The Bedford — ahem, Martha Stewart’s Bedford — is a 194-seater that bills itself as a replica of the 1925 farmhouse where Stewart lives and hosts dinner parties that are the envy of her millions of Instagram followers. Feathered showgirls passed as the butler took our reservation and escorted us to The Brown Room, an alcove with a fireplace where Stewart herself dined at the restaurant’s August 12 grand opening.
Nestled in plush wing chairs, we were handed the drinks menu. No food yet. Our server, Hector, who says he was raised by his mother’s conscientious execution of Stewart’s meatloaf recipe, got right down to it: “One of his favorite drinks is a martini and She really likes this recipe, which uses her favorite vodka – bison grass polish. Infusion — for her —. I cut it. “Excuse me,” I say. “But when you say ‘she’ and ‘her’, who are you talking about?” He stared at me for a moment before we all laughed.
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The ironic paradox of a Martha-themed restaurant is how much it’s about her and how much it’s about her guests. I had feared a vanity trap like Bobby’s Burgers by Bobby Flay or Vanderpump in Paris neighboring the hotel, but Stewart’s restaurant was completely disarming, despite drinks like the Martha-Tini and Martha-Rita Frozen Pomegranate (a riff on the strawberry version that has it in the early days of the pandemic).
“I love Vegas,” she told me later. “It’s kind of a good testing ground for an idea because the demographics are so broad.”
On our first sip of Martha-Tini, which is shaken and poured at the table in a vintage shaker with a teapot-like handle and spout, Abby and I were surprised. None of us could remember a better martini and, uh, it wasn’t for lack of experience. Buffalo grass gave it a light vanilla flavor with vibrant citrus and herbal notes. “Shit,” Abby said. “I was so ready for it to be cheesy, but it’s awesome. I’m a sucker for cozy spaces.
Unlike the hotel’s Nobu, which is exposed to the bling-out heckling of the lobby like an airport restaurant — Abby called it a “Fauxbu” — the Bedford feels like a secret sanctuary. Its gray walls defy the glitz and urgency of Vegas, frankly making you forget you’re in Vegas, a city that imposes its unforgettable character with as many bells and whistles as the senses can handle.
There are no white tablecloths. Waiters wear white sneakers. Sitting next to some faux wood cabinets, I opened them to peek inside to find rows and rows of Stewart’s cookbooks. It didn’t really look like a dinner party at her house, but definitely like converting her house into a catered wedding or an epic birthday bash.
“Authenticity is part of our brand,” Stewart said in a phone interview. “It’s one of the tenets of the Martha brand.” (To that end, she had a quick aside on the performative aesthetic fashion of the “coastal grandma”: “Look at my photos from Vegas. Do I look like a coastal grandma? I wear Valentino. I wear Balenciaga. I wear Brunello Cucinelli. I’m not a coastal grandma.”
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His menu is a tribute not only to his favorites and the favorites of his guests, but also to his family: the pierogi of his Polish mother and a salad drizzled with rice wine in tribute to his daughter, Alexis. The salad is so small it made us sing “A Little Bit Alexis” at our table.
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An execution that might be difficult elsewhere seemed fanciful here. The exquisite crab cake eschews the laziness of being a chunk of over-fried crab chunks and instead offers a real crabmeat recipe wrapped in a breaded crust barely there (thanks to Hector for offering a sauce additional tartar without being invited!). The entire three- to four-pound roast chicken is brined overnight to be finished in a brick pizza oven, not on a Comedy Central stage (where Stewart honed his other roasting technique), then carved next to the table and elegantly plated to show off the herb stuffing under the skin. Its surprising complexity gave the impression that the hen had been raised under a shower of golden stars to believe that it was a duck, a goose, a pheasant or even a swan. . The pierogi, while visually as unappealing as, say, French onion soup, made Abby close her eyes in glee and shut me up because she was “in pure bliss”.
We offer the menu’s cheapest indulgence in caviar, an extra $115.95, one ounce to Stewart’s Smashed Maine Baked Aroostook County Potato – also smashed at the table and which has was enjoyed at Stewart’s recent 81st birthday party as what she called “one of my favorite things on Earth” – became a grinning glutton’s riddle. Was caviar an excuse to eat a baked potato or the baked potato an excuse to eat caviar?
“Good!” Stewart laughed when I asked him that question. “It’s exactly what it’s supposed to be.” This is a question with no wrong answer.
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The crowds were equally jolly: a girls’ night out with loud outfits and louder laughter, a 90th birthday party filled with a guest of honor with a tiara, date nights, family reunions and many tables of six or more people. “Everyone looks so happy and content,” Abby said. “When do you see this in Vegas?”
Everything was not perfect. The crusted salmon was almost inedible, accurately described by Abby as “the world’s worst sushi roll, too wet on the inside and too dry on the outside”. Likewise, the Rockefeller oysters leaned so much towards spinach that they could have been prepared by Olive Oyl for its beloved Popeye. And the caipirinha, Stewart’s favorite cocktail, was extremely sour.
For dessert, an upside-down lemon meringue pie whose crustless splendor would easily be found on a Michelin-starred menu or in the imagination of Dominique Ansel, creator of the Cronut.
It was associated with Kobrick, a small-batch coffee shop. As a bookend to the martini, the brew was equally exceptional, so much the Platonic ideal of coffee that I felt guilty for muddying such liquid hygge with a serving of milk.
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My faux wood doggy bag would look cozy on Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue, like my stomach was on a shopping spree.
The next morning, I asked Abby what she thought. “I may have already bought a vintage silver cocktail shaker with a handle and a spout,” she replied. From Martha? “No, I found a vintage one,” she said. “And his were sold online.”
When I told Stewart, she laughed. “Mine is three times bigger,” she boasted. “I have the biggest martini shaker you’ve ever seen. It’s silver, and it can hold a whole bottle of vodka.