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One of New York’s favorite rooms, Bemelmans Bar, is finally back.
Having shut its doors on March 16, 2020, the 74-year-old, moodily lit and whimsically illustrated jazz lounge at the Carlyle hotel on East 76th Street celebrated its reopening Tuesday night. It was New York’s hottest reservation, and bar boosters booked up some 200 tables for the thirsty opener.
A swarm of Bemelmans stalwarts and dandily dressed Upper East Siders swung by for a stiff cup of nostalgia. Steinway pianist and longtime Bemelmans staple Earl Rose sold it to them with soft keyboard renditions of “My Way” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
“This isn’t just about sitting somewhere after not having been there in so long,” said James Trezza, 47, a neighborhood gallery owner and film producer who came out for the opening celebration.
“It is like seeing family,” said Trezza, who’s enjoyed dirty martinis at the same corner table in the bar’s gallery section since 2001.
“The staff knows you so well and you know them and their kids’ and wives’ names. It’s emotional. Right now, people don’t want anything new. They want what they had.”
Anyone looking for innovation, renovation or Instagrammable gimmicks will be disappointed at the newly reopened haunt, where the illustrious wall murals by Ludwig Bemelmans of “Madeline” fame remain untouched.
And that’s just fine with the bar’s regulars, who crave business as usual. After a year of unprecedented pandemonium, who can blame them for wanting to knock back $24 martinis?
But good luck getting them. Currently, the bar’s new online reservation system — it formerly had a first-come, first-served policy — is booked solid through the end of June. (A handful of walk-in spots have been held back for those at the right place at the right time.)
It will likely remain the city’s hot ticket for some time, with so few of Manhattan’s old-guard cocktail lounges left in the mix. The King Cole Bar at the St. Regis remains closed. The Plaza, along with the Palm Court, will reopen at the end of the month. But the jockeys lost the race at the 90-year-old ’21’ Club, which is now gone (but maybe not for good).
“I think [the ’21’ Club] is maybe reopening,” chef Sylvain Delpique, 40, who spent the past six years helming the club, told The Post. “LVMH bought it out and they are thinking about renovating and reopening it in a couple years. They don’t do things halfway. The jockeys [that cover the building’s facade] might be back.”
Delpique is now overseeing the culinary works at the 189-room Carlyle — replacing chef Ron Pietruszka — and yesterday he debuted a new bar menu at Bemelmans that includes rarefied $19 andouille pigs in a blanket and $340 caviar — items he expects to also be hot room-service orders.
A new drinks menu with designer martinis, such as the $35 Elaine’s Smoky Martini with Japanese Kin No Bi gin and Lagavulin 16, has also hit tables.
Delpique said that a few of his menu items, like the $28 octopus carpaccio, were lifted from ’21’ and that he expects them to please the many regulars he plans to see in his new role.
“It’s a little bit different at the Carlyle, but it’s also a bit of the same style as the ’21’ Club,” Delpique said. “The customers are the Midtown crowd and the crème de la crème. It’s familiar. And I am sure people will follow me, because there is a lot more to come.”
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