There isn't much to cheer about in Fun City these days, but every so often there's a glimmer of night. This morning I come with a report that the Cafe Carlyle—arguably the swankiest, most sophisticated cabaret spot in the city and the most convincing facsimile of what Cafe Society must have been like in the 1930s (nevermind that it only opened in 1955)—is alive and well and looking swell.
A year or so ago, I visited the cafe to see Barbara Cook and my heart sank when she said the owners of the Carlyle Hotel were going to move the nightlife space into the basement, abandoning the rooms that Bobby Short has once filled so ebulliently. Hurrah, hooray! That plan hit the ashheap. I returned last night to see Eartha Kitt (who's a kind of landmark herself) and my bartender told me the bosses had realized that they could spend less money (it's always about money with these guys) if they just revamped the old place. And that's what they did.
Designer Scott Salvator was put in charge. According to the Times, his changes included "slickly recessed L.E.D. lighting, shiny, patterned blue banquettes to replace the old salmon-colored ones, mirrored columns, beaded gold wallpaper, tuna tartare and of-the-moment cocktails like the agave gingerita (tequila, fresh ginger, Cointreau, egg white) on the menu." The ceiling was raised two feet. And, of course, the Marcel Vertes murals which make the joint what it is are still there.
To tell the truth, I didn't really notice that the cafe had changed that much. It just look a lot less dingy than it had. And for that much, I raise my Manhattan.