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The Drake Room

Iles Brody visited the Drake Room, the new hot spot in town, for the April Gourmet.   That is, Brody intended to visit the Drake Room, which had opened in December in the Drake Hotel at Park Avenue and 56th Street, but unfamiliar with the venue, he made a wrong turn in the lobby and entered a room he described as lovely with "old gentleman" style dining where he had creamed herring, tomato puree soup and a Salisbury steak, a rather pedestrian meal which he apparently found satisfactory enough to ask to offer his compliments to the chef. This is when he discovered he was in the wrong place. The hotel had two dining rooms that shared a kitchen but had separate kitchen staffs.

He made his way to the Drake Room, but since he described no meal, he apparently did not eat there. He dutifully reported that the entrees included steaks, for which it would become well-known, duck bigerade (an orange flavored brown sauce) and roast capon. It drew a Park Avenue clientele and would become a mainstay for decades to the New York financial, political and entertainment establishment, who appreciated it as a sedate dining choice where one could actually have a conversation.

The room had been designed by Franklin Hughes, who also designed the Copacabana and Ciro's and other elegant eateries and nightclubs. Brody described the decor as a subdued fantasy featuring a starry ceiling and a touch of the Victorian. A buffet of cold appetizers was on open display. Chafing dish wagons rolled to table side where the wait staff finished the preparation of many of the entrees. Cy Walter, a noted pianist of the time, performed songs like "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" during dinner and at cocktail hour.   Brody placed the supper club in the luxury class. The prix fixe was $3.50, steep for the day, which included hors d'oeuvres, an entree, vegetables, salad, dessert and coffee. Six barmen were on duty to keep the libations flowing.

The Drake Hotel was built during the booming Jazz Age, opening in 1926. It offered spacious, luxurious room and suites and attracted a celebrity clientele. The actress Lillian Gish lived there from 1946 to 1949. Composer Jerome Kern collapsed on the sidewalk out front in 1945. It was demolished in 2007 and now, thanks to the recession, is a gaping hole waiting for development.