Enjoy the colors of autumn at top restaurants near Central Park
Come fall, Central Park transforms into a 778-acre expanse of vibrant foliage, setting the center of the city alight in all shades of red, yellow, purple and orange. The following restaurants, all in proximity to the park, offer dining is just as fine as the vistas, either in view from your table or a block or two away for a post-meal stroll. Who said the glory of a Northeastern autumn and the concrete jungle are mutually exclusive, and who said it can’t be paired with wine?
The Lakeside Restaurant at the Loeb Boathouse, located in the park itself, is certainly the most immersive fall dining experience in the City. What started as a tiny cabin of a boathouse in 1872 has since been transformed into the elegant white manse that now sits at the edge of the foliage-lined, duck-filled lake. Executive chef Fred Marco, formerly of the restaurants at Manhattan’s Four Seasons and Harvard Club, has crafted a classically beautiful menu that changes slightly with the seasons. Most of the dishes are seafood-centric, rounded out with staples such as the 21-day-aged prime New York Strip and Berkshire pork chops. The crab cake appetizer, renowned as one of the best in the city, is best enjoyed while looking out through the floor-to-ceiling windows as gondolas and rowboats cruise by. (E. 72nd St. at Park Drive North)
At the bottom corner of the Park on the East Side sits the prestigious Sherry-Netherland hotel whose lobby is home Harry Cipriani, a constituent of one of the world’s most storied restaurant chains. A near replica of Harry’s Bar – the original Cipriani in Venice notorious for celebrity clientele of Ernest Hemingway, Peggy Guggenheim and Aga Khan – this outpost attracts an equally fanciful crowd of diners, and the people-watching here is an integral part of the dining experience. Ingredients and preparations are strictly Italian with Prosciutto Crudo from Parma, Calves Liver Alla Veneziana, Veal Farfelle, various pastas and risotti, and many of the ingredients are imported from the boot itself. A meal here is incomplete without a Bellini, the cocktail of Prosecco and white peach juice invented by Giuseppe Cipriani himself in 1948; and neither should you question indulging in the dessert crêpes when a post-meal walk in the Park is only a block away. (Fifth Ave. between 58th and 59th Sts.)
Across the bottom of the park to the West Side and three stories up sits A Voce, a principal member of Columbus Circle’s restaurants that offers contemporary Italian fare in a room with a view. Sophistication is embodied as much in the Milanese-styled décor – deep browns and alabaster whites – as in the menu, that takes familiar antipasti, primi and secondi dishes and accents them with exotic details: lobster pasta with calabrian chili, pancetta with caramelized fig, red snapper with celery root purée. Weekend brunch is no less ambitious, plating poached eggs with black truffles and pancakes with mascarpone ice cream. For wine enthusiasts, A Voce’s collection is a dream. The recipient of Wine Spectator’s Grand Award since 2012, more than 2,700 bottles compose a menu whose contents are showcased behind glass walls at the back of the restaurant. To the front, the Circle’s 70-foot tall monument sits pretty in front of the sweeping backdrop of the Park. (The Shops at Columbus Circle, 3rd Fl., Central Park South at Broadway)
The Park Room in the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel similarly shows diners the view from above. The second-story restaurant is a palatial escape from the sidewalks below with high arched ceilings, giant chandeliers and tables spaced generously apart from one another. Although many of the City’s finer restaurants like to toy with food trends, there are no gastronomical surprises here, just seasonal classics excellently prepared by Executive Chef Jeff Cristelli. Foie gras from the Hudson Valley, ossobuco, pumpkin ravioli, horseradish crusted salmon and rack of lamb all safely satisfy, and breakfast and lunch similarly please with well executed basics. (Central Park South between Fifth and Sixth Aves.)