It’s just past noon on a late spring day at The Four Seasons Restaurant in New York the Co-owner Julian Niccolini, examines the tables allocated for the all-important lunch reservations.
Preternaturally calm waitstaff smooth over the crisp linen tablecloths as Alex von Bidder, Niccolini’s long-time business partner, calmly greets a handful of early guests as they ascend the wide travertine staircase.
With the power hour unfolding with a kind of military grace, it’s almost impossible to imagine that this bastion of the New York dining scene will close its doors in just a few weeks.
’Some of us remain in a kind of denial,’ says Niccolini, who began working at the restaurant in 1977, four years after arriving in the US. ’I’ve basically grown up within these walls, and I’ve seen the restaurant through many different chapters of New York history.’
The Four Seasons Restaurant was a restaurant of singular ambition. A pair of vast rooms at the base of Mies van der Rohe’s Manhattan masterpiece, the 38-story Seagram Building, the restaurant opened in 1959. Like the building itself, the restaurant’s construction was overseen by Seagram owner Samuel Bronfman and his architect daughter Phyllis Lambert, who lavished fastidious attention on every detail, birthing a truly modern Gesamtkunstwerk.
In keeping with the world’s foremost International Style building, the restaurant marries rectilinear clarity with an exquisite material palette. When an exhausted Mies retreated to Chicago, Philip Johnson, who would one day be considered the ‘dean’ of American architecture, was charged with designing the restaurant’s interior.
’People don’t go to restaurants just to eat; it’s a place for magic, tremendous architecture and beauty. We could never recreate this, but we will do something special.’
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