Service of Ambiance to Enhance a Mood, a Meal–Even Health

September 7th, 2021

Categories: Ambiance, Atmosphere, Museums, Restaurant

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Two recent articles reminded me how important ambiance is.

Visit a Museum and Call Me in the Morning‘s Caroline Goldstein wrote “In Brussels, Doctors Are Literally Prescribing People Trips to Museums to Help Them Cope With Pandemic-Related Stress.” She reported “The scheme is part of a three-month trial carried out by doctors at Brugmann hospital, one of the largest hospitals in Brussels, to treat in-patient residents as well as other individuals suffering from stress. Those who are deemed eligible for the program will have the opportunity to visit five public art institutions across the city free of charge. The institutions include some quirkier offerings, like the Sewer Museum and Mennekin-Pis’s Wardrobe—which holds more than 1,000 costumes—as well as the Contemporary Art Center.” Results of the study will be shared next year.

The Brussels program is modeled after one at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts conducted three years ago. Wrote Goldstein: “The Quebec-based program offered patients and caregivers or family members free admission to the MMFA as an extension of the museum’s Art and Health Committee, which it founded in 2017 to study the effects of art on patients suffering from a range of conditions including eating disorders, mental illness, breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Homer at the Metropolitan Museum NYC

Anecdotally, a visit to a museum always cheered my husband when he was quite ill.

Ambiance and Food in Equal Parts

Pete Wells in his New York Times review of Vallata, “Searching for Italy at Tom Colicchio’s New Restaurant,” loved the food but he had a lot of trouble with the ambiance and design. He described the restaurant’s decor as “an awkward pastiche of bland, vaguely corporate design and odd decorative hand-me-downs that have served time in other Colicchio restaurants.”

Referring to a cliché I’ve often used, “I thought I was in Italy or France,” after eating in certain restaurants, Wells wrote: “You don’t believe for a second that you’ve left New York, but you do start to think the restaurant itself could use a vacation.”

Colicchio’s heart doesn’t seem to be in it by Wells’ observations. The Vallata sign on the door is hard to find he wrote and the cooks “look like contestants on a game show set in the breakfast-buffet area of an upscale chain hotel” because of where they are stationed in the room in sight of customers. He described the music is “as if Mr. Colicchio had brought in a mix tape he found inside an old Walkman in his basement.” The “playlist,”reported Wells, “shambles from Paul Simon to Billy Joel to Echo and the Bunnymen to David Bowie.”

Back in 2015 I wrote about a restaurant ‘s decor that “sported hints of Asian décor mixed with cheap eclectic and leftover bistro. In short, it had no personality.” There were many other reasons than decor for which we couldn’t wait to leave the place, even though the overpriced food tasted good. The post’s title was “Service of Atmosphere: What Your Instincts Tell You When Entering a Restaurant.”

Do you visit museums or other places because they cheer you when you feel down and/or ill? If the food is good do you care about a restaurant’s ambiance?

Image by Divily from Pixabay

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10 Responses to “Service of Ambiance to Enhance a Mood, a Meal–Even Health”

  1. BC Said:

    Think most museums are restful if quiet. They take you to another time and place.

    Restaurants can be relaxing, if there is no loud music, a courteous waiter who does not rush you, and some semblance of ambiance depending on the type of ethnic food. I even like Indian music in an Indian restaurant! ( not American Indian!).

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I suspect that anything that positively distracts and captures the attention of a person who is stressed or ill offers respite if only for minutes. It might be a visit to a great department store or jeweler for some.

    If I’m in a hash joint with great food I don’t expect to be blown over by the decor. The owner of the restaurant Pete Wells reviewed knew better which I think is why he was hard on him. He didn’t say so but when a person pays $20+ for a bowl of spaghetti–even if it’s the best–a tidbit of Italian ambiance helps. He found none, not even in the choice of music. He even noticed that it was hard to see the name of the restaurant from the street. That led me to wonder if the owner is ashamed of the place.

  3. lucrezia Said:

    While visiting The Asian Wing at the Met, I was taken aback by an unexpected feeling of peace when surrounded by a room full of very tall and stern looking Bodhisattvas on display. Not being peaceful or meditative by nature, this came as a welcome surprise. While I’ve used museums as a shelter from childhood, I don’t expect “experiences” to occur.

    As for restaurants, the ambiance is just fine if left alone to read a book, or have the TV on for the right ball game. If with friend(s) attentive service is just fine. One comes to eat, not soak up atmosphere!

  4. jmbyington Said:


    While not essential if I’m grabbing a quick bite alone or with a friend if I’m paying a handsome price for my food I appreciate it if the restauranteur has made an effort with the decor. Some serious chef owners take two years to find the right place, hire an architect and remodel a space. I’ve eaten memorable bowls of spaghetti with simple red sauce in Italy in an unobtrusive neighborhood place. For that quality here, now that my husband isn’t around to make it, the price can be hefty and I’d like it to be in a place that achieves a charming ambiance.

    Now out of business there was a tiny bistro on the west side that had a backyard garden. Not at all fancy, it was charming and food and service were great.

    If service isn’t good, I don’t care what a restaurant looks like.

  5. Nancie Steinberg Said:

    Nancie on Facebook: Restaurant ambiance and service is very important to me! I haven’t gone to museums thinking about it affecting my stress level ..

  6. EAM Said:

    EAM on Facebook: Museums, concerts, movies, and theater can all have a positive impact on my mood. Unless there’s a huge crowd then it can all go downhill.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    If you are distracted in a positive way by what you’re looking at in a museum you may not realize it but a challenge you face disappears if for only seconds. The mini mental vacation helps clear your mind often allowing you to discover the answer to what you’re facing.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Crowds are spoilers. Taking a page from the school of silk purse from a sow’s ear, one of the benefits of the pandemic is that museums are far less crowded. I haven’t been to a movie but hear that they, too, are people-free and I’ve only streamed concerts from home.

  9. Deb Wright Said:

    If I visit a greenhouse or an art exhibit, I forget about everything else. It is so healthy to think about beauty and creativity. As for the restaurant, the ambience is important. I like it to be clean and cheerful. It doesn’t have to be an expensive restaurant, but if it has bad lighting or cheesy decor, I am less likely to go there.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I am also happily distracted by a farmer’s market filled with colorful flowers, vegetables and breads of all sorts. I often leave empty handed. In NYC the prices can be ridiculous. Today I saw a fellow selling five small dahlias for $30 at the Union Square farmer’s market. None of the other vendors charged anything like that but still….

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