This is Casa Cruz, the most expensive restaurant in New York City | USA

This is Casa Cruz, the most expensive restaurant in New York City | USA

The prices on the menu at Casa Cruz are reasonable, if you consider that the restaurant is the new hot spot in one of the most elite neighborhoods in one of the most expensive cities in the world. The Grilled Wagyu Beef Picaña with Roasted Carrots and Charcoal Grilled Sweet Potato is only $82, and the Grilled Beef Chop with Potatoes is only $81. But your tab quickly rises into the stratosphere if you’re lucky enough — and rich enough — to dine in one of the private lounges and indulge in one of chef Bill Brasile’s high-end dishes. Casa Cruz, which is part restaurant and part VIP club, currently has 99 members, each of whom pays between $250,000 and $500,000 in annual dues, giving them exclusive access to dine in the establishment’s private rooms, alongside works originals by Andy Warhol, David Hockney. , Keith Haring and Fernando Botero.

New York millionaires have been obsessed with clubs like Casa Cruz for 20 years. Since the opening of Soho House in 2003, high-end establishments that promise exclusivity and intimacy have proliferated. There’s The Core Club and The Aman, in Midtown; Neue House, in Greenwich Village; Zero Bond, in NoHo; Casa Cipriani, in Lower Manhattan; and Fasano, on Fifth Avenue. Most of these clubs charge between $4,000 and $5,000 for an annual membership, but Casa Cruz is different. Technically, it’s not a club, but a restaurant serving South American and Mediterranean cuisine, with a select membership paying between a quarter and a half million dollars to feel like lords and masters dining in a century-old, six stories. residence on the Upper East Side. The dining room, bar and private rooms in the VIP section of the club are intoxicatingly glamorous. Some of the living rooms are paneled in Brazilian cherry with intricate copper accents; others are upholstered in stunning green velvet. There are marble fireplaces and elegant chinoiserie curtains. Waiters wear uniforms by New Zealand fashion designer Emilia Wickstead, courtier to Kate Middleton, Princess of Wales.

The front facade of Casa Cruz, on New York’s Upper East Side. Weston Wells

Steve Cuozzo, a columnist for The New York Post, has called private clubs like Casa Cruz a “cancer on the city” where “dining in private places is reserved for the privileged few.” Do New York’s richest aristocrats need another exclusive club? According to restaurateur Juan Santa Cruz, the 51-year-old Chilean founder of Casa Cruz, the answer is yes, absolutely. “The pandemic has played a role in this. People have realized that they want to be with others like them”, he said during a recent interview with El PAÍS. “My club is small, it’s only for our 99 members and their families. But they are all very interesting people,” he says, without naming names. (Casa Cruz’s black-tie opening was attended by members of the Guinness, Santo Domingo and Niarchos dynasties, among others). There is not much money in the world that can buy a 100th membership. “We don’t accept anyone else, our quota is full,” says Cruz, who insists that the main restaurant, which can seat 66 guests, is open to the public (assuming you can make a reservation).

Cruz seems to know exactly what rich people want. Maybe it’s because he grew up among them. His father was a Chilean landowner, his great-grandfather and uncle served as ambassadors to the United Kingdom, and his aunt Lucía Santa Cruz was a friend of King Charles III. “I studied finance and economics in Boston,” says Cruz. “In 1995, when I graduated, I moved to New York and worked on Wall Street for five years. Then, in 2000, I moved to Buenos Aires to work for an investment fund.” In 2002, when Argentina’s economic crisis hit, Cruz took a year off to think about what he wanted to do next in life. He was 29 years old. “I said to myself, ‘Why don’t I create a job that doesn’t feel like a job?’ I liked nice places, interesting people, delicious food and good wine. A restaurant has all these, so I decided to go into restaurants,” he says.

A dining room on the third floor of Casa Cruz.Weston Wells

In 2004, he opened the first Casa Cruz in Buenos Aires. A decade later, in 2015, he opened another in England, in a Victorian building in Notting Hill. Now, Casa Cruz is one of London’s best restaurants and a favorite of celebrities such as Elton John, Mick Jagger and Prince Harry. What is the secret of his success? “I have no idea,” Cruz says. “I think people experience intimacy and they feel at home.” At the height of the pandemic, in November 2020, British singer Rita Ora defied lockdown measures to celebrate her 30th birthday. She chose Cruz’s restaurant for the party.

Cruz first brought his kitchen to New York six years ago when he started a pop-up restaurant in Tribeca. He only planned to keep the place open for 16 nights, but it was so successful that he decided to serve dinner for three months. “Then everyone told me I should open a place in Lower Manhattan,” he says. “But I like to be contrarian, so I started looking in Uptown.” Looking for properties in the area, he stumbled upon a mansion on 61st Street, between Park Avenue and Madison—an early 20th-century Beaux Arts style home designed by famed architect CPH Gilbert.

Cruz and his business partner, Charlotte Santo Domingo, daughter of Charles Wellesley, 9th Duke of Wellington, were responsible for choosing every detail of the restaurant: the interior design, the lighting, the silverware, the pieces of the table. “We also chose the music and the scents,” she says. It took them five years to see their dream come true. “We were caught by the pandemic and the work was delayed. While we were working on the project, I was watching New Yorkers leave the city fleeing Covid. I thought to myself, “Nobody’s coming back.” But the real New Yorkers are back.” The opening last September was a success, and Vogue called Casa Cruz “the most glamorous new restaurant” in town.

“New York is in a constant state of change, but it always remains the same. It’s still the most important city in the most important country in the world,” says Cruz. “A very important businessman warned me recently: ‘Never bet against New York, because New York always wins.’

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