Design This, Ralph Lauren

I dine in the finest restaurants in the world. Even the best can have a problem or an off day.  But I never suffer rudeness gladly.

The Ralph Loren Polo Lounge in New York, the latest “hot” place in which to be seen, has ghastly service. If it had a coat of arms it would be a shield of bombast on a field or pretentiousness. My cousins and I had a 9:30 reservation. When we inquired at 9:30, a condescending hostess actually spoke these words: “I don’t think it will be worse than another hour.”


The long, narrow bar (when you get past the guy outside with a secret service mike on his wrist announcing that you’ve been cleared somehow) faces a row of banquets, so that with the bar two-deep and the seats all occupied there is scarcely room to breathe, let alone walk. It’s at least 20 degrees hotter in there. People come and go as if making their way through a crowded subway at rush hour.

When I beckoned the manager over, he provided empathetic customer service 101. He kept checking for us, and finally, at 9:55, told us that the party at our table was just starting dessert. “That could mean another half-hour or more,” I pointed out. He shrugged. I told him we were leaving.

“Let me get you some shrimp cocktail,” he offered. The girls and I began to laugh. “What you are doing is pickup up our drinks,” I said.

“I won’t do that,” he said firmly.

“Well, we’re leaving,” I told him and we got up to go. “Okay,” he said to the bartender, “I have the drinks.” Of course, he can also have my shrimp cocktail.

The Polo Lounge overbooks, relies on people desperate to be “seen” (there was some reality show “housewife” in there someplace), and just rakes in money. They were able to connive some good food reviews, but their attitude is out of the 50s, where you had to slip the maitre’d a few bucks to get in the door.

Ralph Lauren’s clothes stay in style longer than this place stays on your mind, but if this is his idea of fine dining in New York, it’s a good thing he has a day job. Don’t feed this pompous money machine.

© Alan Weiss 2015

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