. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner (it is in a hotel after all), Precinct Kitchen + Bar is hoping to succeed in an area that can attract not only tourists, but a business and neighborhood crowd. So chef Olivier Senoussaoui, who was brought in from the Loews Hotel in Annapolis, is aiming for a straightforward and crowd-pleasing culinary theme: fresh and local food.
Hence the dinner menu’s many seafood options. The grilled bronzino is served with fennel, citrus and shallot vinaigrette, and both a scallop and a tuna cruda are offered. The clam bake makes a dramatic entrance, with clams, mussels, shrimp, corn and kielbasa served up in a pot. The menu also includes a charcuterie platter, with mounds of colorful meat carved at the slicing station that sits behind the new part of the bar. But the drink list is the real highlight of the bar, according to Maibach. Concocted by Loews’ Eben Klemm, an MIT biologist turned mixologist, it features cocktails such as the Bloody Melinda (vodka, clam liquor, tomato and spices) and the Harvard (cognac, vermouth and bitters).
“We’re trying to offer a Boston-centric feel. People who come to the hotel or this area want Boston, and that’s what we’re going to give them,” Maibach says. “It’s really a standalone environment that happens to be in a hotel.”
Precinct Kitchen + Bar | Loews Boston Hotel | 154 Berkeley St., Boston | 617-532-3827 | precinctkitchenandbar.com