Brunch is Out? Try Late Lunch at The Mark

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Brunch is out, over and done, ran a heading in one of the morning papers. But there was little time to find out why this popular 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. If you find yourself swamped with holiday parties this month, you still have time to catch it as it closes Sunday, January 18. 2015. At any rate, that day we decided to skip brunch, skip lunch and opt for an early dinner. What we never considered was that the play, which involves a dinner party on the Upper East Side, would pack a wallop in a mere 90 minutes. No intermissions. Laced with sex, ambition and ethnicity, it grips you early and never lets you go. What's it about? It's a study of the unconscious prejudices of liberal New Yorkers and enough to make you swear off dinner parties.

Leaving the theater at a time too early for dinner, what to do? For 'Desperately Seeking Paris' the answer was clear: try Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant in The Mark Hotel, between Madison and Fifth at 77th Street where no matter the time of day, you always can count on un bon accueil, a good welcome.

Entering the hotel, you find yourself in a sumptuous lobby with striped marble floors, an eye-catching fixture hovering above a table, and a charming seating area with a plummy sofa, dramatic artwork and a relaxed arrangement of coral tulips—about as fresh as fresh can be. After a quick look around, we pass through the bar at the front of the house, a brathat's lively at all hours, 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 midday, the room is sexy, sensual, seductive—thanks to the intimate lighting. See for yourself.

Simply sitting in the sybaritic room was pleasure enough for your correspondent. Then the waiter handed me a menu labeled Late Lunch. Exactly what we had in mind. But was Late Lunch a same-day reaction to 'Brunch is out," or had this precipitated this movement? Which came first...

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Ordering a rosé from Provence, I pored over the menu to find a number of favorites: Russ and Daughters’ Norwegian smoked salmon with grilled Country bread; a Croque Monsieur with Flying Pigs ham, a mix of Comte and Gruyere cheese, but without the eggs; a Croque Madame which had  everything 'Monsieur' had, plus quail eggs. As other critics have said, 'Croque M' is, bar none, the best in New York.

One bite transported me to the Hotel Celtic, which years ago had been on rue Balzac, steps off the Champs Elysées. When arriving early mornings after those long flights across the Big Pond, TWA 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 when you find yourself tuckered out—trés fatigué—from shopping, taking yoga classes, or gallery-hopping on the Upper East Side, do what we did and drop by The Mark for late lunch. I guarantee you, you will not be disappointed.

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Having flown for four years with TWA, 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'd love owning an apartment designed by Jacques Grange here at The 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 Chic by Jennifer Scott.

As for brunch, what do you think? Has it run its course or, for you, does it still remain a weekend favorite?

One thing more. Would you take a second to share this post with friends and family? Or better yet, leave me a comment. Or both. Next week, we're off to do a bit of shopping. Hope to see you back then, when I'll have the coffee brewing. Have a good week... à plus tard.