Have break­fast at Tif­fany like Holly Go­lightly

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - TRAVEL - By Me­gan McDonough

In the 1961 film “Break­fast at Tif­fany’s,” Au­drey Hep­burn’s char­ac­ter, Holly Go­lightly, muses that a visit to the jew­eler’s Fifth Av­enue flag­ship store “calms me down right away. The quiet­ness and the proud look of it.” She con­tin­ues, in these lines also found in Tru­man Capote’s novella of the same name, that “noth­ing very bad could hap­pen to you there.”

Turns out, Go­lightly was right. I dis­cov­ered this first­hand when I in­ad­ver­tently knocked over a piece of Tif­fany china dur­ing a visit to the Blue Box Cafe, the lux­ury re­tailer’s first din­ing ven­ture, lo­cated on the fourth floor of the famed lo­ca­tion.

The crash was nei­ther quiet nor proud. I was mor­ti­fied, and I know my mid­dle school self — who cov­eted Tif­fany’s chunky ster­ling-sil­ver jew­elry be­yond any school crush — would have been, too.

But in­stead of a proper scold­ing, my waiter non­cha­lantly whisked the bro­ken crock­ery away. “It hap­pens more of­ten than you’d think,” he ex­plained. His gaze shifted to an­other diner, who was strug­gling to hoist his heavy dig­i­tal cam­era over his $70 Tif­fany blue din­ner plate. He looked back at me and smiled: “Just don’t let it ruin your ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The con­cept of “Break­fast at Tif­fany’s” has changed dra­mat­i­cally since Go­lightly’s tran­quil 5 a.m. stroll down Fifth Av­enue in her sleeve­less black dress. Now, in­stead of pa­per cof­fee cups and curb­side pas­tries, mod­ern-day Go­lightlys can in­dulge their rich fan­tasies with a three-course break­fast in­side the store.

Vis­it­ing the seem­ingly built­for-In­sta­gram restau­rant — which opened to fan­fare in Novem­ber of last year — has be­come a buck­etlist item for for­eign tourists, film fans and even New York­ers. The photo-friendly spot, out­fit­ted en­tirely in the brand’s sig­na­ture robin’s-egg blue and white, was re­port­edly de­signed with the in­ten­tion of hav­ing guests feel like jewels nes­tled in one of Tif­fany’s trade­mark boxes: A reser­va­tion at the com­pact cafe, which seats only 40 peo­ple, has be­come as de­sir­able as one of the jew­eler’s heart-tag charm bracelets.

I was lucky enough to snag a last-minute week­day lunch reser­va­tion on­line. (The cafe is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mon­day through Satur­day and noon to 4:30 p.m. Sun­day. Reser­va­tions can be made for up to four peo­ple on Resy.com and booked a month in ad­vance, be­gin­ning at 9 a.m. East­ern time.) I ar­rived early to get the lay of the land and, in the spirit of Go­lightly, al­low ex­tra time for win­dow shop­ping. Vis­i­tors must nav­i­gate the store’s bustling first floor — a maze of ea­ger em­ploy­ees, shiny dis­play cases and ogling tourists — to reach the el­e­va­tors lead­ing to the cafe, which are manned by white­gloved at­ten­dants. En route, I stopped to gawk at a whop­ping 128.54-carat yel­low di­a­mond.

I made my lux­u­ri­ous as­cent to the fourth floor, where the cafe is perched at the end of the home­and-ac­ces­sories depart­ment. Noth­ing makes a per­son feel more cog­nizant of his or her in­come — or lack of it — than pass­ing by a $125 bone-china dog bowl and a $400 mo­hair teddy bear.

At the host’s stand, I re­ceived the royal treat­ment — de­spite my lack of tiara and satin gloves — was whisked to a two-top ta­ble fac­ing Cen­tral Park’s Grand Army Plaza. Many restau­rant guests had dressed for the posh oc­ca­sion in fancy fas­ci­na­tors and black cock­tail dresses. One group of women, clad head to toe in blue, even bragged to their waiter that they’d got­ten match­ing teal ma­ni­pedis the night be­fore.

From the walls to the slip­cov­ered chairs and leather-bound booths, the space was a ver­i­ta­ble sea of Tif­fany blue. The at­ten­tive and friendly staff even sported blue ties and aprons.

The menu was full of trendy Amer­i­can fare (av­o­cado toast) with buzzy New York monikers (the Fifth Av­enue salad, with Maine lob­ster and grape­fruit). And though I ar­rived at noon, I or­dered break­fast, which is served all day. The deca­dent $32 meal in­cluded a sea­sonal fruit plate with ed­i­ble flow­ers and pre-peeled grapes; a minia­ture crois­sant with three spreads (Nutella, but­ter and jam); and my choice of one of four en­trees. I opted for the smoked sal­mon and crisps — ba­si­cally a de­con­structed lox bagel.

While the food could coast on the Tif­fany name and nos­tal­gia alone, the cafe de­liv­ers in terms of pre­sen­ta­tion and fla­vor: The fruit was fresh, the crois­sant but­tery and flaky. And the bagel crisps fea­tured a gen­er­ous por­tion of fresh lox. I sa­vored ev­ery bite dur­ing my leisurely meal.

Sip­ping my sec­ond cup of cof­fee and star­ing out at the city’s nat­u­ral gem, Cen­tral Park, I was tempted to start hum­ming “Moon River.” How­ever, this serene mo­ment was in­ter­rupted by a gag­gle of gig­gling Go­lightlys, stag­ing a full-blown photo shoot with a pas­try shaped like a minia­ture bird’s nest. “Get one of me with the sun­glasses on!” one of the bouf­fants bel­lowed to her smart­phone-wield­ing seat­mate. De­spite the quiet and proud bones of this place, it is still sus­cep­ti­ble to en­thu­si­as­tic self­ieseek­ers who want to pre­serve — and, per­haps more im­por­tant, share — their fine mem­o­ries of this spe­cial place.

Sus­cep­ti­ble to my neigh­bors’ en­thu­si­asm, I de­cided that I, too, wanted a me­mento. I set my purse on the ta­ble, snapped a fi­nal photo of the tablescape — and clum­sily bumped the white china creamer off the ta­ble.

In­stead of pock­et­ing a shard of Tif­fany china, I asked my waiter whether I could keep a card­board coaster as a keep­sake. He smiled, then re­turned with a sec­ond.

I guess ev­ery­one chan­nels Go­lightly’s spirit in their own way. The Blue Box Cafe, in the Tif­fany tra­di­tion, makes a world of lux­ury and glamour ac­ces­si­ble to all — even if only for break­fast.

ME­GAN MCDONOUGH/FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Break­fast at Tif­fany in­cludes cof­fee or tea, with sea­sonal fruit and a crois­sant with three spreads. Guests also have the choice of a smoked sal­mon and bagel stack, cod­dled egg, av­o­cado toast or a but­ter­milk waf­fle.

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