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Nov 05

Gramercy Tavern, New York

Since most of the fine dining restaurants in New York seem to have some sort of dress code requirement (“jacket required, tie recommended”), scruffy backpackers like myself are relegated to some of the less stuffy joints around the city. As the name suggests, the restaurant is located in the Gramercy district in Manhattan. After arriving on time at 9.00pm, we had to wait about 15 minutes for our table to be vacated by the previous seating.

Gramercy is split up into two sections – a noisy, bustling tavern section at the front serving drinks and lighter meals, and an only slightly less noisy dining section at the back. Gramercy seems to cater for a lot of larger groups of people. The lighting is dim – a little too dim for my tastes – but not so dim that I couldn’t see that despite the lack of dress code we were definitely slumming it in the clothing department … not that I really cared. (If you see the Chez Panisse review, you can see I’m even wearing the same shirt!)

Perhaps it was because everything was really busy, but service was somewhat patchy. We had to request certain things twice before they followed through, and the timing between courses was erratic (at one point we caught the head waiter, who was hovering behind our table, angrily and frantically gesticulating at his staff to clear our table with a horrified look on his face that said, “these plates should have been cleared hours ago!”). They also tend to serve courses to their own schedule. I’m not sure if this is an American custom, but if people were absent from the table (in the bathroom or wherever), they didn’t wait for them to return. They go ahead and serve and put a silver serving cover over the plates.

On the other hand, the food at Gramercy was fantastic with creative combinations that mostly worked. We had their 7 course seasonal tasting menu. The appetizers were light dishes of seafood, followed by heavier mains of bacon and really succulent lamb, and two dessert courses laden with chocolate. The meal was USD95, but keep in mind that this doesn’t include an annoying state tax nor the standard minimum 15% US tip which, all told, adds about 25% to the bill.

Gramercy Tavern

Michelin recently started rating New York restaurants using its famed, and sometimes controversial, three-star system. Gramercy received one star. It was also chosen as the surveyors’ favourite restaurant in Zagat’s 2006 NYC Survey.