Murals on 54 - New York City

Murals on 54 is a new restaurant in Manhattan located at the Warwick. It used to be Mexican and was decorated in a much darker style than today. The murals from which the restaurant takes its name were covered over with a sheet for forty years.

                

During which time the restaurant was also a cigar room. The smoke had darkened the murals, which along with age caused them to need to be restored. And restored they have been Murals on 54 has recently celebrated its grand opening and is a treasure waiting to be discovered.

The murals, that adorn the walls of Murals on 54, were originally painted by Dean Cornwell, the "Dean of American Illustrators", over sixty years ago.

The history of the murals dates back to 1937, when William Randolph Hearst commissioned Dean Cornwell to paint murals in the main dining room of The Raleigh Room, the restaurant inside his Warwick New York apartment hotel.  Cornwell completed the murals in 1938 and he received a sum of $100,000 for his work. The breathtaking murals depict Sir Walter Raleigh receiving his charter from the Queen in 1584 and Raleigh landing at Roanoke Island. 

Upon completion of the murals, a dispute arose between Cornwell and Hearst, regarding compensation for the work. Enraged and seeking revenge, Cornwell painted images, at the time considered obscene, onto the murals. Due to the controversy, one mural was covered for more than 40 years. The concealed mural included a man urinating on the queen and another man urinating on Sir Walter Raleigh. Another pictured an Indian with bare buttocks. The dispute was eventually settled and Cornwell painted out one of the obscenities but the others remained.

Today there are two large Mural on the walls and two smaller ones painted over the arches of doors. Large vases filled with palm leaves and under lit by light boxes create soft light and shadows on the walls where there are no murals.

Large oversize light fixtures hang over the main dining room. The ceiling and sofas are in a burnt orange red, which pulls the similar colors out of the famous murals.

Designer Pierre Court based the design concept around the historical murals. He chose warm ivory walls with white silk curtains, soft lighting and dark red recessed ceiling to accentuate the murals. The upper tier of the restaurant was designed to provide the feeling of an outdoor terrace inside the restaurant


Don't be intimidated by the unpretentious yet elegant surroundings there is no dress code come as you are.

When I arrived General Manager Lonnie Barnett was greeting guests and seating them in strategic locations throughout the restaurant, insuring they had the room and service precisely right for their size of party.  Barnett proved to be a charming and affable host throughout the entire evening.
He sat me in a seat where I could easily scrutinize the famous murals as I ate my meal.

To start I enjoyed a delicious glass of subtly sweet and mild Blanco Seleccio - Can Feixes (Penedes), With my wine I was served bread and butter that was shaped into five petaled flowers and served on a chilled plate.

I ordered the French Onion soup, which Barnett told me, was one of his favorites. In fact so much so, that he had it transferred to the restaurants menu from the bar across the hall's menu. The soup was a perfect blend of flavors delicate simple and in precise contrast to the pungent crusty cheese melted on top of the bowl.

For my entrée I ordered the Grilled Skirt Steak Chimichurri Argentinean Style with mashed potatoes and watercress salad. The steak was generous in portion simple unfussy and elegant in presentation, covered in garlic and parsley. The natural flavor of the food was predominant, unmasked by numerous overpowering spices.

The Executive Chef Pablo Trobo allows the true flavors of the food to shine and trusts that they will carry through. Trobo brings with him 25 years of international culinary experience ranging from Venezuela to New York. After he graduated from the French Culinary Institute he worked as a chef in Venezuela and Amsterdam. He then returned to New York where he has chefed at many restaurants including Le Regence, Andiamo, and Provence. Last year he was recruited to be Executive Chef at Murals. In creating the mouth-watering menu for Murals, Trobo drew on his international expertise incorporating influences from Europe, Asia and America. Highlights of his creations for Murals are the Ecuadorean Shrimp Ceviche, Lobster Salad with lemon-tarragon aioli, Duck Confit with prunes and frisee salald, and Roast Rack of Lamb a la Provencal.

For desert I had the mouthwatering Warm Chocolate Tart.  A small chocolate cake served warm and when you dig your fork into the middle it oozes hot chocolate onto the plate. I enjoyed the tart along with a desert port called Clock Tower from Australia, somewhat spicy sweet and gentle.

If that wasn't enough I topped of the evening with a perfect Cappuccino. When I left I felt very satisfied and pampered.

If a lovely evening of delicious food and excellent service isn't enough for you, then mural obscenity seeking and finding makes for good dinner conversation and games; a fitting tribute to this seemingly proper and elegant restaurant. Look closely at the murals and make your own discoveries, if you have trouble finding them be sure to ask your waiter, they are happy to point out the main obscenities along with others which clever and observant customers have pointed out.

Murals on 54 is a little known piece of New York history uncovered at last and well worth a visit. You won't be disappointed.

Murals 54 is located at
The Warwick New York
63 West 54th Street
New York, NY 10019
212 314 7700
For more information go to:
www.murals54.com

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