NEW YORK — It’s hard to imagine now, with its mahogany trim and elegant decor, but the new Chemist Club Grill at the Dylan Hotel formerly had pink fixtures and purple walls and was owned by pop star Britney Spears.
The past home of Nyla, Spears’ failed restaurant venture, has been transformed into an upscale American grill that harks back to the days when the space was a lecture hall for chemists around the city to meet and discuss their latest findings.
“We wanted to restore the grandeur of the space,” says Chemist Club owner and restaurateur John Hawkins, who also operates the Barking Dog restaurants here. “There was a lot of water damage and problems with the ceilings when we took it over. It was like a crime had been perpetrated.”
Situated inside the hotel on East 41st Street, the expansive space now features custom ceramic chandeliers, original mahogany floors and a working fireplace that creates a feeling of old New York. A ballroom-like dining room has 30-foot-high ornate plaster ceilings and sumptuous private leather booths, and, in a nod to the building’s science heritage, beakers filled with colored liquids line the marble atrium hallway of the restaurant’s front entrance.
Hawkins teamed up with chef John Kaunas to create a menu of American classics with a twist. There are traditional grill offerings such as porterhouse steaks and rack of lamb, signature dishes like a crispy fried lobster tail and oven-braised confit pork shank, as well as a selection of American caviar. The eatery also offers an array of lighter fare for lunch, such as shrimp oreganata, while the dessert menu is a seasonal roster of gelatos and homemade ice creams. Hawkins is hoping the Chemist Club will turn into a regular spot for business breakfast meetings — his early morning menu choices run the gamut from fruit smoothies to savory prosciutto omelettes.
Like every other restaurant around town these days, the Chemist Club also has signature cocktails, including a rum number called The Alchemist.
However, unlike Hawkins’ popular Barking Dog restaurants, where canines are beloved, don’t expect to see too many beagles or terriers lapping it up at the Chemist Club.
“Dogs aren’t really welcome in here,” Hawkins quipped. “No canines allowed.”