One of the great luxuries of my life is eating out. With my busy life, now with my children grown and with their own families, I don’t have to rush home after work to make dinner. I’m an expert chef for breakfast, my favorite meal, but dinner creations were never my priority and after a long day, nothing beats being served. Now my great pleasure is dining out with my family, friends, clients and dates, and relishing the service, the food and the ambiance of a restaurant.
This week, I had lunch at a magical restaurant nestled on the second floor of the famous Oheka Castle. Having built a reputation as the finest catering hall and intimate hotel, it has recently opened for lunch and dinner overlooking the Versailles-like gardens and acres of land surrounding the unique mansion.
I drove down the busy, highly trafficked Jericho Turnpike corridor, passing the Crest Hollow Country Club and Woodbury Country Club nearing the end of the Nassau border and entering Suffolk’s Cold Spring Harbor.
On my left were large eggshell-painted stucco walls with the Oheka Castle name elegantly announced. I took the winding road past many homes set on acre property and came to the gates to the castle. A woman stepped out of a crevice in the wall and asked my purpose and within seconds the black wrought iron gates opened, revealing a cobblestone road leading up to the old world Gold Coast mansion.
It has been lovingly restored by the present owner Gary Melius who, with his daughter Nancy, reigns over the unique Otto Kahn estate. Built in the 1920s as a 104,000-square-foot French style chateau on the highest point on Long Island on a 443-acre plot, it had cost over $11 million (in today’s money, equal to $110 million) and served Kahn as his summer home, to which he invited the stars and royalty of the day to visit his 127-room estate for lavish parties.
After Kahn’s death, the proud estate went through a drastic decline. It was a military academy for 30 years and was then abandoned and vandalized for five years with many acres sold off. In 1984, Gary bought the then 60-acre property and began lovingly restoring it to its old glory. He has recreated and restored the stately rooms and recently added more art that had once decorated the castle’s walls.
About 10 years ago I was honored at a dinner dance by a Long Island group held at Oheka and as part of my ‘gift,’ stayed overnight in one of the elegant suites. It’s a memory I cherish to this day. So when my friend and talented decorator Marilyn Rosen invited me for lunch with Gary and Nancy, I was delighted to return.
It was even more beautiful than I remembered! I felt like Cinderella arriving at the ball. Coming up the elegant grand staircase, I held onto the recreated handcrafted wrought iron railings as I walked through the $50 million renovated space. I passed the Charlie Chaplin Room, filled with memorabilia collected after his visit there. I then made my way into the dark paneled bar with small tables and into the lofty rectangular room with large, floor-to-ceiling windows facing the gardens that replicate Versailles. Even in the winter, the light and the view of the endless grounds made me feel that I was sitting in a chateau in France.
Attention to every detail has earned Oheka Castle the recognition of being in the National Register of Historic Places and in the Historic Hotels of America.
Oheka is now offering tours of the grounds, a great idea because there is so much history and beauty there.
Oheka offers conference space, and the day I was there, the Laffey Group was having a seminar and lunch in one of the rooms near the dining room.
My lunch was both beautifully presented and delicious. There is a wine list offered and of course cocktails. I plan to return for dinner because the service and the setting are so spectacular that it enriched my stomach and my soul.
Try it. You too will love the experience. I’m pleased that the man who has dedicated decades of his life and invested millions of dollars for all of us to cherish Oheka Castle will be honored at our Kings of Long Island event April 6. I look forward to placing the crown on his head because he is a king who really lives in a castle.
How great is that!
Proud New Web Acquisition
Last week, we signed the papers to be the owners of a respected, highly-trafficked website Brownstoner.com. It has, for over a decade, covered the real estate market, particularly in Brooklyn. Brownstoner.com adds to our web products Brooklynreporter.com and Brokelyn.com and our newspapers Home Reporter, Brooklyn Spectator and Spectator News to provide exhaustive, in-depth coverage of Brooklyn.
To my hometown, we have you covered with real quality news important to your life!