Michael Groth-Designed Ernesto’s Brings San Sebastian Vibe to the Lower East Side

Sao Paulo’s Estudiobola manufactured the bar stools and dining chairs; the tables are by Stillmade’s Paul Mignogna. Photography by Rachel Vanni.

Chef Ryan Bartlow got his start at the three-Michelin-starred Akelarre in San Sebastian, Spain, before moving to the U.S. to help open Alinea in Chicago and cook at New York City must-eats such as Frankies Spuntino and Frenchette. But for Ernesto’s, his first solo project located on the Lower East Side, he’s gone back to his roots with a Basque-inspired menu and—with some help from Michael Groth—a 2,600-square-foot interior to match.

Playa de la Concha’s famed cast iron lamp posts inspired the custom light fixtures in curved tubular steel and matte white glass. Photography by Rachel Vanni.

Groth collaborated with Bartlow and his business partners Davitta and Alexandra Niakani to create a space, he says, “inspired by the gorgeous examples of Art Nouveau architecture in the storefronts and interiors of San Sebastian, which emerge everywhere from the gentle curves and tapers of the back bar to the curvilinear ceiling moulding detail in the dining room.”

Frenchette’s Sarah Morrissey devised a cocktail program for the brass bar, topped in a deep green marble that reminds Groth of the Atlantic Ocean, while custom ceramic disk sconces—made in collaboration with ceramicist Forrest Lewinger of Workaday Handmade and fabricator Aurora Lighting—light the way throughout. For a final Basque touch, an original lithograph by Joan Miró hangs in back, its graphic figurations echoing the custom light fixtures across the ceilings. 

A rare Viennese Thonet bistro bench, found at Paris’s Pheremones 116, sits behind custom tables in Calacatta Borghini. Photography by Rachel Vanni.
The Miró lithograph hangs on a rear wall of plaster inspired by Medieval sandstone. Photography by Rachel Vanni.
Iron Oaks fabricated the custom millwork and brass bar. Photography by Rachel Vanni.
The restored blackened steel and glass storefront allows daylight to enter, while reflecting the light of the fixtures after dark. Photography by Rachel Vanni.

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