Harlem’s new speakeasy Solomon & Kuff opened Friday December 11th, offering a gastro-pub menu of elevated bar bites and tropical cuisine inspired by flavorful pan-Caribbean flavors and made to fit New York food-fanatics’ modern palette. Conceptualized by renowned mixologist Karl– of the well-known lounge 67 Orange Street – Solomon & Kuff is quickly becoming a culinary destination and a cocktail haven for those looking to experience and taste a modern translation of West Indian culture, flavor and style.
Karl Franz Williams, co-owner and head barman of Solomon & Kuff got into mixology after pursuing a career in brand management for Proctor & Gamble and later for Pepsi. In those days, he held interviews with top mixologists, and after seeing the passion in their eyes and hearing their lively stories, he soon realized mixology was something he wanted to do. For Karl becoming a mixologist was an opportunity to truly experience a drink, and a realization that the cocktail in your hand could and should be just as amazing, compelling, balanced and flavorful as the food you eat with it. In his words, “that exciting concept is what pushed me to do this, and so I immersed myself. I just jumped right in.”Karl was connected to Julie – the owner of the original space and mastermind behind this gem of a restaurant – through a mutual friend, soon becoming the co-owner and head mixologist of the now elegant and sophisticated rum hall. According to Karl, the space was originally meant to be a warehouse-style beer hall, yet wanting to incorporate his Caribbean culture, he gave it a more tropical twist: “in the Caribbean we drink beer and rum, that’s it, so this was my opportunity to make Solomon & Kuff a rum hall.” Julie Grunberger, co-owner of this Harlem rum hall talks to Haute Living about Solomon & Kuff before the madness: “I was involved in the space since its inception” she says of the one-hundred year old construction, “when I got here, it was raw warehouse.” Once a meatpacking factory, the building which we now know as Harlem’s finest speakeasy had some great architectural finds such as red brick and wooden beams that the team later incorporated into their design. “I would say it’s West Indian with a Caribbean feel infused with a New York sensibility” says Julie, “I love it because there’s nothing better than seeing people enjoy themselves in a space that you created. It’s everything I dreamed it would be and a lot more.”
Deirdra Elizabeth Govan, the interior designer and brand strategist behind the amazing space that is Solomon & Kuff, formulated the concept of tropical modernity into a reality. Deirdra considers herself a story teller and has a twenty year background in film and television as a designer as well as in interior architecture and design for restaurants and hotels. “The rum hall was a challenge”, she explains to Haute Living, because I had to work all of the industrial aspects of the property and come up with a completely different and refined concept.” When she arrived, there were black beams, black piping, metal and steel all of which she used to inform her palette and later incorporate wood, glass and tin as well as corrugated details and greenery, always emphasizing sustainability in all her projects. Govan describes the style she came up with as turn-of-the-century architecture with a great marriage between contemporary design. “When people think Caribbean, they think palm trees and a rustic environment; for Solomon & Kuff I wanted to keep some core elements of West Indian style but also bring in modernized textures, fabrics and details,” her favorite nook is a tan leather banquette under an ethonol-burning fire place with a wonderful street view, where there will soon be an outer deck for summertime dining. “It’s been a labor of love” she says, “I’m so happy to be a part of it”.The 5,000 square foot industrial space located in West Harlem’s Manhattanville features a loft-style dining area along with lounge seating, two elevated wooden DJ booths and two extra-long full bars stocked with over 100 international rums, artisanal cocktails and craft beers. Apart from Deirdra’s incredible designs, the space features contemporary black & white photography by Barron Claiborne, reclaimed patterned wood walls, exposed brick, a display of vintage rum barrels and floor-to-ceiling windows that offer sunlit views facing the Hudson River, making it an ideal hidden spot in the city.
Check out our inside look into this Caribbean speakeasy by videographer Rodrigo Tasca.
Stay tuned for the rum-hall’s all-day bar menu and music performances coming soon and visit Solomon & Kuff at 2331 12th Avenue, New York.