Various Locations, Brooklyn




The windows are covered in butcher’s paper, and taped over is a handwritten note: Tonight will be our last evening at this location. Please join us from 5 to 11 PM. Anyone walking by will nod their head sadly, although it’s very unlikely that they would have eaten at Chancery prior to now. Chancery has no fixed address, it’s a pop-up restaurant, open for one day only.

This performance has been going on for seven years now and is the side project of Margo Hopman and Thom O'Brien, chefs originally from the much-missed Chaff in Carol Gardens.“Chaff’s last night was something I didn’t ever want to forget,” says Hopman, “We were working hard, but it didn’t feel like work. Sometimes it felt like we had already done what we were doing, and we were looking back. There was this sense of happiness and uncertainty, it reminded me a bit of a graduation ceremony without all the speeches. Everyone was just quietly enjoying the moment together, for the time allowed. It's so hard to find time like that.”

And so ever since Chaff closed, Hopman and O’Brien, now employed at Totter and The Jackanape, respectively, have been celebrating that moment with a pop-up restaurant that vanishes by midnight. “We sell off the bar stools by the end of the night if we can,” says O’Brien, “As well as any leftover bottles of wine, ingredients, sometimes silverware . . . It’s part of Chancery's character: the restaurant has to dissapear into itself.”

Chancery’s evenings have a clandestine sensibility. “We tell people that they can take down the butcher’s paper if they want to, and sometimes they’ll pull the paper down and look out, but they usually replace it,” says Hopman, “I’ve had people tell me that they regret looking out. I'm not sure what that’s about.”

“The strangest part,” says O’Brien, shaking his head “Is when people tell us they’ve been eating at that location for years. Or that they were there when we opened. Maybe they think they have? I really don”t know."

Chancery’s dishes have a sense of a kitchen with a dwindling supply. The mushroom, potato, and chicken soup is heavy on broth, but rich in flavor. The pork loin in parsnip purée and honey has a good deal of negative space on the plate. There are no burgers, no plates heaped high with spaghetti; pasta dishes are made from scratch and adorned with lightly-seared zucchini or eggplant and a smattering of parmesan and guanciale.

There’s also a tendency towards sweetness in the cocktails and the dishes, and an absence of arugula, dill, olives, even lemon. O’Brien and Hopman assured me this was unintentional. “We might have to change that,” said O’Brien, frowning, “But then, we may not.”

Many people ask if Chancery will have a permanent location sometime in the near future, “No,” they say at the same precise moment, “Chancery is our way of moving a little forward while looking back,” says Hopman, “It’s a bridge, not a destination.”

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