By Terry Trucco
Hotels are notorious for tardiness when it comes to everything from opening their doors to refurbishing the lobby. But not the Royalton.
This summer Brasserie 44, the hotel’s buzzy-at-lunch lobby restaurant, closed for renovation. Its transformation was to debut in September. And voila – the space, its name slimmed down to Forty-Four, soft-opened for private parties and select customers this week and opens to the public on Monday, October 4, retooled as a gigantic cocktail lounge. In hotel years, that’s right on the dot.
But perhaps the promptness is because this is one of the subtlest facelifts I’ve ever seen. It’s nothing, in short, like the lobby’s extreme makeover in 2007 when Roman & Williams’ moody, leathery blue interiors replaced Philippe Starck’s iconic designs (remember the little horns?).
Yes, they trimmed table space to add a large bar in front of the room. But the weird rope buttresses that always reminded me of an urbane Rusty Scupper are still in place as are the much cooler blown-glass bubble lights suspended from the ceiling.
The boldest change is the gray, menswear-inspired fabric covering on the banquettes, a
stylish — and practical — replacement for the cream leather that looked dirty and worn the last time we visited.
Isn’t that a tweak? But looks aren’t everything. Consider the big changes to the menu. Though executive chef Scott Ekstrom is still at the helm and breakfast and lunch are still served — this is a hotel, after all — dinner is relegated to small-plate bar nibbles, albeit stylish ones (pork belly soft tacos, Parmesan risotto poppers), served after 6. And drinks take center stage.
Behind the clever, extensive and expensive bar menu stand six top-flight mixologists hailing from Boston and Miami to New York and LA, dubbed the Cocktail Collective by the hotel. Half the offerings are classic hotel specialties, like the Singapore Sling, born decades ago at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. The rest are modern concoctions, tomorrow’s hotel classics presumably, like the Red Pepper Daisy (100% blue agave tequila, muddled red bell pepper, organic agave nectar and fresh squeezed organic lime juice shaken and topped with a splash of soda). And mixed drink ingredients are fresh and organic when possible.
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