The first apartment I lived in when I moved to New York City was on the same street as the Four Seasons restaurant, just a couple avenues East. It was 2007 and I had probably walked by the entrance dozens of times, unaware of the history that existed just through those street level doors. In reality, I had no business stepping foot inside the place. Fast forward almost ten years and I still had never been inside, only now, I had come to understand the significance of the institution.
Over the years, the Four Seasons had gained a reputation for being the place where titans of publishing, finance, politics, media and fashion came for lunch, all converging in the Grill Room, one of two spaces that made up the restaurant. Occupying a ground level space in the Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe designed Seagram's Building, the interior of the Four Seasons has remained largely unchanged since its opening.
When I heard that the restaurant would be closing on the back of a lease dispute with its landlord, and would be replaced by two new restaurant concepts, I felt I had to visit the historic space one time before the doors closed for good. But rather than going during a time when the restaurant was in full service, I wanted to be able to see the place in the light of day and during a time when I could roam the halls, so to speak. I was much less interested in eating the food than I was simply experiencing the interior.
So I decided to visit during that strange time between lunch and dinner, a slack tide for restaurants, when late lunch patrons are paying their checks and the waitstaff is casually turning over the space, preparing for the next service due to start in a couple hours. It was the night before the Brexit vote and I had to be at work the next morning at two A.M. should the U.K. voters decided to leave the European Union, something that at the time was considered fairly unlikely. This afforded me the luxury of being able to leave work in the early afternoon, giving me a chance to action my plan.
When I entered the lobby there wasn't a soul inside. The coat check was unoccupied and the Barcelona Chairs designed by Van Der Rohe were empty. I made my way across the open room and up the staircase that let to the Grill Room. Here, people were scattered across the dining room, remnants of the restaurants famous cotton candy sat on uncleared plates. A few men in suits sat at bars stools around the four-sided bar that sits off to the side.