Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder, co-owners of The Four Seasons Restaurant
Poached snapper with summer vegetables is a favorite on the seasonal menu
The most desired spots surround the pool, with table number 63 being a sought-after place to catch a good view of who comes in. The four-seat table is often reserved for two heavy hitters
There is nothing quite so inviting as the comfortable elegance of The Four Seasons’ Pool Room at lunchtime. While the power-lunch crowd takes its regular seats in the Grill Room, the atmosphere here, around the tranquil square pool, is much more serene. Four large trees define the space and change each season to include preserved palms in the summer, lovely Japanese maples in the fall and blossoming cherries in the spring.
Designed by Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe, The Four Seasons opened in 1959 in the Seagram Building, a modernist skyscraper that The New York Times’ architecture critic Herbert Muschamp described as “the millennium’s most important building.” The space boasts French walnut woodwork and enormous windows, and is lauded as a true New York City landmark.
As you walk past a Picasso stage curtain into the Pool Room, you immediately notice that this is the softer side of the restaurant. White noise from the water ensures no one can overhear what goes on at your table, making it a haven of privacy for special meetings.
Many celebrations include the pool in some aspect. At one wedding, it was outfitted with a clear cover and used as a stage. The American Ballet Theatre has performed over the water, and on one memorable afternoon, a few women, bubbly from Champagne, took off most of their clothing and hopped in.
While you might come to see the iconic spot where notables like Princess Grace, the Dalai Lama, Jackie Onassis and Oscar de la Renta have dined, the food itself is worth a visit. Regulars have their favorites. You might spy the Middle Eastern aristocrat, whom the staff has affectionately (and discreetly) nicknamed “The Prince,” eating his daily whole grilled turbot, or Nora Ephron enjoying crab cakes. Architect Robert A.M. Stern likes the chicken potpie, Santiago Calatrava lunches on the risotto with white truffles and Thom Browne is a fan of the duck. The most desired spots surround the pool, with table number 63 being a sought-after place to catch a view of who comes in.
The Four Seasons has a long-standing reputation for serving fresh, local, organic food that changes with each season. Co-owner Julian Niccolini says, “The most important thing is that while there might be a lot of items on the menu, we are very concerned about how they’re cooked and how they’re made, to make sure our guests are able to enjoy them on a daily basis. We have to take care of the health of our customers.”
That commitment to wellness extends beyond what’s on your plate. The Four Seasons takes pride in ensuring that the property’s design elements, down to the upholstery on its furnishings, are made without any harsh chemicals or dyes. “It’s practically edible,” says co-owner Alex von Bidder.
While these thoughtful details might go unnoticed by contented patrons, the two men at the top take exceptional care to ensure a first-rate experience each and every day. A year after von Bidder became the hotel’s banquet manager in 1976, Julian Niccolini came in to manage the Grill Room. They took over as owners in 1996 and still personally oversee the restaurant on a day-to-day basis. Von Bidder schedules his vacations so as not to miss special events, such as the beloved Children’s Day, where the bill is comped for the kiddie set, giving them carte blanche to try everything from adult entrées to a Reeses Pieces soufflé.