Some test dishes: beef tartare with fried smelt, skate wing with brown butter and capers, and rutabaga-brown bread soup in the back. Photo provided by Slanted Door Group.
The entrance to The Coachman; you can see one of the honey walls in the distance. Photo provided by Slanted Door Group.
Next Monday March 3rd, Charles Phan and his team are opening a new concept in the former Heaven’s Dog space, which has been closed since November 2012 (after an unfortunate pipe backup and flood). The new restaurant and bar is going to have a strong English accent and is called ~THE COACHMAN~, in honor of the Chinatown restaurant where Charles Phan’s father was a janitor in 1978 (and Charles was a busser), soon after the family immigrated to the United States.
Phan says The Coachman was originally located at Washington and Powell, and the owner, Malcolm Stroud—a noted Bay Area restaurateur who was also known for his Scott’s Seafood Grill & Bar restaurants—moved it to the Embarcadero in the 1980s, renaming it The Carriage House. (Stroud sadly passed away in 2012.) Phan said he wanted to go back to his roots for this project, mentioning he also wanted The Coachman to be an homage to his father, who passed away seven years ago.
The menu is going to be focused on British food done well. Phan said he’s going to do what he always likes to do: take classic dishes that have a place, story, and history, research them, and make them well. He said there’s a reason some dishes stick around with us for a while: they’re tasty, and people like them—classics like prime rib, Yorkshire pudding, smoked herring with beets, and lamb sweetbreads with green beans. Phan doesn’t want to make things up and create something new here, but instead offer his own perspective of these dishes, tweak some of them to be a bit lighter or heavier, or add a few more vegetables. He also mentioned making the dishes family style. Some initial dishes include rutabaga-brown bread soup; creamed spinach; Waldorf salad; beef tartare with fried smelt; blood sausage with braised cabbage, apple, mush; skate wing with brown butter and capers; and prime rib with bone marrow jus and a snail option.
The chef de cuisine is Ross Wunderlich, who was a sous at Hard Water that they brought over to run the kitchen. Phan took the team to London for a research and inspiration trip. Of course, St. John was on the list (Phan notes the restaurant’s farm-to-table approach is so similar to our Bay Area perspective), along with Hereford Road, one of his faves.
As for the cocktails and beers, naturally bar manager Erik Adkins has a deeply historic take on it all. The cocktails (16 in all) will be focused on punches, cups, cobblers, and some farmhouse/rural drinks, spanning both Georgian and Victorian eras. Some of the drinks include Regent’s Punch (Hamilton Jamaican rum, Osocalis brandy, classic orange sherbet, Pedro Ximenez sherry, pineapple, lemon, soda) from the book Modern Cookery for Private Families, 1849; the Robert Burns’ Hunting Flask (Redbreast 12-year whiskey, currants, ginger, lemon peel, served in a hunting flask), from Convivial Dickens, 1983; and the countryside-inspired Athol Brose (whisky, honey, cream, oats), a traditional drink of the Scottish Highlands that will be poured on a hand-cut ice cube. Expect a fun list to explore.
Adkins mentioned there will be two beers on offer, both cask-conditioned ales that will be hand-pumped. (Both will be local selections since they can’t ship cask beers from England.) Adkins jokes, “Let’s see how people like their beer at 55 degrees and only slightly carbonated.” There will also be some farmhouse ciders from England and Normandy (and local picks too).
Phan’s architect of record, Olle Lundberg, has updated the space from when it was Heaven’s Dog, starting with knocking down the wall that used to separate the kitchen and the lounge area. The dining room that was across from the bar is going to be more of a drinking area now, with high-top tables and a raised ceiling. The former private dining room with the glass window is now the dining room—it ends up there was a storage area behind the room that they opened up, adding around 40 feet. The space now has around 100 seats in all—and the bar seating that was in the kitchen will remain.
You will notice the two glowing honey walls, which were brought over from Out the Door Westfield (which was also closed due to flooding), but overall the look is much darker, with a modern, masculine feel.
The Coachman will be open nightly for dinner—hours are still a bit in flux, including how late the bar will stay open. Stand by for an update next week, including the menu. 1148 Mission St. at 7th St.