We are not all that fond of posh places to eat, but sometimes research must be done on the lobster-&-truffles circuit, a thin wallet palpitating in the process. Well, it’s not always convenient to dress up, and I’m happy to say Madame Point accepted us in picnic clothes at her multi-rosetted Pyramide and the folks at Sacher’s in Vienna let us in without a green light from Monsieur St-Laurent. Nor did we rent striped pants-and-trimmings when a count and countess invited us to lunch one springtime in Florence.
But I have experienced what it’s like to be left at the door.
Currently a friendly place, the Clift Hotel in San Francisco was owned in the ribald 70s by an ultra-conservative Santa Barbaran who refused admission to any gentleman whose hair fell the slightest distance below the water line of one’s Brooks Bros. collar top. I qualified very well at the time and was thus deprived, at least during the reign of this Jesse Helms of a hotelier, of the delightful lamb curry offered in the French Room, a silvery salle that seemed to float, oblivious of the seedy arrondissement lapping at its back door, like the first class dining saloon of a Titanic or Lusitania that had made it, somehow, into modern times.
In Chicago not long ago, eager for a look at the Pump Room where the movie stars used to enbooth themselves between compartmented nights on the old Super Chief and Twentieth Century — which carried them, through their joint steamy efforts, from L.A. to Chicago and the “Windy City” to New York — I was advised by the hostess, a young woman in pants, that my blazer and regimental tie had failed utterly to conceal my crisply pressed jeans, Land’s End’s best, which were, alas, not part of the Pumpean dress code. Now perhaps if the Pump people rolled out a cashmere carpet in my direction . . .