Rooms With A View

State-of-the-art wine system and contemporary décor lead renovation at Grand Hyatt New York.

Repurposing an upscale venue into a luxury event space for small groups, Grand Hyatt New York has created and maintained a high-end atmosphere for inhouse patrons and locals, through a modern but selective beverage and bar bites program along with inviting décor, resulting in a unique, two-pronged differentiator among the competition.

The hotel, located across from Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan, used a $130-million renovation to realize a variety of F&B goals, from consolidating its restaurants and redesigning menus to updating the décor to reflect its fashionable Gotham locale.

Edan Ballantine, EAM and director of F&B, says the hotel’s multi-use space renders the program more flexible and thus more effi cient. The renovation, which encompasses the entire property, began last December and is scheduled for completion some time during the fourth quarter of this year.

The hotel’s 6,000-square-foot New York Central restaurant, overlooking fabled 42nd Street, is a 180-seat venue that includes a bar, restaurant, lounge, and wine gallery framed with windows. The restaurant, with its curvaceous illuminated bar, custom chandelier, and a wall of windows, was envisioned by Hyatt as the “epitome of sleek metropolitan style,” says Ballantine. “We felt it was important to include a signature restaurant as part of the scope.”

Prior to the renovation, the F&B component of the hotel consisted of a three-meal eatery in the hotel’s lobby; Commodore Grill, a steakhouse located in the rear section of the lobby; and Manhattan Sky, New York Central’s previous incarnation that served breakfast and lunch and included a lounge.

The restaurant’s multi-use capability is key, Ballantine emphasizes, because “you want to be able to be flexible in order to improve efficiency and productivity.”

The wine gallery serves as “both a place for small gatherings, private dinners —sort of a private dining room element if need be—as well as a nice extension to the bar,” says General Manager Mark Pardue. “Wine enthusiasts can experience the wine system, pour their own wines, and sample different wines as they progress through the different offerings we have.”

“Most hotel restaurants have challenges at particular meal periods,” says Ballantine. “[With] multi-use space, you can limit that exposure to dead times.” For instance, the hotel uses the lounge for restaurant seating at breakfast and lunch. At dinner time, the lounge expands into the restaurant, Ballantine notes, “so we’re able to be more flexible and drive revenue towards the particular meal period we’re trying to focus on.”

The wine gallery is on the second floor overlooking 42nd Street. Guests enter through a stairway in the lobby. It is a small space that can accommodate 50 to 60 guests for standing-room service and features a 30-foot glass art panel by Per Fronth along with an extensive list of vintages. The wine gallery also employs a state-of-the-art Napa Technology WineStation, a self-dispensing tasting system that allows guests to select their own beverages in tasting, half-glass, or full-glass sizes.

The restaurant’s décor, like its F&B program, was crafted to create a unique hip-luxury vibe. “The colors tie into the view from all of the windows,” Ballantine says. “When you look out, you see blue sky, white clouds, steel buildings. The color schemes are gunmetal grey, white, blue—really tying into everything you see when you’re looking out the windows.”

“We got the vibe from the design inspiration of Bentel & Bentel,” notes Pardue.

“We’re very pleased with the work they’ve done on our behalf to create the space. We really wanted to build on the uniqueness of where the space is situated. It cantilevers over 42nd Street, one of the busiest streets in all of New York City. To create a venue where guests can sit and not only enjoy the space but enjoy everything that’s going on and get a feel for New York was a central focus.”

That same vibe carries through the menu as well. To help generate it, management brought in one of Hyatt’s top chefs, Christian Ragano, who’d been serving as executive sous chef at the award-winning NoMI at the Park Hyatt Chicago. “His cooking style has a lot of Western European influence—Italy, Spain, France,” says Ballantine. “He uses many of the techniques from those areas and top-quality ingredients.”

The bar menu “ties into the food programming that Christian has put together for the space,” Ballantine explains. “There is a lot of flexibility in the food programming in the restaurant as well as the lounge.” The menu includes dishes such as Spanish Mac and Cheese (piquillo peppers, Iberico ham, manchego, miticrema, saffron, $12), Foie Gras Brûlée (pine nuts, poppy seeds, brioche, $17), and New York Central Pizza (ricotta, blistered tomato ragout, finocchiona, mozzarella di buffala, pecorino, $14).

For its beverage selection, Hyatt reached out to Fred Dexheimer, a respected mixology consultant, to develop drink recipes. Cocktails are priced at $16 and include the Central Martini (Plymouth Dry Gin, Cocchi Americano, Dolin Dry Vermouth, and rhubarb bitters), the Elliot Ness (Maker’s Mark, Carpano Antica, Punt e Mes vermouth, and peach bitters), and Mr. Big (Death’s Door Vodka, Combier Orange Liqueur, lime, guava juice, and orange bitters).

When it came to pricing, Ballantine reveals, “We wanted to make sure it was appealing for both the in-house and the local customer. We did competitive surveys with area restaurants so we could price ourselves comparably to them.” The average per-person check at dinner is $39.