The Four Seasons Restaurant Is Just Plain Folks
Young, hip Manhattan wouldn't be caught dead at the Four Seasons, the landmark Phillip Johnson-designed, 1959-vintage restaurant in the Seagram Building on 52nd Street, just off Park Avenue. Not with its $25 appetizers and $75 steaks, its un-cutting-edge food (crayfish vol-au-vent, Dover sole, tournedos Rossini), and its reputation as a canteen for Masters of the Universe.
The truth is, though, that the place is a lot of fun, not least because of the irrepressible personality and studied naughtiness of co-owner Julian Niccolini, always balanced, but just barely, by the calm professionalism of co-owner Alex von Bidder. And though admittedly fearsomely expensive, the food is always based on top-class raw materials and can be really good.
As you might imagine, a restaurant that operates on this level might not be doing quite as much business as it used to these days, when so many Masters of the Universe are now barely Masters of Their Mortgages. Thus, the restaurant has embarked on a modest advertising campaign to lure in a less well-heeled crowd. An ad appearing in New York City newspapers is headed "Everybody Has Secrets." Among those revealed by Niccolini and von Bidder:
There are no snobs at the restaurant ("We should know. We grew up nearly penniless and immigrated to the U.S. with nothing more than a dream" — Niccolini from Italy, his partner from Switzerland).
The Four Seasons is "for the 100%. Not the 1%" — that is, "The 100% who work hard, eat well, and want the best for their health, their businesses, and their families." A noble thought.
And perhaps most pertinent: The Four Seasons serves a two-course $35 lunch at the bar every day. It's not in the ad, but choices might include things like oysters or prosciutto with white asparagus to start, then grilled daurade with fiddlehead ferns, roast quail with bok choy and shiitakes, or the very good Four Seasons burger with fries, among other things. If you prefer, you can have a main course and a dessert for the same tariff. Just watch out for that $7.50 espresso.