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If you’re a regular TPG reader, you probably know all about the money that the points and miles hobby can save you on travel. But did you know that credit cards can also get you access to some of the most exclusive restaurants in town?
American Express leverages its relationships with the world’s top restaurants to help get you a seat at the table. The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express Centurion Card — as well as the business versions of both cards — all offer the Global Dining Collection benefit.
Beyond the Amex concierge booking a table for you, this card perk often includes meeting the world-renowned chefs who run these dining establishments and taking kitchen tours. Free dessert is another possible perk. (Who here is turning down free dessert? Not this guy.)
But how easy is it to book dazzling dinner experiences using the Global Dining Collection benefit? I’ll walk you through how I fared using the Amex concierge to make reservations at five restaurants where it’s notoriously hard to nab a table.
Le Bernardin in midtown Manhattan is a three-star Michelin restaurant featuring celebrity chef Eric Ripert’s seafood offerings. The establishment has been synonymous with fine dining since opening in 1986, so it’s tough to get a reservation without some inside track like the Amex concierge.
But beware: Some of these sought-after restaurants have booking rules. Case in point: on Feb. 26, I tried to book Le Bernardin for an April seating, but the concierge informed me that I had to wait until Mar. 1 as the restaurant won’t take names until the first of the month preceding the dining date. In other words, March 1 is the earliest to secure a table there for anytime in April.
But lo and behold, on the first of March I received good news. Amex had successfully secured a table for two for on my preferred date and time of 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Apr. 27. While restaurants often readily reserve tables for holders of the ultra-premium Centurion card, I was able to get in using the Business Platinum® Card from American Express, which also receives special consideration occasionally.
And although the restaurant is expensive, there was no hold placed on my card at the time of booking, and I can cancel with no penalty up until 48 hours in advance.
While the Amex concierge team can help with securing reservations at virtually any restaurant that accepts bookings through a third party, sometimes there are limited restaurants to choose from in a particular destination. For example, Nobu Honolulu is the sole Hawaiian establishment partnering directly with Amex.
Less formal than Le Bernadin — as is expected on the islands — this Nobu location is still a very popular choice. My reservation was made on Mar. 2 for just six days later. And we had a party of eight and wanted a prime 7 p.m. seating. My reservation was confirmed on the phone, and I also received an email with notes on the dress code as well as the restaurant contact’s name and the cancellation policy.
Le Jules Verne
Without question, Paris’ Eiffel Tower ranks among the most iconic sites on the planet. From its sheer size to the dazzling illumination shows at night, this 1,000-plus foot structure is a must-see in the City of Lights. But did you know that you could dine within its confines at the iconic Le Jules Verne?
Even though the restaurant was closed in March due to renovations, this did not stop the American Express concierge team from reaching out to see if a reservation could be secured for April when the restaurant is expected to reopen. On Mar. 1, the concierge guaranteed a response one way or the other by Mar. 4 at 5:30 p.m. The concierge got back to me with four hours to spare, with the news that they had secured me a table for two on July 8 at 7:30 p.m.
As an added bonus for those who choose Le Jules Verne for lunch or dinner, you get to skip the Eiffel Tower entry line.
Another three-star Michelin restaurant, Quince in San Francisco is one of the most sought-after dining spots in the Bay Area. By many accounts, Chef Michael Tusk has successfully married fine Italian and French dining with seasonal, local produce from Northern California.
I made my reservation six days in advance but was warned about the “scary” cancellation policies in place at some of these top-level eateries. If I were to cancel the reservation 48 hours in advance no penalty would be incurred at Quince. Some restaurants require that the entire bill be paid in advance with no recourse for refund.
But Quince does charge $295 (plus tax) for late cancellations, meaning you come close to footing the bill with a no-show. The concierge outlined this to me clearly, something that I really did appreciate, as a “nonrefundable restaurant booking” isn’t really a term I am accustomed to.
I was also advised that the restaurant will confirm my reservation three days in advance, though I never received that call. In speaking with the Amex concierge team — arguably the best available via a premium card — I requested that the concierge try to secure a kitchen tour for my party of four and asked for a list of things to do in the San Francisco area. Those requests were answered with deadlines for each task: next day for the kitchen tour query and 48 hours later for the “fun things to do” list.
It was nice to know that the concierge team can help plan not just the perfect meal, but also the sights and scenes before and after. The comprehensive list I received did not disappoint, as it was custom-filled with fun activities going on in the Bay Area around the time of my visit. This perk will certainly be one I take advantage of during my future travels.
Hakkasan Abu Dhabi
Let’s be real. Sometimes, you’ve heard of a restaurant you want to go to, but the exact details are slightly fuzzy. That was the case during my call to book Hakkasan Abu Dhabi, a popular restaurant that brings Chinese delectables to the modern Emirates Palace hotel.
I had read about the restaurant, but did not remember the name. With that said, I did recall that the eatery was inside a high-end hotel. I mentioned this to my concierge, who was able to track it down and book a spot at my preferred dining time. I also asked for each person in my dinner party of three to receive a free cocktail due to my being an Amex Business Platinum card holder, and this request was granted!
While neither the Platinum nor Centurion cards earn bonus points on dining, they nonetheless come with an impressive array of perks. And the business versions of each, plus the Personal Centurion, earn 1.5x Membership Rewards points on purchases over $5,000.
I will admit that I am not the easiest person to please when high expectations and fine dining are involved, but in making each of my five reservations, the American Express concierge team impressed me with informative responses on the phone and prompt, detailed emails following our live discussions.
Overall, the reps seem to have strong institutional knowledge of the restaurants they book, plus a tremendous willingness to answer any questions and address requests. And during all of my calls, the representative always asked if I would be visiting the city or restaurant for a special occasion. For these reasons, I give the Global Dining perk five stars out of five.
Featured photo courtesy of Nobu Hololulu.
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