Friday, October 30, 2009

King Cole Bar at St. Regis Hotel

King Cole Bar
After a $100 million restoration, New York's St. Regis Hotel is just as much of an old-school New York icon as it’s always been. Pass by Italian marble, gilded moldings and a gleaming chandelier in the hotel's lobby to the King Cole Bar, which houses a famous 1906 Maxfield Parrish Art Nouveau mural, complete with "fiddlers three." Mixological lore has it that the so-called "Red Snapper" drink came over from Harry's New York Bar in Paris and eventually morphed into the Bloody Mary, King Cole's signature cocktail. Beyond this claim to fame, this is the place for making good impressions and stimulating conversation, and even if you’re capable of neither, be heartened that the lighting will flatter you, the beer nuts are the best you’ll ever have (almonds, macadamia nuts and green wasabi peas are on offer), and your top-shelf liquor cocktail will be stiff (as will be the bar tab – trust me on this; about $125 for 4 cocktails including tax and tip). The scene can be subdued and tinkling or downright hectic at peak hours, since this is a rather small space. If you're lucky enough to secure a table at the banquette, settle in and sip slowly as the Old Guard and the Well-Maintained parade in and out. They serve the best Cobb salad I've ever had in my life.

On my latest visit I noticed a lot of “older” gentlemen in bespoke tailored suits flirting with/being courted by much younger unaccompanied women, if you get my drift. Dress Code: No shorts or sneakers after 5pm. No hats at any time. Don't come here if you can't make an entrance looking like one of the monied set; you'll spoil the ambiance.

If "mere alcohol doesn't thrill you at all," a celebrated afternoon tea is served in the hotel’s Astor Court room to the accompaniment of the requisite harpist.

The St. Regis is a Starwood hotel property located at 2 East 55th Street (at 5th Avenue) in mid-town Manhattan. Built in 1904 by (Colonel) John Jacob Astor IV, the great grandson of the country’s first multi-millionaire, the St. Regis is a Beaux Arts landmark. When it was built, this was the tallest hotel in the city.

The front desk and lobby are all marble and gilt (check out the ceiling frescoes), and even the standard guest rooms boast elaborate chandeliers (and a nightly rate of $850 or so; Internet access is extra, and you’ll have to upgrade from a basic room [lowly shower/tub combinations] if you want a genuine soaking tub). The hotel’s 24-hour butlers wear tails and white gloves and anachronistic charm on their sleeves, but they can also help with any and all modern conundrums, such as hooking up your iPod to play through your room’s surround sound system (in case you left the kids at home). Reassuring, no? The lobby seating areas boast elaborate period paneling and carved marble fireplaces, just like home. In a demonstration of silly pretension, door handles in some of the public spaces are marked with brass rectangles in French, so you’d better know a “tirez” from a “poussez.” I’m not kidding.

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