In 1882, railroad baron and philanthropist Henry Villard built his Manhattan mansion across the street from St. Patrick’s cathedral on Madison Avenue. Today, the venerable Italianate building provides grand entrée into the 899-room The New York Palace, which incorporates an adjoining 55-story tower constructed in 1978. The resplendent Gilded Age property houses the Michelin 2-star Gilt restaurant and the largest private dining room in New York served by a kitchen of this stature.
And that’s just an appetizer of the unique variety of venues available here for corporate groups.
“It’s rare to have a Michelin-rated restaurant experience in a group environment,” says Jeffrey Selden, executive director of food & beverage. “And there are private fine-dining rooms that can host 20-30 people, but in The Madison Room we can seat up to 120. It’s really quite amazing because so many people are simultaneously getting one of the best meals in their lives in one of New York’s most beautiful settings.”
Huge windows on three sides of The Madison Room offer panoramic views of the elegant courtyard, St. Patrick’s and Madison Avenue. The murals date back to the 1800s, while the gilded bronze columns nicely complement the ornate plaster ceiling coated in gold leaf. Another similar venue is The Library, suitable for 70 seated.
In stark contrast, the New American menu at Gilt is as progressive as it is well received. “The menu pulls together different cuisines from around the world to please the American palate,” says Selden. “It’s also very evocative and modern in presentation.”
He points out menu items such as the Dover sole with Indonesian curry, and black cod with classic Indian tandoori spices. In both cases, executive chef Justin Bogle is embellishing a simple, traditional North American dish with exotic and complex Pan-Asian flavors.
Over in the Gilt bar, there is one of Manhattan’s most striking interior design dichotomies. A 60-ft long fiberglass geodesic sculpture by French architect Patrick Jouin sits in stark contrast to the room’s soaring cathedral ceiling, carved mouldings and wood paneling. Especially true when the LED lights glowing inside the stealth-like structure change colors. Selden says the art piece “ensures the Old World feel doesn’t feel too stuffy.”
The Villard Mansion was built in a U shape to create a courtyard for entertaining guests in spring and fall. Last month, the new Palace Gate outdoor lounge opened here with a full bar menu overseen by Gilt chefs. A fun dish is the chicken wings with yuzu kosho (a spicy chutney), pickled veggies and sesame aioli. Capacity is 600 standing.
“To have private event space outdoors for that many people in the middle of Manhattan is rare,” comments Selden. “Actually, it’s unbelievable.”
For truly fabulous fresh air events, you’ll want one or more of the four penthouse Triplex Suites atop the tower. The 3-level, 5,000-sf spaces with Art Deco decor and towering 18-ft windows each connect to an elegant rooftop terrace. Selden says groups average 50-100, although that number seems to swell for fashion crowd fetes.
Standing here tasting Chef Bogle’s tuna wellington with a glass of lively sancerre as the suns sets over the skyline feels quintessentially New York. Only much more so at the Palace.