Quintessential old New York looks something like this: Just as you reach for the handle of the giant iron door that will lead you into a restaurant, a man in a crisp suit pre-empts you, smoothly gliding it open as he ushers you in.
The dining room is dim, cool and filled with the hushed murmur of well-dressed guests. The banquette seats are a crimson leather; the chairs are a modern mix of leather and metal. You slide into your seat, basking in the warm, flattering glow of the lamps built into the banquettes, taking a moment to smooth down the starched tablecloth before your waiter — in a Rat-pack white jacket and slender tie, of course — saunters over.
The creators of The Lambs Club have gone to great lengths to transport you to a different time. The decor is art-Deco, the feel is modern “Mad Men.” In the kitchen, Geoffrey Zakarian (Le Cirque, Town) is at the helm.
For its reincarnation, this new restaurant had some good bones to work with. For starters, it is housed in The Chatwal New York, a new luxury hotel located in one of the iconic buildings of Manhattan’s Theatre District. This building — designed by Stanford White, architect of New York’s famous Washington Square arch as well as summer homes for the Vanderbilts and Astors in his time — first opened in 1905 as the base for the Lambs, the first professional theatrical club in the U.S. The Lambs’s membership roster was impressive — Charlie Chaplin, John Barrymore, Cecil B. DeMille, Fred Astaire — and the restaurant’s decor, featuring framed glossies of actors, offers a nod to some of these members.
This being New York fashion week, we’re a little surprised at being able to snag a table at the Lambs Club at the last minute. But it’s been a soft opening, our spiffy waiter tells us. He hands us our menus and off we go …