Discover The Story Behind FINE & RARE | A New Conception On Luxury
An elegant and sophisticated environment filled with soft tunes of music, a space full of art, flaming cocktails and eclectic interior architecture – when you enter Fine & Rare you cannot but feel submerged into a jazz club from 1920’s. Located on 37th Street of New York’s Midtown Manhattan, between 5th Avenue and Madison, this new hot venue offers a unique experience of fine cuisine, rare spirits, entertainment and top service all in one. While speaking to the owner, Tommy Tardie, I understood that Fine & Rare was like a piece of art – spontaneous but filled with purpose and meaning – just like the story behind the creation of this luxury establishment.
- Tommy, what inspired the idea of creating Fine & Rare?
The inspiration for Fine & Rare came from The Flatiron Room. It has had a lot of success and I looked at it as being almost as a beta-test for Fine & Rare. The Flatiron Room gave us the great opportunity to build Fine & Rare. We had more demand than we could supply, so being able to cross-promote a brand new venue was quite an advantage. I looked at The Flatiron Room and said to myself: ’If I had the opportunity to do it all over again, how could I improve it?’ And that’s a good position to be in. So, the genesis of Fine& Rare came from The Flatiron Room.
- What does Fine & Rare mean?
Good question! The name Fine & Rare came from me trying to determine what I should call this new venue. I literally said – ’I want it to be fine, because I know we’re going to have really fine food and really rare spirits’ – and as I was saying that in my mind, my process of coming up with a name landed me with the name before even I was aware I created it.
- My first impression when I entered Fine & Rare was that it looked like a private members club. Would you call Fine & Rare a restaurant? How would you label it?
I love that question. I like that we don’t have a label, I like that people come in here and they say: ’Are you a jazz club? Are you a bar? Are you a restaurant? You seem like a hotel bar!’ I like that people can’t put finger on what we are, because I don’t like paradigms, I don’t like doing what everybody else does. That’s the reason I created The Flatiron Room and Fine & Rare because it solved a problem that I had when I went out. A lot of times I’d go to a restaurant, I enjoyed the food but I still thought they lacked the theater, they lacked the entertainment or the engagement. So, what are we? You decide. It depends on what you are looking for, but I think we can be a lot of things to a lot of different people, and it can change. You can come one night for our incredible selection of spirits; you can come if you liked the music, you can come to close a deal and impress a friend. I’m not going to put ourselves into a category, and I like that some people are scratching their head and think about what we are.
- Why did you choose this particular location and how did its context influence the interior design?
I wanted a place in somewhat close enough proximity of The Flatiron Room, so that we could utilize staff and the inventory if necessary. We could quickly grab a bottle if we’re lacking any and send someone down to get it. I like this area because it hasn’t been developed yet. There are a couple of big hubs, veterans in the area, and it always felt similar to when you’re designing a big mall: you need an anchor store. I feel like if there’s a couple of good anchors here, we could build up around this. I also like that even on this block there’s lots of history and landmark buildings which that helped me tie in with the design. I wanted a design that makes you feel, when you walk in, that you walked into something decadent that had history that had been there forever, like walking into an old hotel – something that was recovered, cleaned up and turned into a bar or a restaurant.
- There is a glimpse of eclecticism, yet all together looks as whole with a unique style. How would you define this particular style?
I drew the inspiration from The Explorer’s Club. The Explorer’s Club is a place on the Upper East Side – it has been around forever. It’s has this old-world kind of aristocratic wealth, where members would explore the world and bring back all those interesting artifacts and it certainly has an eclectic nature with specimens under glass and taxidermy, and I like that. New York has a lot of Speak Easy and it’s very played out, I didn’t go that route. I wanted to bring in different time periods – some 20s, some 1950s, even some 70s – I was inspired by juxtaposition of these different theme. I think it’s similar to what it would be like in certain people’s homes: they bring together the experiences from all over the world, from all the different periods to make something unique.
- How did you bring all this elements together?
Designing a space like ours has to be done organically. No one can put the whole vision on paper, because there are certain nuances that you discover as you’re designing and sometimes you just have to go with that. If you find an interesting premise, sometimes that becomes a part of the design. You can put things on paper, but it doesn’t account on what you develop on sight. We’d start developing something, a certain color pattern or a certain flow in furniture and then sometimes it makes sense just to go with the flow and break what you originally put on paper.
