Brunch is out, over and done with, ran a heading in one of the morning papers. But there was little time to find out why the institution had fallen into disrepute, as we were running late for a matinee performance of Ayad Akhtar's Disgraced. the 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning play making its Broadway debut at the Lyceum Theater on West 45th Street. By the way, should you find yourself swamped with holiday parties this month, the play runs until Sunday, January 18. 2015. At any rate, that day, we decided to skip brunch, to skip lunch, and to opt for an early dinner. What we didn’t suspect was that the play, which takes place at a dinner party on the Upper East Side, would pack a wallop in a mere ninety minutes. No intermissions. Laced with sex, ambition and ethnicity, it grips you early and never lets you go. Intellectually engaging, it's a study of the unconscious prejudices of liberal New Yorkers. Enough to make you swear off dinner parties.
Leaving the theater, we realized we were way too early for dinner. What to do? Desperately seeking a touch of Paris, we head for Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant in The Mark Hotel, between Madison and Fifth at 77th Street. There, no matter what the time of day, you always receive a good welcome.
Entering the hotel, you find yourself in a sumptuous lobby with striped marble floors and an eye-catching centerpiece. And off to the right is a charming seating area with a plummy sofa, dramatic artwork and a relaxed arrangement of tulips—note the coral! About as fresh and inviting as it gets.
After a quick look around, we pass through the bar at the front of the house which is lively at all hours and jammed at cocktail time.
Passing a floor-to-ceiling display case with hundreds of bottles of fine wines with elegant labels, we enter the bar/restaurant. Even mid-day, the room is sexy, sensual, seductive—thanks to the intimate lighting. See for yourself.
Sitting and breathing deep in this sybaritic room was pleasure enough for your correspondent, but then the waiter handed me the menu labeled: Late Lunch. Perfect, exactly what we had in mind. Jean-Georges has thought of everything. Has he, too, read that brunch was over, dead and done?
Ordering a rosé from Provence, my eye moves down the list, lingering briefly at Russ and Daughters’ Norwegian Smoked Salmon with Grilled County Bread, before going with the Croque M—a Croque Monsieur without the quail eggs, a Croque Madame with—made with Flying Pigs Ham and Comte and Gruyere Cheese. Unquestionably, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Croque M is the best in New York. One bite and I’m transported to the former Hotel Celtic on rue Balzac in Paris, steps off the Champs Elysées, where arriving early morning after a long flight across the Big Pond, the crews would head for the bar to order a Croque Monsieur before toddling off to bed. What bliss it was; what bliss it is.
So the next time you’re tuckered out--trés fatigué--from all the shopping or gallery-hopping on the Upper East Side, give yourself a treat and drop by The Mark for late lunch. You will not be disappointed.
I’m a long-time fan of restaurants tucked inside chic hotels. Remember Eloise? Didn’t she have the best life at the Plaza? I bet she would love owning an apartment designed by Jacques Grange atThe Mark - with all the locals and visitors coming and going, beating a path to this Five-Star hotel. On the topic of good reads --Eloise at the Plaza--be sure to pick up a copy of the delightful and fun to read Lessons from Madame Chicby Jennifer Scott.
As for brunch, what do you think? Has it run its course or, for you, does it remain a weekend favorite?
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