Breakfast of Champions

Lucy Schaeffer (Four Seasons)

The power breakfast—the one that originated during the mid-seventies in the back rooms of Manhattan’s Regency hotel—is seeing a resurgence in New York. Three decades ago it provided a time for the great and powerful to quietly solve the city’s financial crisis. Today it’s a time for them to more publicly wheel and deal, and the question of where to go for bacon and eggs before nine is as important as where to go for drinks after five. One of our favorite locations for the morning meal is Midtown’s I. M. Pei–designed Four Seasons Hotel, home to what is arguably the most sumptuous business breakfast in town. At 57 E. 57th St.; 212-758-5700;

The Food

The lemon-ricotta hotcakes, made with lemon zest and fresh ricotta from Little Italy, are the signature dish. Upwards of 16,000 are ordered each year. They’re served with Vermont maple syrup infused in-house with vanilla bean and lemon. For something savory, pair the egg-white frittata (10,000 made a year) with the country-link or chicken-and-apple sausage from local Hell’s Kitchen butcher shop Giovanni Esposito & Sons. Coffee is by Illy; tea from T, a small Vancouver outfit that has created a special apple-rooibos blend just for the hotel; and the daily juice and juice blends are planned a week in advance, in consultation with the house’s fruit vendor. Caveat emptor: It’ll cost you. Coffee, tea, and juice are $10 each, a side of sausage is $12, and the total tab can ring in at $75 a person easily, with tax and tip. But that’s why there are expense accounts. And why most everyone who comes to the Four Seasons for breakfast is taking advantage of one.

The Venues

Because the hotel serves breakfast in three locations, all off the lobby, meeting someone there can be risky business—so always carefully specify the spot of choice. Our favorite is the grand, high-ceilinged 57, the restaurant overlooking the lobby’s east side. For a less distracting, more intimate space and the same full menu, try The Bar, in the hotel’s northwest corner, opposite L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Ty Lounge, to the left as you enter the lobby, serves a simpler, continental breakfast.

Hot Seat

At 57, we love the tables below the ancient root structure hanging on the restaurant’s west wall. Best of all is the one farthest to the right; it’s private but affords great views of the room and the lobby. As for the root: Ty Warner, the hotel’s owner, found it on a trip to Indonesia. Part of Pierre-Yves Rochon’s 2005 redo of the room (he’s Robuchon’s designer of choice), the root arrived in New York after a six-week boat trip and required 15 men to hang.

Who’s There

An eclectic mix of global potentates as well as your ordinary billionaires, Brahmins, and bespoke businessmen. Pols Eliot Spitzer and Al Sharpton are regulars, as are Christian Dior president Pamela Baxter and DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg when he’s in from Los Angeles. Jane Heller, Martha Stewart’s money manager at Bank of America, comes often, as does Donald Tober, CEO of Sugar Foods Corporation (parent company of Sweet’n Low).