When you spend a year and $100 million renovating your Upper East Side Hotel, you’ve got to make it back somehow. What else explains a restaurant that charges so much, and delivers so little in return?
The Regency Bar & Grill opened in January in the 38-year-old Loews Regency Hotel on the Upper East Side. The space where the legendary “power breakfast” originated was gutted and re-built. (The old furniture went to a Coney Island Senior Center.)
At first glance, you’d say they got their money’s worth. It’s a plush white-tablecloth room, with polished aluminum fixtures, cozy banquettes, and walls adorned with historical black-and-white photos of Manhattan habituées. You’d never dream of building such a space downtown, but for the neighborhood it’s in, and the clientele it has to serve, it feels pitch-perfect.
The cocktails are $18 apiece, but the bartenders know their craft, once get their attention. A Rob Roy was prepared with Sheep Dip Whisky (they gave a taste of that on the side) and served with a 2-inch-square ice cube, the kind the top-drawer cocktail parlors use. The tab is transferred to the table if you ask.
The Sant Ambroseus team (who run this joint) clearly wanted the Regency to be higher-profile than 540 Park, the last restaurant in this space. They lured Dan Silverman from the Standard Grill downtown, where he got one star from Pete Wells. The guy has been around, including stops at Alison on Dominick, Union Square Cafe, and Lever House. He seems to last about five years, wherever he goes.
The opening was deftly publicized, with multiple blog posts on the likes of Eater, Grub Street, and similar sites, and a photo of Silverman in The Times. I’ll admit I was played. I have nothing against the neighborhood, as regular readers well know, but I wouldn’t ordinarily go running to an Upper East Side hotel restaurant.
The last time I sampled Silverman’s cooking was in 2006, at Lever House, where the prices (adjusted for inflation) were about the same as they are here. I wasn’t wowed and had no desire to go back. I have the same impression today.