Rainbow Connection A writer rediscovers two legends-and falls for two newcomers-on a colorful weekend in New York City.

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RainbowRoom

The dance floor rotates at a snail’s pace. A ringside crowd, dressed to the nines, longs for the Count Basie orchestra to begin. Under a chandeliered 23-foot dome, vintage wine and Champagne flow as if it is New Year’s Eve, not an ordinary Friday night. We are seated in the Rainbow Room, 65 floors above Rockefeller Center, surrounded by one of the few vistas in the world with the power to intoxicate: the New York skyline. The only embellishments to this uninterrupted 30-mile view are “curtains” of glittering crystals suspended like icicles above floor-to-ceiling windows.

 

 

Delicate treats from the newly refurbished Rainbow Room.
Delicate treats from the newly refurbished Rainbow Room.

When this high-altitude hotspot closed several years ago, I mourned the loss as if an old friend had passed. In this hallowed space, I sipped my first glass of Dom Pérignon and celebrated many a birthday. When news of its reopening and facelift promised an update to its original 1930s style, revisiting soared to the top of my Bucket List. So my husband and I booked a weekend excursion with the intention of enjoying not only this New York legend, but also another: The Algonquin Hotel, where we checked in earlier this morning.

One push of the lone elevator button and we feel like astronauts rocketing into space as we ascend, nonstop, to the “top of the rock.” We begin with martinis at Sixty Five, the new cocktail lounge with unobstructed views. Eye candy is every-where—massive displays of orchids accent walls. Textured bronze mosaic tiles shimmer. Smoky grey mirrors, leather chairs and mother-of-pearl tables scat-tered under a metallic-leaf ceiling dazzle as we order drinks.

Even the bar nibbles push the envelope—warmed olives marinated in olive oil are infused with an exotic blend of harissa (North African chili paste), lemon zest, toasted cumin, caraway and corian-der seeds.

The handsome dining room at The Polo Bar.
The handsome dining room at The Polo Bar.

The culinary team led by executive chef Jonathan Wright—previously of The Setai hotel restaurant in Miami Beach and the two-Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, England—has created a decadent prix fixe menu featuring both American and interna-tional fare. (Prices, $145 to $195 per person, plus gratuity and alcohol.)

In between exquisite courses—beet salad with goat cheese and crumbled hazelnuts; wild black bass with calamari and chorizo; and decadent molten chocolate cake for dessert—we head to the dance floor, centered by the original, meticulously restored “Compass Rose” (even more beautiful than I remember.)

Crystal deca-dence at the Baccarat Hotel.
Crystal deca-dence at the Baccarat Hotel.

I think about the iconic guests who’ve graced the same floor: Barbra Streisand, Al Pacino, Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson for starters. But tonight, the crowd isn’t limited to AARP members trying to recreate the past. I’m happy to see young couples, many of whom weren’t even born during the Rainbow Room’s heyday, danc-ing and dreaming in this magical space that makes everyone feel—at least for one night—like the sky’s the limit.

If These Walls Could Talk

The next morning, as we sit in the Algo-nquin lobby to plan our Saturday shopping and sightseeing adventures, I swear I can feel the vibes of those who’ve come before us. Over 100 years ago, Dorothy Parker and a group of 20-something writers for Vanity Fair, Vogue and The New Yorker gathered here daily for lunch at the famous Round Table. (The latter magazine was actually created here.) This daily exchange of ideas and wit set the standard for literary style—a ritual that became so famous, people dropped by just to watch them eat.

An artsy crowd mingles throughout the lobby, perhaps trying to channel the same spirit. The high ceiling and dark-paneled walls create the ambiance of an established private club rather than a big city hotel. In one corner, a young Dorothy Parker-ish woman in a fitted red suit and vintage cloche holds the attention of her en-tourage. Two men in black turtlenecks huddle together on a red leather sofa, manuscript in hand.

While The Algonquin may be the oldest operating hotel in New York City, rooms and suites have every 21st-century amenity thanks to a top-to-bottom renovation when it became part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. Bright contempo-rary furnishings, plush terry bathrobes, thick duvets and 350-count sheets are de rigueur, but the perk I like best is the complimentary WiFi. Rates, $254-$424 per night.

The bellmen and waiters are like walk-ing history books and love sharing hotel trivia. We learn that Orson Welles honey-mooned here; Lerner and Loewe wrote “My Fair Lady” in a suite; Sinclair Lewis and William Faulkner were regulars; and Harry Connick Jr., Diana Krall and Michael Feinstein were all discovered here.

We make a few discoveries of our own this weekend (see sidebar on page 57). As we prepare to check out on Sunday morning, we take note of a few hotel room doors that each feature the framed words of a Round Table member. The Dorothy Parker quote on our door sums up the stay perfectly: “I suppose that is the thing about New York. It is always a little more than you had hoped for.”

New in New York

THE POLO BAR
There are many things to like about Ralph Lauren’s first New York restaurant—beginning with unfussy good food. The no-non-sense dinner menu offers juicy burgers as well as Dover sole. Want a corned beef sandwich while your companion dines on Branzino? You got it. The look (and people-watching) is equally delicious. Paying homage to the sporting life, aged leather banquettes are tucked beneath hunter green walls adorned with equestrian paint-ings. Ralph’s elegant/casual style is reflected in the brass-topped bar and leather furnish-ings that reinforce the adage that good design is eternal. polobarralphlauren.com

THE BACCARAT HOTEL
Across the street from MOMA, a new work of art is glowing. Literally. The exterior of The Baccarat, the first hotel in the world for this iconic crystal maker, is veiled by a 125-foot-wide crystal curtain. Inside, the Grand Salon features barrel-vaulted ceilings, a 60-foot bar and 17 custom-made Baccarat chandeliers. The look combines the classic elegance of a Parisian hotel with a fresh, contemporary twist. Care to savor a bit of the bubbly? Guests sip drinks from over 15,000 pieces of mix-and-match Baccarat stemware. Ooh la la. baccarathotels.com

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