With the closure of New York’s Four Seasons, is the era of ‘the power lunch’ well and truly over both there and in Britain?
In October 1979, Esquire coined a new phrase: ‘The Power Lunch.’ In an article by Lee Eisenberg they referenced a place where the “eighty-or-so diners dine on ideas, ideas for million-dollar book deals, ideas for punchy new ad campaigns, ideas for eccentric new buildings in Atlanta or Houston, ideas for next fall’s haute couture, ideas for bottling and marketing the finest wines here and abroad.”
Those diners just happened to be the likes of Bill Blass, Calvin Klein, Jackie Onassis and Oscar de la Renta and the place just happened to be the Four Seasons restaurant on the ground floor of The Seagram Building at 99 East 52nd Street in Manhattan. Sadly, after nearly sixty years in business, yesterday, for once and for all, this institution’s reign finally came to an end.
The first restaurant to introduce seasonally changing menus to America, the first destination restaurant to print its menu in English and the first restaurant in America to cook using fresh, wild mushrooms supposedly, the Four Seasons became what Town & Country morphed into “one of the most famous places to eat” in that country and was even designated a local landmark in 1989.
Forced out of its original location in 2015 due to Aby Rosen, the owner of building in which it was house terminating its lease, the Four Seasons sold off its contents for £3.2 million in a fifteen hour auction. Four ashtrays alone sold for the staggering sum of £9,800.
Subsequently relocated to 42 East 49th Street as part of a £31 million reopening, the Four Seasons sadly somehow lost its allure with the smart set and was described by 6sqft as “often [having] empty seats during dinner.” In December 2018, former managing partner Julian Niccolini then resigned after pleading guilty to sexual assault in 2016 and this week the then managing partner, Alex von Bidder, commented: “We just couldn’t make it; the restaurant world has changed… We were not doing enough business to satisfy [the investors].”
Elsewhere, in London, the former setting for ‘power lunches’ in Chelsea for fifty years that was La Brasserie remains closed and is covered in scaffolding. The location for lunches and dinners for people as diverse as the actress Joan Collins, the late property magnate Harry Hyams and the fashion designer Mary Quant, ‘La Bras’ (as it was affectionally known) was also somewhere you could likely spot James Blunt, Prince Harry and Davina McCall, but then, after reopening as the somewhat bizzare “internationally inspired taste of Dubai inspired by America” Caramel, it burnt to the ground just months later in December 2018. Word on the street this week has suggested it may finally have been sold on, but as of today, we were unable to gain official confirmation from any connected sources.