Central Park’s Loeb Boathouse (NYC)

Remembering the NYC from the movies.

Our experience

Do you remember the last restaurant you ate at before Covid happened?  The last restaurants we visited before NYC’s restaurant industry shut down in March 2020 were Le Jardinier and Queensyard, for which we wrote a belated review (see here) a few months ago.  The first proper restaurant we visited after the lockdown eased off was Central Park’s iconic Loeb Boathouse.   

In order to avoid the pandemonium that descends on the park during the weekend, we visited for a Friday lunch, and managed to snag a lakeside table.  Sitting in the mid-range price category, Loeb Boathouse’s savoury offerings can be described as standard American / Pan-European restaurant fare, veering on the side of traditionalism rather than modernism.  It’s neither above average, nor below average.  Being of the firm opinion that desserts can make or break a meal, what matters more to us are the desserts.  And in this case, it was the desserts that cemented the Boathouse into our list of restaurants that we would happily return to.  Like its savoury offerings, the restaurant’s desserts comprise a line up of all American classics, think cheesecake, panna cotta, banana split, shortcake etc.  We bypassed these for the two options that sounded a little less soporific.  If you are to order only one dessert, make sure it is the “Chocolate Truffle Cake” ($12).  Once you curve your spoon into the moist cake, revealing a center of molten chocolate, one mouthful of this will wipe all bad memories of the last year.  We wish they offered a pint of that accompanying chocolate chip mint ice cream to take home.  To balance out the denseness of the chocolate, we also ordered the “Pineapple Tarte Tatin” ($12).  Its pink peppercorn ice cream and lattice of mango lime coulis did not add much of a zing to the cloying circlet of pineapple and pastry.  If you are craving a solid dose of sunshine-yellow sugar however, this would be ideal for you.

Our verdict

It took us a pandemic and almost five years of living in NYC to venture to Loeb Boathouse.  Yes, it is a tourist attraction, and yes, this isn’t a place to visit exclusively for the food.  But sometimes, it’s not just about the food.  It’s about an entire experience.  And in the new NYC emerging from the pandemic, one that seems grittier (and dirtier) than a year ago, where eating outdoors has none of the glamour or comfort of Europe’s al fresco scene (it’s instead a lottery draw of being trapped in a plastic or wooden cube, “separated” an inch from the next table by a plastic screen, subjected to excess carbon monoxide or a parade of drunks and beggars…), there’s something to be said about the opportunity to dine in the middle of Central Park, with the breeze fluttering across treetops, the lake glistening silver and then gold as the day progresses.  It’s a beautiful, cinematic version of NYC life.


Dessert adventure checklist

  1. ☑ Dessert destination:  Loeb Boathouse, Central Park, Manhattan.  
  2. ☑ Budget: $$$.
  3. ☑  Sweet irresistibles: Restaurant dessert.
  4. ☑  Must-eat:  The “Chocolate Truffle Cake”.
  5. ☑  The short and sweet story: Remembering the NYC from the movies.

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