LONDON — Fashion people are not necessarily known for their love of food, but Ralph Lauren is on a quest to change all that.
In time for London Fashion Week, the American fashion designer has unveiled a new restaurant, in a corner of the Polo Ralph Lauren flagship store on Regent Street in the British capital. The restaurant follows his Polo Bar in New York, the RL restaurant in Chicago and Ralph’s in Paris.
Those who have struggled to get past the velvet rope of the Polo Bar on 55th Street in New York might have better luck on this side of the Atlantic: Ralph’s Coffee & Bar has a no-reservation policy. The 36-seat restaurant is geared toward a casual cafe-style experience, serving all-day breakfast dishes, light meals and cocktails aimed at a well-heeled if nondescript clientele of fashion industry insiders wrapped in furs, local hedge funders in cashmere V-neck sweaters and weary shoppers (as opposed to the celebrity crowd). This is probably by design, given the 8 p.m. closing time.
On a recent Friday night, the place heaved with diners and drinkers. For such a tiny space, the service and turnover were brisk, with a small army of slick, waistcoat-clad waiters at work. Several tables enjoyed oysters with Champagne as dusk fell — a scene somewhat at odds with the quotidian chaos of Regent Street.
Regulars say that the restaurant, which opened last month, is quieter during the day. And it seems to have become a watering hole of choice (during the weekday at least) for staffers from the magazine publisher Condé Nast, which has its headquarters in nearby Hanover Square.
Apparently, when it comes to restaurants if not clothing, the fashion industry prefers a familiar look. Ralph’s Coffee & Bar shares plenty of hallmarks, both in terms of menu and décor, with its bigger, more bedazzling big brother in New York.
Laden with equestrian paintings and trophies, the London restaurant has hunter-green walls, mahogany paneling and bar stools in studded leather. The kitchen offers all-American haute comfort staples at haute cuisine prices: Cobb salads and club sandwiches, shucked oysters and cheesecake. The cocktail list — old fashioneds, air mails and margaritas — is all about the classics.
People are eating it up.
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