Lunches in Chicago are great for exercise, says the gal. Rushing south along Wabash to Trump International Hotel & Tower makes a really good work-out as it is slightly uphill most of the way. The reception committee of Bucharest-born GM Gabriel Constantin (who started his career in that city’s tallest building, InterContinental Bucharest) awaited, standing out from yet another Chinese group just checking in – they splash out $7,000 on a typical trip, apparently, nearly double the average international spend, and our friends from Fujian especially love big suites and good labels when it comes to the bar. Yes, things are changing, even though the view to the signature 1924-vintage Wrigley Building, and main interiors, remain.
My first visit to Trump’s Sixteen restaurant, on the 16th floor, was with Preferred’s Lindsey Ueberroth, and at some point later they went à la Michelin, with multi-course tasting menus (who had time, and money, for a three-hour, eight-course extravaganza, at $210++?). Last month, Gabriel Constantin and his managerial team decided to simplify the restaurant. It is now Terrace 16, to signify the summer-long adjacent terrace. The printed menu, a simple card, has nothing more expensive than Ora King salmon at $36. Wood tables have lost their linen cloths. Overall this is approachable dining, said Gabriel Constantin, who did admit that sometimes he sneaks away for good Romanian food, say cabbage stuffed with polenta, at one of the local restaurants run by compatriots who originally came to the USA for its auto industry.
Another lunch on this Chicago caper was at Park Hyatt Chicago’s seventh floor NoMi, cantilevered out over the 1869-vintage Water Tower (why, I wonder, did chef Eric Damidot think I was French?). His A3-sized card menu offers such healthy options as sashimi, big or small sizes, and a choice of salads, say farro and barley with baby kale, apple and avocado bits, and a four-hour coddled egg, with or without added chicken, fish or seafood. Not surprisingly we talked health. GM Sara Kearney has twice weekly hour-long HITT, high intensity interval training, for guests, and staff are invited to come too – something certainly keeps ‘em fit, here, as one bellman was recently fêted, by such colleagues as company CEO Mark Hoplamazian and head of Americas Chuck Floyd, for 40 years’ service.
When the hotel closed for its complete rebuild these veteran team members were redeployed to look after regular guests who diverted to the Hyatt Regency (‘used to this 200-room hotel, being sent to a sibling hotel with over 2,000 rooms meant they needed lots of tender loving care’ explained Concierge Karen Giobbia, herself in her fourth decade here). Tender loving care or TLC is a feature of this stylish and unforgettable hotel, in fact. Staff members are cossetted. Guests relish having a ground-floor library, open 24/7 with a help-yourself pantry, and, much appreciated by people who talk to their plants, even floribunda. Sara Kearney took me out to the seventh floor’s Terrace, with summer-long outdoor seating, and lots of earth-filled beds bearing beetroot, herbs, tomatoes and more. The produce is used in NoMi and, at the end of the season, staff can come and pick what they want, for their own use back home.