“There’s no photos allowed, sir.” At first I’m insulted, and then I realize that I’m the one that has crossed the line. Of course, there wouldn’t be photos allowed at The Polo Bar. Not because the restaurant has anything to hide, but because the mere sight of a cell phone might upset the meticulous atmosphere at Ralph Lauren’s time warp in the form of a Fifth Avenue dining room.
You see, The Polo Bar is not a restaurant from 2015. It is a restaurant from 1985. Ralph Lauren’s first New York restaurant is not a place for cell phones, or Instagrams, or status updates. Nor is it a restaurant for small portions, or chopped salads, or juice cleanses. It is maximal dining. The bacon topped burgers are as thick as the plaid pillows which sit upon the even larger leather banquettes. The perpendicular wood paneling is as dense as the steak-cut fries – which naturally are served in a silver bucket. The caramelized onion popovers are as golden brown as the horses, which are depicted over and over in the innumerable equestrian paintings which line the dining room. The cocktails are as neatly arranged as the antique mallets which hang, as if in a Greenwich mudroom, next to the coat check.
The Polo Bar is not a Polo photo shoot come to life. It is a trip back to the era that inspired the Polo aesthetic to begin with.
That the restaurant is located underground, beneath Polo’s recently opened Midtown flagship, is no coincidence. It is a buried time capsule that you can actually step into. If you’re fortunate enough to get a reservation that is. Had The Polo Bar had existed in 1987, Bud Fox and Gordon Gekko would’ve eaten there instead of the 21 Club. The attentive service, the Polo coat wearing doorman, the oversize dishes, the country-club setting, it is all a throwback to the days when a man’s suit was as broad as his expensive account.
They even let you take your own photos now. If you can snag a reservation that is.