AT HOME AND AT WORK WITH LAURA O'NEILL
Laura was at home in Melbourne when she received a call from her friend Ben on the opposite end of the globe.
“I have this idea...,” he says. Her response - “that sounds just about crazy” - but perhaps brilliant enough that she found herself making ice cream in Ben's Brooklyn apartment a few short weeks later.
After growing Van Leeuwen into NYC's favorite artisanal ice cream, Laura had an outlandish idea of her own - to convert the empty retail space in front of their Greenpoint factory into, of all things, a Balinese restaurant. Though a grand departure from frozen confections, the idea wasn't entirely random for the native Australian. Only a short flight from her homeland, Laura made frequent trips to the tropical paradise, and fell in love with the region's fresh and aromatic cuisine - "It's sort of a fusion between Thai and Indian, but a lot fresher,” she claims.
Laura invited us to her restaurant, Selamat Pagi, to decide for ourselves. Located on a quiet block in Greenpoint (mere blocks from our own apartment), the unassuming storefront is marked by a bright blue door and lush bamboo bushes that flank both sides. Inside, the restaurant is decorated with fresh flowers in recycled bottles and live-edged, blonde maple throughout. Bright, yet rustic, the space cleverly draws inspiration from Bali and Brooklyn alike.
Similarly, the food is a respectful ode to traditional Balinese cooking, but employs new world techniques that compete with the best of NY gastronomy. Conceived and prepared by chef Jason Greenberg, the fried chicken - brined overnight in yellow curry - was among our favorite variations of this oft-interpreted dish, and the sticky black rice pudding - garnished with yogurt, fresh mango and toasted coconut - was the perfect ending to a uniquely light, yet hearty meal.
Satisfied and full, we made our way to Laura's apartment, only a hop, skip and jump away. As we chatted with the entrepreneur, we were amazed to learn that her life outside of work ran equally rich and deep. In addition to the two distinct businesses, Laura is one-half of the indie pop duo, Laura & Greg. Her passion for music is strewn throughout the apartment, and we spend a good bout of our visit browsing through her collection of LPs. And before heading out, Laura quickly makes mention of her fourth career as a party promoter, inviting us to “No Lights, No Lycra” - a global dance session she hosts weekly from a Greenpoint church.