Like living in the ugliest house on a pretty street, it may be better to view New York from the relatively unprepossessing Rockefeller Center than from the Empire State Building, some fifty streets south. For one thing, you get to see the latter. For another, they don’t serve brunch in the Empire State.
Freshly renovated and reopened for Sunday brunch bookings and Monday dinner reservations (Tuesday to Saturday it’s reserved for private parties), the Rainbow Room offers spectacular 360-degree views on the Manhattan skyline. You’ll see ornate building tops you’ve never seen before. It’s a bit rough on anyone who’s seated nearer to the vast buffet station at the centre of the room, beneath the illuminated dome, than to the windows – it looks to us as though parties of two would always be more like to miss out on a window view – but then you don’t have as far to walk to explore the buffet options.
for us brunch is a little early in the day for a pinot noir with your truffled eggs or a fleurie with your lamb
There are fourteen substations here, from “Indian” to “Asian”, from “Composed Salads” (generating an amusing mental image of the inverse), cheese to charcuterie, eggs to sushi. Fantastically, one is simply named “Breakfast” (here you might find an unctuously creamy, white-winey chicken pot pie that’s a highlight of the whole ensemble). And that’s before you investigate the sweet options. The menu at the table doesn’t just indicate what one will find at each station, but proffers a suggested wine pairing, though for us brunch is a little early in the day for a pinot noir with your truffled eggs or a fleurie with your lamb curry; as an alternative, the Rainbow Room offers several cocktails and a choice of three champagnes, including a brut Taittinger that, happily, goes everything. Doesn’t champagne always?
Once in a while, fascinatingly, one might see a couple who missed the memo
The average bruncher seems to be a little older than middle-aged, rather refined, the kind of guest for whom the management’s request that one not wear blue jeans or trainers is beside the point: they probably don’t own such items. Once in a while, fascinatingly, one might see a couple who missed the memo; invariably they’re the ones who rush around the stations, piling their plates mountainously with nigiri, boiled ham, aloo gobi, soba noodles, bresaola, pains au raisins and roast beef all at once, as if they’re worried they might not be allowed a second go.
At the very least, they should save room for the dessert station, a sweet-tooth’s dream of cookies, parfaits, mousses, tartlets, ice cream (“What flavour is this, please?” “Birthday Cake flavour, sir.”) with grand accompanying portfolio of sauces and sprinkles, and even some fresh fruit. We like to save some slices of mango for last, happy to believe that starting with salad and ending with fruit will wholly offset all the vastly indulgent treats in between. Isn’t that what they mean by blue-sky thinking? C
The Rainbow Room, 65, International Council-Shopping Center, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112
+1 212 632 5000; rainbowroom.com