An abridged list of those diners: Hugh Jackman, Al Roker and Clive Davis; the designers Tory Burch, Thom Browne, and Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia of Oscar de la Renta; Stellene Volandes, the editor of Town & Country; an often shirtless Instagram-famous couple who, a staff member said, “have the best abs in the world.”
And on their tables, an assortment of crowd pleasers: the Polo Bar’s signature $30 hamburgers, shrimp cocktails, BLT salads, corned beef sandwiches and ice cream sundaes.
Occasionally a twinkling golden figure zigzagged the room — it was one of the restaurant’s maître d’s, wearing a fully sequined gown that Bella Hadid modeled during Ralph Lauren’s fall 2019 runway show. In the back of the kitchen, two chefs sliced pastry dough, assembling pigs in a blanket (an appetizer on the menu).
In the front of the house, Nelly Moudime, the head maître d’ cheerfully dispensed greetings and personal send-offs as if she weren’t one of the busiest people in the room — as if she didn’t need to drop everything, for example, to accommodate security for the unannounced arrival of Ehud Barak, the former prime minister of Israel.
Ms. Moudime, 40, has worked at the Polo Bar since it opened and is among the 90 percent of staff retained throughout the pandemic. Before takeout and delivery service began, she spent her furlough at home in Harlem, working on a script.