When a chic Manhattanite moves to the Hamptons for the summer, what changes, and what remains the same? We decided to find out by spending an evening at EMP Summer House, the warm-weather outpost of award-winning New York icon Eleven Madison Park. The verdict? We love this stylish, relaxed and playful side of the EMP brand. It’s a happy summer fling that we’ll remember all winter long.
The fun started when we booked our reservation and were told that we could be picked up a few minutes before our dinner time in a BMW. Seriously? Yes, please.
Our driver Eric arrived early, and offered us cold water and a choice of routes to the restaurant: speedy or scenic? We opted for scenic – because why not – and soon we turned off of busy Route 27 and found ourselves deep in the wilds of East Hampton.
It was a foggy night, but we could still see plenty of natural beauty. As if summoned by Eric, two deer appeared out of the mist by the side of the road. We all laughed, and he said “yep, I had just radioed them to cue the deer.”
All too soon, we arrived at our destination: a white clapboard house lit from within and filled with conversation and laughter. We were greeted with a warm smile and seated in the front room, next to a really fun couple out on a date who cheerfully shared their reviews of their cocktails and appetizers before we ordered.
We later learned that there are several different ways to dine at EMP Summer House. The front room is classic “white tablecloth” dining. No one is particularly dressed up or formal, though – even though this is still East Hampton, this place exudes a friendly come-as-you-are vibe.
The restaurant’s tented back room is filled with picnic tables, chill guests and cool tunes (the Rolling Stones were on when we passed through). The menu is different, and the prices are lower here than in the main dining room – and no reservations are needed.
Just adjacent to the more casual dining space, there are cocktail tables for hanging out indoors.
Meanwhile, there’s a perpetual party going on just outside. Step through the back door of the tented area, and you’re in a play land with picnic tables shaded by bright yellow and white striped umbrellas. By day, it’s filled with kids and families – playing on a tree swing, engaged in intense games of table tennis, or just hanging out in Adirondack chairs. It’s not all child’s play, though. We observe one couple on what appears to be a very bad date. And another one on what appears to be a very good one. Probably just like your own backyard BBQs, right?
By night, EMP Summer House’s backyard becomes a magical space for date night, or girls’ night out, or any other summer gathering.
The best space of all, though? In our opinion, it’s it the cozy little interior courtyard (which serves items from the fine-dining menu). It’s romantic and charming, with marble-topped cafe tables, potted palms and white lights strung overhead. It’s open to the night sky, and inhabited by an enormous tree that makes dining there feel like having an extremely refined picnic in a secluded glade deep in the woods.
Back at our table in the front room, the starters and cocktails on offer are exactly what one would hope: herbaceous cocktails, rose, and raw seafood. Our meal was crazy-delicious: a glass of Chardonnay, a simple green salad, and poached lobster – just perfect for early summer.
The atmosphere begins to work its spell on you so that by the time your entrée is done, you’re completely blissed-out and content. Of course we ordered dessert, and of course it was incredibly tasty: blueberry cobbler and vanilla ice cream.
Just as dessert arrived, fireflies began to light up the soft green backyard right outside our window. Again, just as if on cue. Their whimsical flickering light show brought back precious memories of the very best nights of summers past. What a lovely, magical way to end our visit. It really is an enchanted space.
The drive back in our chauffeured BMW was as delightful as the ride out. All in all, a perfect summer evening in one of our favorite corners of the world. Modern luxury takes many forms – this is one of the best we’ve experienced this summer so far. If you’re on the East End, definitely stop in. The fireflies await. And don’t worry about you’re wearing. Just come as you are.
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