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RESTAURANTS • First Person
The Library at The NoMad restaurant was always one of Manhattan’s best rooms: two stories of bookshelves lining the wall and an elegant spiral wood staircase in one corner to ascend to the upper stack. Today, it’s part of private club The Ned NoMad. And while the room feels very much the same as it did when the NoMad opened a decade ago, it’s now accessible only to Ned members (and overnight guests at the club’s hotel).
Sitting there last week in the good graces of a friend, I pondered the ongoing evolution (or lack thereof) of club dining in New York City.
As a longtime Soho House member, I’ve come to expect very, very little from the food there. A recent brunch at the Dumbo outpost — a breakfast burrito and shakshuka — reconfirmed: the food is aggressively fine (bland, really) and expensive, an exemplar of the form.
Of greater curiosity to me: the ground floor restaurant of the same building in Dumbo, Cecconi’s. As a resident of the neighborhood, I’m a not-infrequent diner there by default. It’s technically separate from the Soho House above, but shares a parent company that co-locates them with their private clubs in places ranging from Istanbul to Mumbai. Cecconi’s menu is as down-the-middle as it comes: there will not be joy, but there will be serviceable pizza from the wood oven, and rigatoni bolognese. I never hate the experience (the plush interiors help), but it still feels like what it is: de facto club food.
Now comes ZZ’s Club, opening at Hudson Yards this month by way of Miami and Major Food Group. Not only does the club boast a new version of Carbone called Carbone Privato, but chef Mario Carbone promises to make guests anything they want with 48 hours notice. (An upgrade on club food? Depends on your grandma’s recipe.) Uptown, at posh restaurant club Casa Cruz, non-members can reserve for dinner alongside those paying six figures for the privilege. So, progress, of a sort.
Back at The Ned, which is also owned by the Soho House-Cecconi’s cartel, my friend assured me the food at the members-only restaurant is actually good. It better be, because the dover sole lists for $90. If not, we could always go to the Cecconi’s next door. –Lockhart Steele