The classic cocktail menu at the Gold Room, at Lotte New York Palace, is, appropriately enough, a history lesson in itself. The Sidecar, the menu reminds us, was invented in Paris around the transformative year of 1922, while the Martini originated in New York in 1911.
For far more recent history, of course, there’s the Gossip Girl cocktail: rosé Champagne, Codigo Rosa tequila, house made thyme cordial, lemon and absinthe. (The first episode of the series, for those not in the know, featured a memorable scene in the Gold Room.)
To experience the Gold Room, indeed, is to contemplate the history of New York City. While many grand mansions of the Gilded Age on New York’s Fifth Avenue have been lost, the Villard Houses on Madison Avenue, dating back to 1884, still stand, as handsome as ever.
In the late 19th-century, the railroad magnate Henry Villard engaged the renowned architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, under the leadership of architect Stanford White, to design a group of attached houses. Villard Houses was the result. Inspired by Rome’s Palazzo della Cancellaria, it was a set of six stately brownstone houses in the neo-Italian Renaissance style, harmoniously arrayed around a courtyard. The complex, architectural historian Francis Morrone has written, was “perhaps the most admired work of architecture of their time in New York.”
Today, the Villard Houses comprise a portion of the Lotte New York Palace Hotel. The Gold Room is the resplendent crown jewel of the site.
Immediately, you’re struck by gleaming, golden surfaces: the gilt walls, vaulted ceiling and wainscoting. There’s also a whole cathedral’s worth of detailed Renaissance-style carvings, and, high above the north and south arches, two John La Farge lunette paintings, “Art” and “Music.” Leaded glass windows on the east side of the room are also credited to La Farge. (Several of La Farge’s windows, including “Peonies Blown in the Wind,” are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.)
“The Gold Room takes on the glamour and opulence of the Gilded Age,” says Justin Lorenz, Wine & Beverage Director. “The space feels celebratory.”
The Gold Room was originally envisioned as a music room, with White designing an elaborate suspended balcony at the room’s northern end for musical performers. (A narrow stairway, hidden behind the wall paneling depicting musical instruments and cascading foliage, leads to the balcony.)
Today, the Gold Room is one of the most transporting and opulent drinking and dining destinations in the city.
Executive Chef Cedric Tovar’s creations include Black Truffle Frites and Tuna Tartare, as well as exquisitely shareable oysters, caviar, and Jamón ibérico, plus decadent treats like truffle frites and signature Villard sliders.
When it comes to the cocktails, the Gilded Sour is the perfect partner for the Gossip Girl. But The Gold Room is also the perfect place to appreciate and luxuriate in the art of the martini. You’ll want to get acquainted with the Filthy Rich (Chopin Family Reserve Extra Rare Vodka, Dolin’s Dry Vermouth) or the fiendish Smoke (Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, Bowmore 15 yr Scotch, Lemon Twist). You’d be forgiven for feeling like you’re in a whole new Gilded Age.