The Four Seasons Hotel at 57 East 57th opened in 1993 to great acclaim. The world came to admire the classic design of architect I.M. Pei, and the opulent lobby with its Art Deco design. Wherever the eye fell in the lobby, there was the beauty of rare wood, an onyx ceiling and marble columns and floors. I was fortunate to have attended the grand, black tie opening, and joined the international celebrity guests who admired the handsome staircase from the front door to the lobby, the lighting and the sumptuous interiors. Each room, they said, cost one million dollars to create with its gold silk walls and unique furnishings. The hotel had instant cachet and became the toast of New York. Their reputation has never wavered.
As twenty five years pass, and the public taste in furnishings and fashion changes. A 100% renovation now offers breath-taking panoramic views of New York City. Through oversized windows, (that open) the one and two-bedroom Manhattan Suites rise above the city and provides some of the finest views on Billionaire’s Row. From some suites there is a view in two different directions providing dramatic vistas of the iconic Chrysler Building, downtown skyline, the East River and the Atlantic Ocean. Attention has been paid. Residential custom furnishings include handmade, king-sized lighted pedestal beds, oversized oak executive desks, and custom-made hand knotted Tai Ping wool carpets. For those who cannot tear themselves away from these beautiful calm rooms, there is 24 hour room service.
The days of a fine dining restaurant at the Four Seasons ended in 2012, with the closure of L’Atelier Joel Robuchon. Do folks come to New York to eat at their hotel when there are so many “must try” celebrity restaurants out there? I chose to have dinner at the Ty Bar, named after the hotel owner Ty Warner, and I couldn’t be happier. From the menu of classic cocktails, I take the most classic of all, a dry vodka martini with extra olives. At lesser bars, this glass, filled to the brim, would be a generous double. I sit back on my lush velvet banquet, watch the flames in the wood burning fireplace and people-watch the fashionable people. Add to the mix, a brief conversation with a stranger at the next table about his view of the current U.S. political scene.
The menu is offered and it is on point. These dishes are exactly what we want to eat right now. Seafood tartar, wearing a sprightly necklace of thinly sliced cucumber and partnered with the light, crisp crackers is a tasty appetizer. Comfort food gets an elegant treatment. A steak wearing a jaunty cap of onion crisps and baby asparagus is set on mashed potatoes and well-herbed sauce. This perfectly proportioned dish has a complexity of flavours and textures that can only come from the creative mind of a most intelligent chef. The Ty Bar is my new favorite New York restaurant.
The Garden Restaurant opens at 6:30 a.m. and a breakfast meeting in this calm and luxurious environment means serious business. Even for New Yorkers. Here, in a lovely space off the grand lobby, inspired by a forest glen, I am at a table set beneath the twisting branches of acacia trees. We are the first wave of guests. There is no laughter, no camaraderie. A young man hangs on to every word of his mentor and takes notes. An elderly lady joins a gentleman for an intense hour-long conversation. Groups of men in suits spend 45 minutes and leave. It is a time for decisions, the calm before the storm of the day. And then, by 8:30 a.m. the entire dynamic of the room changes and lightens up.
Are they enjoying their breakfast as much as I am? Juices are wondrous blends that include citrus, ginger, and all the trendy items we know are good for us. Poached eggs on avocado toast are perfect and beautifully arranged with a scattering of cherry tomatoes, and enough sliced avocados to make me feel very virtuous. The Four Seasons signature breakfast dish, luscious lemon ricotta pancakes, come with a handful of berries. From Toronto to New York to the furthest outpost where this is a Four Seasons hotel, these lovely pancakes are served at breakfast. And like the hotel itself, they never disappoint.
Sara Waxman is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.