When I show up for our planned rendezvous, close to midnight, the place is buzzing. The room has all the charm of an intimate 1920s salon, though right now many of its Old World trappings—glass cabinets filled with 19th-century silverware and Limoges porcelain—have been transformed thanks to a two-week-long takeover by Off-White. As a tribute to the brand’s late founder, Virgil Abloh, who was a regular here too, a blue neon sign with the words “imaginary dinner” hangs over the bar, complete with the designer’s trademark quotation marks. Even the waiter uniforms have been replaced with sleek Off-White lab coats and Nike sneakers.
I scan the room for signs of a celebrity entourage. Anitta, the Brazilian pop star, is holding court by the impressively draped windows, flitting from table to table in a crystal-studded mini. By the looks of it, Rihanna and her crew have yet to arrive—because when has timekeeping ever been her strong suit? Then I notice the host is beckoning me from the far side of the restaurant. Turns out Rihanna is already here, ensconced in a corner by herself, waiting.
“I know the skirt is Junya, but girl, can I ask who makes that denim jacket?” she says as I approach her table. Nothing escapes Rihanna’s exacting eye, especially not when it comes to fashion. I tell her it’s Junya too, an archive piece from an earlier collection that I recently scored on The RealReal. “It’s good,” she says, nodding approvingly. She’s curled up on the banquette in an oversized khaki parka with a slinky turquoise catsuit beneath, a look I recognize from Stella McCartney’s last show. Her shoe of choice? A four-inch stiletto heel. Like all the best moments in her style repertoire, the outfit is a study in opposites—sexy, cool, sophisticated—and worn with her characteristic ease. In fact, for a very brief moment, with her hair swept away from her face in a loose bun, subtly glossed lips, and a dusting of gold makeup, I almost miss the baby bump. “As much as it’s happening, it’s also not happening,” she says, patting her belly, only partially visible above the table. “Sometimes I’ll walk past my reflection and be like, Oh shit!”
We settle in and she persuades me to order the house’s famous dish: baked potato topped with caviar, an indulgence she enjoyed before she was pregnant. She’s already had a bite to eat, but I came hungry. These days, she says, her cravings tend more sweet than salty. “I usually hate desserts, but all of a sudden you come close to me with a chocolate-covered donut and you’ve got my heart forever,” she says, giggling. Tangerines are a thing too. She eats them by the dozen, sprinkled with salt. Yes, salt. “It has to be with salt and only with salt, because in Barbados we take our fruits to the ocean and soak them,” she insists. “Trust me, it really is a thing.”