Manhattan’s famed Four Seasons restaurant is known for its power lunches and a clientele that includes Henry Kissinger, Martha Stewart, and Michael Bloomberg, as well as plenty of bold-face names in the art world and finance industry.
The restaurant’s current location at 99 East 52nd Street has been its home for more than 50 years. However, due to a rent hike and struggles with Aby Rosen, the restaurant’s landlord at the Seagram Building, the Four Seasons has been on thin ice for over three years now, and it’s set to close on July 16. A sexual assault scandal with co-owner Julian Niccolini certainly hasn’t helped its case.
But the restaurant has already found a new home, just “five minutes’ walking distance” from the original, according to co-owner Alex von Bidder.
The move will cause the restaurant to shut its doors for a full year. “What we’re hoping is that absence makes the heart grow fonder,” von Bidder said.
Let’s take a look back at the restaurant’s rich history, as well as the incredible food that has kept power lunchers coming for years.
Celebrated architects Philip Johnson and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed the original restaurant space. It’s noted in the book “The Four Seasons: A History of America’s Premier Restaurant” that it was a challenge, since the Seagram Building wasn’t originally meant to house a restaurant.
The architects built the restaurant with a “less is more” philosophy. Here, in the main dining room — known as The Pool Room — there are 20-foot ceilings and a white marble pool sitting in the center.
The trees in the Pool Room change in tandem with the four seasons.
The restaurant opened in 1959 with a rave review from The New York Times’ Craig Claiborne. “At the Four Seasons, freshly picked rosemary, chervil and sage, among other herbs, are available to give character to dishes on customer demand,” he wrote. “In a similar vein, guests may dine on several varieties of fresh mushrooms generally unknown in this country.”
In the summer of 1964, their menu offered dishes like egg in tarragon aspic, and Strasbourg toast. The dishes and menu design have changed plenty since then.
These days, you’re more likely to find dishes like this house-made spaghetti with sea urchin and bottarga.
The restaurant is also known for their souffles, which can be ordered in a chocolate, Grand Marnier, or rum raisin variety.
Here, a view of the legendary power lunch area, known as The Grill Room. New York magazine dubs this “the city’s greatest dining room” in its restaurant listing. Today, the Grill Room’s lunch menu offers Maryland crab meat cakes, burgers, grilled fish, a rack of lamb, and the filet of bison.
The restaurant has always featured modern art in its lobby and dining areas. When the restaurant opened, the owners commissioned painter Mark Rothko to create a series of works for the dining rooms. At that time, it was the largest commission ever offered to a modern artist.
Though it’s a subject of some debate, Esquire apparently helped coin the term “power lunch” when former editor-in-chief Lee Eisenberg wrote about the bustling business lunch hours at the Four Seasons in 1979.
The Four Seasons has held hundreds of galas and parties over the years, hosting guests such as John F. Kennedy, the Dalai Lama, Aretha Franklin, Martha Stewart, Barbara Walters, and many more.
Dressing to the nines has always been an important aspect of dining here.