LOVE AFFAIR IN MANHATTAN ~ The Barclay
By Leigh Cort
"The dinner dance which formally opened The Barclay Hotel November 4, 1926, was a quiet affair. There were no politicians cutting ribbons, no press agents scurrying about, no Broadway stars languishing on sofas. Except for a few carefully placed advertisements in select periodicals, there were no public announcements at all. The owners wanted it that way. The Barclay was to be an EXCLUSIVE RESIDENTIAL HOTEL in one of the most desirable sections of New York City.
The people who would do the talking were what the press called a 'highly select clientele' of doctors, engineers, lawyers...etc~ whose names rarely appeared in the news but were often in Who's Who or the New York Social Register. This was New York's quiet old money, many of whom already had suburban estates and wanted winter quarters in town. They ate their dinners prepared by Chef Marcel Souret and danced to the tunes of Harry Tucker's Orchestra - and perhaps toasted their good fortune in finally having a midtown hotel that echoed their own quiet refinement.
Within weeks of the opening, management announced converting 100 rooms to accommodate the huge demand from transient visitors. The new 'hotel' was a success. Just like the people who lived in its suites, The Barclay arrived into the world SECURE in its position at the TOP!"
Today, InterContinental® New York Barclay reverberates with the same quiet grandeur, while its premier position in the heart of Manhattan's midtown buzzes with traffic, business power players, cultural riches, conferences and exquisite dining. Inter-Continental Hotels, at one time in history owned by Pan American World Airways, was one of the largest international luxury hotel chains in the world. Their purchase of The Barclay in the early 1980's brought this grand old lady back to life with restorations of front and back of the house, furnishings, kitchens, rooms, suites, décor and a $32 million + investment.
Gazing back 30 years, the clamor of the city is still left behind once you enter her intimate grand lobby. You feel a timelessness of the world flying by, finding much the same atmosphere as in 1926 when the old Barclay first opened. Stately marble columns, glowing skylights, traditional furniture and countless cozy corners echo the past but capture within them the dreams of a gracious future.
Once settled into our 5 th floor suite, we felt early spring outside the large windows gazing west on 49 th street toward Madison Avenue. Heavy rain didn't stop my heart from beating as I tested the wide sofa, admiring the mock fireplace that I knew must have seen many romantic fires during THE DAY. I peered around the corner into the spacious bedroom, knowing that for five days this would be home. Not surprisingly, afternoon naps came to mind, closing the plush curtains to protect us from the city sounds until we were refreshed and ready to enjoy them again.
Dining is a dilemma when you realize that there are only a few days to sample from thousands of eateries, legendary and trendy, romantic and kitsch. Each one could become a habit if I were back again, to live ?the city life'.
Shun Lee Palace, (E. 55 th Street), which brought upscale Chinese food to Manhattan in 1971, didn't disappoint. The elegant interior by Adam Tihany was as stunning as the Clams in Black Bean Sauce and our waiter's adeptness with service and perfectly chilled Manhattan's.
Lunch at Palm Too (Second Avenue) was an enchantment of caricatures and celebrity sketches on every patch of wall from bar to dining rooms. Across the street from the 1926 ?Palm', it's still owned and operated by a member of the original Bozzi family. Their philosophy has prevailed for nearly 90 years ?Treat guests like family, serve great food and always exceed expectations?. If it had been dinner time, I might have indulged in one of the best steaks on the map. But a mile high platter of perfectly fried calamari accompanied by fresh spinach sautéed in garlic and olive oil stole my fancy.
The New Yorker says it best about - How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying' : ?Every Nanosecond of the production is?luminous. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, he throws every ounce of his being in the show?. This high-stepping musical was definitely a highlight of our love affair with Manhattan. Drizzle couldn't dampen the standing ovations throughout the show. It was an ideal introduction to late night Dinner at Sardi's.
Sardi's (W. 44 Street) has been the toast of Broadway for 90 years. Occupying the first four floors of the famed Shubert building, theater and Hollywood celebrities have called Sardi's their home on opening night, closing night and every day in between. Thousands of famous caricatures adorn the walls ~ sharing space with fellow actors from Judy Garland and Lucille Ball to Paul Newman and even Kermit the Frog! Serving an international menu for lunch and dinner, everyone has a favorite dish; mine is either smoked salmon with traditional garnishes and crusty bread or steak tartare, prepared tableside. Gazing around the dining room after theater has no equal for me-it's just where my heart leads me!
At the elegant Café Carlyle, (76 th Street & Fifth Avenue) a bastion of classic cabaret entertainment tucked inside the legendary Carlyle Hotel behind a Madison Avenue doorway, you can find yourself rubbing elbows with socialites, politicians and magnates into its distinguished and glamorous setting. Nightly it's the uber romantic venue for live entertainment continuing the tradition of the 1930's supper club. Its history boasts that composer Richard Rodgers moved in as The Carlyle's first tenant, making music an essential part of The Carlyle experience.
We walked, talked, dined the city, watched the nighttime fall like a cozy blanket around us, always comforted with pleasure when we could return to the Barclay lobby bar ?around midnight' and delight in a perfect nightcap. The Lobby's scene changed each evening with hushed tones and suited lades & gentlemen. We could almost imagine that we heard conversation by such luminaries as Myrna Loy, Bette Davis, Marlon Brando, David O Selznick, The Astors, Sir and Lady Montagu, dukes & duchesses, much the same atmosphere as that of the ?20's when the hotel was vibrantly new and alive.
I shall always remember the Barclay and feel as if we were at a grand party when dignity was the watchword of the era. Our exclusive rendezvous was complete ~ until we return again.
Intercontinental Barclay Hotel
111 E. 48 Street
New York City, NY 10017
Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.
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