The Power-Breakfast Scramble
(FORTUNE Magazine) – In Manhattan there's been one power-breakfast spot since the 1970s: the Regency Hotel. But a colleague pointed out that the hotel's restaurant, called 540 Park, was far from discreet about its morning monopoly. If a scene is truly a scene, why would you need to crow about it? I called to ask whether I should make a reservation. The woman quickly laughed. "Of course," she scoffed. "This is the home of the power breakfast." Right, my mistake. Click.
A few days later I ventured into 540 Park at 8:30 a.m. It was busy, but there was definitely room for the unreserved. The food was fine and the prices high, important ingredients for a power breakfast. But half the menu touted the restaurant's "Power Breakfast" tradition--its history and the members of the club. The relentless self-promotion (not to mention the Bloomberg terminal) made it feel like a theme restaurant.
A merchant banker friend suggested clubs--Links, Union, Metropolitan--for privacy. But what if you're not a member? And is privacy really the goal? Carol Bartz, CEO of Autodesk, and I had plenty of privacy at the handsome new Ritz-Carlton downtown, if only because no one else was there. Power wants an audience.
I figured that Tim Zagat would know, or at least have an opinion. He was quick to mention the Regency--he would, since he's name-dropped on the menu--but admitted that he frequents Jean Georges in the Trump International Hotel, across from his office on Columbus Circle.
Besides having a great location next to Central Park, with light pouring in, Jean Georges is a model of discretion. "We don't advertise breakfast," said Mr. Vongerichten (a.k.a. Jean-Georges), "but a lot of people know by word of mouth." As for the food, "We have the best pancakes in town." A visit proved him right. The prices were high enough, but $12 for three hotcakes isn't bad for a New York City hotel. The crowd was a bit weak (there was no sign of Mr. Trump--a busboy said he tends to come for lunch). Maybe it was an off day. Or maybe it simply means there's room for one more powerful person at the table. See you there.