Fiddler on the Roof’s protagonist Tevye is back on Broadway singing ‘Tradition,” and an iconic Central Park hotel is reviving some of its traditions with daily specials from the days when Elizabeth Taylor, Aristotle Onassis, and Yves Saint-Laurent called it home.
The Pierre — one of Manhattan’s legendary grand dames alongside The Plaza and the Waldorf Astoria — recently took over its signature restaurant, which, until February, had been run by the Maccioni family of Le Cirque fame.
All the perks (the same warm hospitable staff, the Central Park people watching) are still in place, but this long-time local for denizens of the Upper East Side is now called Perrine (it’s a feminine play on Pierre), has an innovative new chef, and is run by Taj Hotels, who gave The Pierre a $100 million facelift in 2010.
Not only does executive chef Ashfer Biju occasionally showcase his mother’s to-die-for prawn curry and make the best naan bread this side of Mumbai, but he has resurrected a few of the famous dishes that were on the hotel’s original 1930s menu when the Vanderbilts, the Morgans, and “Coco” Chanel were regulars at this swanky hotel.
“We built a menu based on iconic New York City and French classics,” says Chef Biju. “We did extensive research of old menus and recipes and then simplified them, giving the menu a modern twist.”
Even the adjoining Rotunda, where famous guests entered before being whisked to their apartments and suites by white-gloved elevator operators, just reopened for weekday tea and cocktails.
Long lusted after by society brides for its floor-to-ceiling trompe l’oeil murals, the Rotunda — which looks like a room in a French castle — serves Madeleines, macaroons, truffles, miniature strawberry shortcakes, and blueberry lemon bundt cake made in the Pierre’s original cake pans from 3 to 10 p.m. on weekdays. And you don’t have to be famous to partake.
Architect and style-maker Daniel Romualdez, who was called in to supervise the Rotunda renovation, left the whimsical, tongue-in-cheek murals painted in 1967 by American artist Edward Melcarth. Calling it a bit camp, Romualdez added theatrical lighting to the mural’s mythological characters that are joined by Jackie Kennedy and actor Erik Estrada, dolled up as Adam eyeing a puckish Eve in boho top.
According to recently unearthed hotel records, Kennedy wasn’t overjoyed about her appearance in the mural, and even though the Pierre accommodated her by painting over telltale facial features, it’s not too big an imagination stretch to recognize her climbing the stairs in the famous mural.
Other things that might look familiar: