We stopped into Table 1280, the restaurant on the High Museum’s piazza, a couple of times this week. First, we dropped by for a glass of champagne before the Hertz Theatre’s holiday show. Then we returned for lunch. On both visits we immediately detected noticed something new.
It’s been just about six weeks since Tony Conway’s A Legendary Event took over the operation of Table 1280. Former chef Tracey Bloom, whom you may have caught during her brief run on “Top Chef,” has moved on.
Gary Mennie, recently of Livingston at the Georgian Terrace, and the now-shuttered Taurus before that, is now running the kitchen.
The bar menu now features items you may recall from the selection of nibbles available on the Georgian Terrace terrace, while the moderately priced lunch menu features the return of the “three martini” option Mennie served at Taurus.
Note: this is not meant to approximate a food review. That’s John Kessler’s bailiwick. We can tell you that the white truffle chicken salad, a popular menu item, is creamier now, and a bit less truffley. (Is that a word?)
Menu and personnel aside, the biggest change is the energy in the room. On our last visit to 1280 the dining room was all but empty. Sitting in that hushed and stark environment without any chatter or clinking silverware was sort of spooky, like that scene in “The Shining” where Jack Nicholson sits alone typing in that giant, vacant hotel lobby.
Not so anymore.
A handful of other theater patrons enjoyed sips and small plates the evening we went. During lunch, the dining room was packed with a diverse range of diners of all ages, from the girl of perhaps 12 who was seated with her family at the next table, to the 30-something professionals who came in on their lunch hour, to the gray-haired couple wearing High Museum visitor stickers.
“I hired about 30 of these people to come in,” Conway joked.
Although he’s used to feeding groups of 500 or more at huge galas, taking the reins at 1280 is something of a professional homecoming. His first foray into the event-planning gig was catering a museum benefit. This was decades ago, right after college, when he decided that his little deli in Houston was up to the task of catering a big benefit. After pressing every possible friend and relative into service (and into a rented tux), he pulled it off, and the rest is history.
Conway’s not done, of course. While he’s gratified by the reception the newly repurposed restaurant is receiving, he has more ideas for livening things up. The bar area could be a little cozier, he said, by somehow partitioning the groups of chairs to offer more privacy. “We could do more to warm it up,” he said.
But nothing warms up a restaurant like people.