Part of my devotion to my new life as retiree/slacker/fuckoff is to study the even more rarefied climes of Ladies Who Lunch. To that end, my friend John and I went off to Nieman's in Union Square today for lunch. It was very entertaining and quite tasty. They always start you off with a tiny cup of bullion and a popover, which seems like an odd combination to me. I suppose the bullion is to buck up the Ladies after a trying morning in the Oscar de la Renta room, struggling with uncooperative shopgirls.I have no idea what's with the popovers.
John has long asserted the point of these bacchanalia is to finish with the same amount of food on your plate as the kitchen sent out. Ideally, one just stirs the glop around while smoking and knocking back gimlets. Since I neither smoke nor drink, I couldn't rise to that level of virtuoso performance (it must take years of practice, don't you think?) but I did have chicken salad. It was perfectly fine.
The room was totally in synch with our fantasies. All the diners were either gay boys or old dears with good handbags. Fabulously enough, the woman at the table next to us was studying a brochure that seemed to focus on either botox or some other kind of decorative surgery.
Neiman's here sits on the site of an earlier upscale department store called City of Paris. I understand it was a Beaux Arte palace, but the only remains of it are it original atrium and the stained glass rotunda; that's where the restaurant is.
The renowned minimalist architect Philip Johnson whored himself out to design the palace's replacement. He's since called his work "an embarrassment" and who am I to argue with him? Plus, I think that's pretty much on the money. It went up in the early 80's when Johnson was wandering out of his sleek, glass boxes and into some very odd, sad choices influenced by the Memphis style and boy band hair-do's. The whole place is sheathed in big granite tiles on an angle, sort of harlequin-esque. In case you're wondering, that is not a good thing.
Still, at least local outrage forced them to keep the skylight. That kind of shotgun marriage of styles rarely works, and probably wouldn't here, except the new parts of the building are so blandly bad, the fussy gilded columns and stained glass are really all it has going for it.
That and popovers.