When the Waldorf Astoria closes at the end of this month for a long conversion to turn most of the hotel into luxury condos, New York will lose one of its most lavish experiences: brunch at Peacock Alley.
On Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the historic hotel’s lobby restaurant spills out beyond its usual gold-gilded walls to set a buffet worthy of the only hotel good enough for the ruler of Zamunda.
There are no kale frittatas or acai bowls here — just as the Waldorf defied the stock market crash to open in 1931 as the tallest and largest hotel in the world, the Peacock’s brunch has kept to the classics (though the harpist did sneak in an Adele track or two). Amid the thick black marble columns, dim lights and iconic Lady Liberty clock, velvet ropes separate a maze of tables heaving with all of brunch’s bounty.
Just some of the highlights: four caviars, silver tureens of velvety lobster bisque, blintzes nearly bursting with sweet ricotta, a raw bar with oysters shucked on demand. Go carnal with leg of lamb, whole roast pig and, presumably in case any British royalty stop by, Beef Wellington. Care for a sidecar of lobster mac and cheese? If you can still manage it, the grand finale is a spread of 18 cakes and cookies and pastries — and that’s before the chocolate fountain and made-to-order Baked Alaska.
Last Sunday, the room was elegant but lively; no one talked on their phone or even took photos. Whether that was because the moment was sufficiently special or just the last chance to savor the experience, it’s a rare pleasure.
Wistful couples all around the dining room raised toasts not to anniversaries, but the hotel. Dressed in a suit and tie, an elderly bruncher who gave his name only as Edward shook the hand of the maitre’d to say he’d been coming there for decades, then, overcome with emotion, pulled him into a hug.
“It’s the best thing, right? The best brunch ever,” said Chevion, who had come for her first brunch after hearing about it for years. Whether there will be a place for Peacock Alley in the new Waldorf is uncertain, but she’s optimistic. “They’re gonna make it better next time; let’s hope for the best.”
The Waldorf’s last brunch will take place Feb. 26. The buffet is $125 per person.