- A while back I asked a friend of mine who is an artist: ‘What is the process you follow when you paint?’ And she said: ’You know, it just speaks to me. I have an initial idea when I start painting, but then the painting talks to me and says – this is the next step.’
What you’re saying is what represents a good design, because sometimes something is talking to you and you’re not listening. You just have to listen to it, because if it’s saying that even though originally on paper we planned blue, and the space is calling for red – just go with the red!
- The stage is one of the focal points, if not the focal point, because you can see it from almost all angles in the main room. What does the stage represent at Fine & Rare?
The light entertainment is very important to us and the musicians are very near and dear to us. We greatly respect what they do, but we also realize for our concept to be successful, we can’t be a listening room. Our demographic wants to engage with the people they’re out with, communicate, put down their phone, not log into anything, just converse. That is the focal point. We encourage conversation when performers are on stage; the music is here to enhance the experience, not to be the experience.
- There are many pieces of art in different styles. What selection criteria do you follow?
There is a lot of art influencing the whole space, the art is very important. It lends a certain credibility and authenticity to the space. It plays such an important role in creating a feeling — and that feeling is what we are selling. We have art that we’ve found and some that we’ve curated. We have a particular piece that I suspect was a student’s painting of an old Rembrandt’s The Man with the Golden Helmet. I love the way it crackled and patinaed, but what I found very unique is when I flipped over, I discovered a note that was written: ’To Mother-Tim Tucker, 1969’. There was just something about it that resonated with me, knowing that these people have no idea that it now sits in a swanky bar-restaurant in New York City. Because of this, we have a drink on our menu named The Tim Tucker. We also bought art that was inspired by David Hackney and Rauschenberg and even some creepy paintings that may make people a little bit uneasy. But I like that this contrasts with this rich, sophisticated environment. You never know what about art is going to inspire you, it may even be as simple as – when you look at the piece of art and you think – I love that frame!
- What’s the uniqueness of Fine & Rare in terms of service and entertainment?
I touched on this a little bit earlier, but what we’re selling is not just an experience, but a feeling. Sure, we have a tangible product that we sell – we have spirits, but those spirits you can buy at a store, and I think the food is phenomenal, but again, this is something you can purchase and have it delivered to you. The music – you can turn on the radio or play your favorite song, but we hit on the feeling and the emotions that people have when they’re in here. Stress melts away, and you feel like you’re in a different world. It’s almost like we’re creating an escape – when you walk through our doors you want to forget about your problems just for a bit.
- What kind of spirits and food do you serve?
I like to think of our brand as of a luxury brand that lacks pretension. Our food is upscale American food, although we like to incorporate different elements. Presentation is very important. We believe that experience starts with your eyes, works through your nose and ends up on your palate. We pay a lot of attention of how we present our dishes – not just the food, but also our drinks. The Flatiron Room is known as a really whisky-centered venue. With Fine & Rare we wanted to branch outside of just whiskey. We brought in a lot of agave spirits, rum, brandy and we extended our wine list. Our cocktails are phenomenal, we keep developing them, pushing the boundaries of cocktail chemistry. We dehydrate our own fruit, hand-smoke drinks, work with different types of ice. We’re infusing our own liquor, we even grow some of our own herbs, so it becomes more of a sensory experience.
- Who are the guests at Fine & Rare?
If I had to describe our guests, without categorizing them within a certain age group, I’d like to think of them as mature minded individuals that are looking for a change from a traditional bar and more excitement than a traditional restaurant. They can be as young as 21 and they can be as old as a 100, but they are people that are looking for something that is a little more elevated than a traditional dining and bar experience.
- What is good service for you?
It’s not necessarily one thing you can put your finger on, but that overall feeling when you walk out of that door – that was a great experience, I want to come back.
- Do you believe that you can do, be and have everything you want?
I 100 percent do. Ever since I was a kid, I felt that life was what you made of it. The things I’ve wanted out of life I’ve gotten. To the point, I sometimes wondered whether it was real or just a dream. Positive thinking is so important and just surrounding yourself with good, positive people. You can get anything you want from life, just have to work hard, you have to believe it and, for me, you just have to see it. You have to envision it and not focus so much on the bigger picture, but little snippets that will get you one step closer to it.