Four blocks from the Carlyle Hotel, three blocks from the Manhattan Apple Store, two blocks from the Museum of Modern Art and the Paley Center for Media, and just across the street from 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church, New Yorkers now have a brand-new watering hole. It’s also branded as a restaurant.
Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bar has opened at 1 East 55th Street—It’s Lauren’s third restaurant (he has one in Paris—Ralph’s at 173, Boulevard Saint Germain—and another in Chicago—RL at 115 East Chicago Avenue. Like his other restaurants, Polo Bar’s menus seem to promote a serious cocktail experience backed up by a small, but substantial menu of pricey, but simply prepared meat, fish, and fowl.
The space on 55th and Fifth Avenue is handsome in a horsey, idealized gentlemen’s club sort of way. The New York Times’s Fred R. Conrad wrote that, “To call the Polo Bar clubby would be a meek understatement. Aglow with amber light and dense with equestrian paintings and trophies, it feels like a country club as staged by Steven Spielberg.”
I agree with Conrad that Polo Bar is a bit Disneyland in look and feel. I also predict that it will be a hand-over-fist money-maker in much the same way that the Disney theme parks are. Locals may go once out of curiosity or to stay in the know. Tourists will swarm the place and spend and spend and spend—they will most likely drop an extra few hundred on polo horse emblazoned merchandise. Shirts, sweaters, shorts, shoes, scarfs, et al.
Here’s the Polo Bar, dinner menu
As for me, I think I’ll stay a few blocks west when I’m in New York and spend my chow-time (and dinner-dollars) at the venerable 21 Club or the Russian Tea Room or Gallagher’s or Joe Allen. All five restaurants are in the same price range. The eateries on my go-to list, though, have developed and perfected their ambiance, their culinary skills and extensive menus, and their superior, attentive service over many decades.
[A personal word to the wise: Joe Allen, in the theatre district, serves one of the best dishes of steak tartare in the city.]