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Culture vulture, foodie gets her fix in New York City

Patti Nickell, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Travel News

New York is a city I've always had something of a love/hate relationship with. First the hate: the noise level, which most Manhattanites seem not to notice, has me ready to chew off my own ears after a day or two -- the incessant drilling of jackhammers; cabbies sitting on their horns even when it's obvious they are going nowhere fast, and angry babel from multilinguals resulting from seemingly inane disagreements.

Truthfully, the Big Apple could stand a good polishing (as in cleanup) and I do wish the locals would wear a spot of color now and then ... all that black can get a little funereal.

OK, enough grousing -- now for the love. I am both a culture vulture and a lover of good restaurants, and it's undeniable that New York satisfies both of those appetites like few other cities in the world.

I recently spent four days there getting my theater and opera fix, as well as savoring the delights of several legendary New York City restaurants. All of this began with an extraordinary package offered by The Chatwal Hotel, an anchor of the Great White Way for 113 years.

The Chatwal is almost as full of drama as the theaters surrounding it. Built by noted architect Stanford White in 1905 at the height of the New York Empire Art Deco era, it was home to America's first professional theatrical club, the Lambs Club -- modeled after a similar club in London.

Among its 6,000 luminaries -- known as Lambs -- were the Barrymores, Charlie Chaplin, Irving Berlin and Fred Astaire, who once famously remarked, "When I was made a Lamb, I felt as if I had been knighted."

Their glamorous legacy lives on in the hotel's restaurant, also called the Lambs Club in homage to its predecessor, where a cozy fire, red leather banquettes and caricatures of Broadway and Hollywood legends make up the decor.

The menu is courtesy of executive chef Geoffrey Zakarian, who began his career under Daniel Boulud at Le Cirque and has been a staple on television's The Food Network. Zakarian's menu is equally (and deliciously) divided between meat and seafood dishes, and the Prohibition-era cocktails are epic (both in flavor and in price.)

In 2010, the Chatwal underwent an extensive restoration by noted architect Thierry Despont, who also worked on the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and other high-profile projects ranging from the J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles to Claridge's Hotel in London.

The result is an intimate 76-room property that seamlessly blends the charm of the past and the creature comforts of the present.


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