For several decades now The Regency Bar & Grill at Loews Regency Hotel in New York has been known for its “Power Breakfast,” at which the city’s movers and shakers get in an early morning meeting before limo-ing off to Wall Street, City Hall or some media conglomerate. They nod at each other from across the room, they order the bagels and smoked salmon ($28) or the eggs Benedict ($27), and some have even been known to follow with a second breakfast meeting around nine o’clock. Rev. Al Sharpton can still be found there with ex-Trump fixer Michael Cohen before he starts eating his breakfasts in his cell.
The food itself has very little to do with this morning ritual, but in the afternoon and evening, the food is the principal reason to go for lunch or dinner. The well-heeled crowd at the swanky bar and lounge may have its own glitzy appeal after six, but the ambiance in the dining room is far more civilized, and in its décor of art deco carpet, raised banquettes, brown columns and black walls, abstract paintings and black-and-white photos of Upper East Side celebrities, it has a feeling of being uniquely New York.
Too bad they’ve removed the white double tablecloths (seen in the photo above) that used to deck the now somber, dark wood tables. Dress codes also seem to have totally disappeared.
Executive Chef Catherine Madrano sets what might be called a modern continental menu with plenty of American items along with some European dishes like a delectable porcini truffle pizza with mozzarella and pecorino ($23), easy enough for a couple to share for an appetizer. There’s also a Mediterranean plate of raw vegetables with naan ($21), and a classic chopped salad ($29) that might serve as a main course. Rigatoni pomodoro is priced at a whopping $31 for a main course but you can share that too.
The New York strip steak, at $49, is something of a bargain, since, unlike at steakhouses, it comes with hen of the woods mushrooms, olive oil, smashed fingerling potatoes and steak sauce. It’s a very good piece of USDA Prime beef, too, as is a fine-grained 12-ounce Berkshire pork chop at a very reasonable $39; simply roasted chicken was juicy and flavorful ($38), but these last two do not come with side dishes. Crispy Brussels sprouts can fill in for that lapse for $14.
Hotels have so much banquet business that desserts are almost always of very high quality, like the Grill’s dark chocolate torte ($14) and the way above average Mah-Ze-Dahr Heavenly Cheesecake with a Graham cracker crust ($15). The cookie plate ($15) will bring out the child in everyone.
Sorry to report that while the waitstaff is generally cordial, waiters disappear for stretches and there seems no manager overseeing anything at all.
If the Regency Bar & Grill is not one of the more distinctive restaurants on the Upper East Side, it certainly ranks with its immediate competitors like Perrine at the Pierre and The Restaurant at the Carlyle. It’s not inexpensive but not in the price league with places like Restaurant Daniel or La Grenouille. And what will stay with you is a sense that you’ve taken a small bite out of the Big Apple.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily; brunch Sat. & Sun.
THE REGENCY BAR & GRILL
Loews Regency Hotel
540 Park Avenue (at 61st Street)