After spending a week camping we were actually excited to shave, comb our hair and put on a clean suit to wear out this weekend although, even as we stayed strictly uptown, a jacket wasn't required in the least. At the closing of Cafe Gray jeans were as common as ties and across from us at the counter at Bar Boulud was a teenager in a Crosby Still & Nash tee shirt. Walking across the park to Bemelmans Bar, despite four drinks and a cover running close to $200, you easily could have pictured half the room showing up the next day on Last Night's Party. Wearing a suit is nearly a novelty now in New York dining and the Amateur Gourmet wondered if the city shouldn't be past that.
So he wrote a post on May 29th asking why in this day and age it's necessary for Le Bernardin to require a jacket. Of course he understood, these rules exist at all of the city's finest restaurants: Jean-Georges, Per Se, and Daniel all come to mind; and I'm sure the rule applies at many other. And he asked, maybe in 20 years the Daniels and Per Ses will look a lot more like the Ssam Bars and Prunes? But he didn't see the answer was right in front of him the whole time and only an allusion in the answers Strategic Partnerships or the Le Bernardin maitre d' provided him on Friday.
Maitre d' Ben Chekroun answered him, we feel having the dress code contributes to the whole atmosphere of the dining room. So what is the atmosphere of such a room? Courtesy, charm, character, calm, cuisine. Those are the principles to which a restaurant must adhere to being a Relais Gourmand. And in NYC the only other Gourmands, beside Le Bernardin are Per Se, Jean Georges, Daniel and Aureole, all of which require jackets. It's a small club compared to the Michelin crowd which contains the more egalitarian Momofuku and Prune. And Le Bernardin and its tucked, buttoned and pants-creased peers pay a high price for the privilege. Such rarified status seems to give more comfort to Le Bernardin than the restaurant wants to provide its diners.
Ever wonder what it takes to be a Relais Gourmand? Besides adhering to their values, and being nationally recognized and well regarded, they pay the equivalent in Euros of $7,000 to join and $10,000 a year to maintain their membership. This is after fulfilling the entire application process which costs an additional $3,000 just to have them anonymously dine there and audit your restaurant. No doubt that money goes toward drycleaning their dinner jackets as well.