Newcomers to Atlanta’s culinary scene—the casual foodie, if you will—vaguely mention the tsunami of food genius this city’s been privy to the last few years. Oh yeah, they’ll say, I love ONE Midtown Kitchen. Nice bar. Great beef cheeks.
The food snob will chime in and start a conversation. It’ll get obscure for some at the table, like keeping up with dialogue about Thelonius Monk’s earlier works. Yeah, he was great at Spice. Well, you know he worked with Michael Tuohy at Woodfire Grill. His new place does the whole Woodfire thing, too. Oh, he’s not at ONE anymore? I really love how so many restaurants are striving for authenticity in preparation… You’ve been there.
In other words, Drew Van Leuvan is one of those names you hear in the undercurrents of foodie talk. An alumni of some of the city’s favorite kitchens, Van Leuvan has taken his experience of working in the trenches and has turned his attention to his new kitchen.
Tucked away in the Shops Around Lenox, Seven Lamps is the built-from-scratch realization of Van Leuvan’s obsession with classical fare presented in a modern way. Small plates, like the smoked ruby beets, deserve the bacon jam they’re topped with, and Idaho potato gnocchi can almost be eaten with your fingers. We won’t go into too much detail about the buttered lobster bun, other than to say that it’s one of the better things in, well, the history of things—it will speak for itself once you try it. The large plates are expertly prepared and kept as simple as possible. It’s easy to forget, sometimes, that a talented chef chooses the flavors that will enhance the taste of the swordfish, instead of simply flavoring the swordfish. Though if you’re a pasta fan, hit up that section of the menu—housemade superfresh pasta is something that Van Leuvan does like very few other chefs in this town.
This attention to simplicity extends as a sentiment to the atmosphere: The decor by ASD (Cypress Street Pint & Plate, HALO Lounge) combines an earthy, rustic quality, with exposed brick, sparse decor and reclaimed hardwood everything. One wall is lined with the namesake lamps, a nod to Victorian-era artist and theorist John Ruskin (someone you would have learned in master’s level English, back in the day), who wrote an essay called “The Seven Lamps of Architecture.” And speaking of art meeting function, we’re kind of digging the bottle-shop feel—the wall lined with wines and pickled goods is a nice touch that keeps the place grounded.
In the small, triangular space, two stations dominate the room. Chef Van Leuvan’s open kitchen keeps him in touch with a view of the whole restaurant. Across, barmaster Arianne Fielder serves it up behind a custom-built bar with eschewed seating (a long communal table serves that purpose), in favor of being a working space that we think is going to be a bonanza for craft-cocktail enthusiasts. After all, Fielder just got done heading up Southern Art’s Bourbon Bar, and she’s been known to bring Prohibition’s Tom McGuire in to help out every now and then. Combine this camaraderie with a bar stocked to the brim with small-batch liquors, custom tinctures, house-made bitters and fresh ingredients inspired by the kitchen, and we feel like we’re in safe hands for a night of cocktail pairings.
In all, Seven Lamps is a cozy space. It has food that makes you nod your head and say “mmm” before reaching for more. The bar is an chemistry lab (Fielder is really into porter right now). Throw in easy parking? Now that’s dinner.