Not to take anything at all away from the Morgans or Hudson, from top to bottom the Royalton is our favourite of the three Morgans properties in New York. It has arguably the best location of all three, the most audacious design and for us the smartest rooms. Over two years since it reopened following a renovation, it is still as legendary as it was in its Starck days. Indeed, parting company from the French superstar designer could well turn out to be a smart move (although the spirit in which he had conceived the first version has been kept, not least because she started her career in his group). The most grown up of the Morgans, the Royalton has something to offer every kind of traveller no matter their motive for travel and whatever the length of their stay. A big thumbs up from easyvoyage.co.uk.
Situated on West 44th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, Royalton couldn't really wish for a better location. Everything seems to be right on its doorstep: the best in shopping including the Rockefeller Centre, Times Square, Broadway and its theatres, Bryant Park and MoMA. Central Park is a fifteen minute walk away while both Grand Central and Penn Stations are also reachable on foot. 42nd Street-Bryant Park and 47th-50th Streets-Rockefeller Center metro stations are in the vicinity. JFK is 18 miles away, La Guardia 9 miles and Newark 17.
Just as Andrée Putman's Morgans was a landmark in hotel design, Philippe Starck's first stab at doing a hotel, which resulted in the Royalton, was a moment that shook the hotel world. That was back in 1988. Today the hotel boasts a lobby by Roman and Williams (responsible for both the Ace Hotel and The Standard) and rooms by Charlotte Macaux Perelman, once a disciple of the great Gallic genius. The Royalton is part of the Morgans group of hotels which includes the hotel bearing the group's name as well as the Hudson and several other properties in the US and UK. The group was started by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, co-founders of the legendary nightclub of the 70s and 80s Studio 54.
The exterior of the Royalton is the antithesis of its interior-just another unremarkable brick tower (with the exception of the entrance which reflects the mate 19th century origins of the building). The masterful lobby, which runs the depth of the hotel, is one of the finest we saw in New York. Down the left side is a seating area sunk several inches below the aisle whose walls feature a metal design with glass forms protruding from it as well as oak paneling, marrying old and new. Chesterfields and other more modern styles of seating are configured around tables with mood-setting candles lamps with beautifully crafted bronze bases give extra light. A wooden panel which takes up the height and width of this seating space and which was once part of the façade of a French building frames the bronze, gas fireplace which is perpendicular to, rather than flush with, the wall. The floral displays which bring an extra dimension to the space are changed every week. A wonderful grill with carved shapes skewered onto the metal poles like wooden pieces of meat separates the bar from the lobby. To the right hand side of the lobby are the reception desks, like railway station ticket windows, which are easy to walk right past. The concierge desk sits awkwardly in the aisle in front of the seating area. The hotel has a very basic fitness centre with a few cardio machines with individual screens and a universal weights machine plus free weights. It is not an especially inspiring setting in which to work out, the only window having a vis-à-vis. The water and fruit are nice touches. The hotel's corridors feature custom made carpets from Roman and Williams and room number indicators are spot lit, which is a nice twist. The staff members we had the fortune to meet were all delightful, which is not always the case in a hotel of the Royalton's status.
The rooms at the Royalton have a loose sea cabin theme, but it is not so evident as to be in bad taste. The bed, whose plaid is cheekily draped over the corner rather than laid across it, is partially inside a mahogany alcove from the top of which hangs a bright bulb encircled by a small glass shade. There are three mahogany fronted cupboards along the same wall, each with horn handles and a porthole at the top. One houses the minibar, another the array of novelty products including t-shirt, cap, plasters, oils and a cheeky kit and the third is for storage but conceals the umbrella (available to purchase), iron and ironing board, hairdryer and bathrobes. In the gaps between the equally spaced closets are a desk with its iPod docking station and then a couch with a delicate glass-topped coffee table. The flatscreen television is mounted on the wall next to the bed. The bathroom is tiled entirely in slate and features a metal sink in the glass vanity. Towels are neatly rolled up on metal shelves next to a walk in shower with a rain shower head. On another shelf, this time glass, is a single branched candelabra with a box of matches. Other features include a metal stool in front of the makeup mirror, a silver cup for rinsing one's mouth and Korres toiletries. The standard room, which also comes with a bathtub, can have either an interior view, a vis-à-vis or a view onto 43rd or 44th Street. The superior rooms are identical to the standard ones, the only difference being their slightly larger square footage and the presence of a curved desk. They also feature a quirky little pebble-shaped metal shelf protruding from the wall in which a candle is planted. A postcard rests on there as well and is changed every day. The deluxe rooms, bigger still, are divided into those with a fireplace, those with a soaking tub, those which have both and the king which is larger and has a guaranteed city view. The loft also has all the above with an extra special king bed. The alcove suite, the largest room besides the penthouses, is similar to the other rooms in that it has the same amenities, but differs in that the bedroom and lounge are separated by a curtain. It boasts both the Duraflame log fireplace (which burns for three or four hours, but is only for temperatures below 10°c) and 5ft Japanese soaking tub. Finally the three penthouses named 'A', 'B' and 'C' are the ultimate in modern New York apartment living. The former is by far the largest and boasts not only a terrace, but also a kitchen and dining area, as well as a Roman tub in the bathroom. 'B' and 'C' are both roughly a third of the size of 'A', but also have terraces, large living spaces and sweeping views of Manhattan. The fourth floor of the hotel is given over to smoking rooms.
Scott Ekstrom is the chef of Brasserie 44, the hotel's restaurant, situated at the end of the lobby. Continuing on the marine theme, the restaurant's columns and beams seem almost to be supported by beautiful rope lattice work, illuminated from below. The capacity is above 100 with a sole table at the back of the restaurant in the wine cellar, which can be reserved through the hotel's management. All three meals are served at Brasserie 44, including a pre-theatre menu priced at a remarkable $35. In the morning you can choose between one of four set breakfasts or from the à la carte menu which offers eggs, pancakes and pastries and more hearty options such as the sirloin steak or croquet madame. The lunch and dinner menus are a mixed bag with sushi and other Japanese dishes, appetizers including artichokes and jumbo limp crab cake, soups, salads, sandwiches and sturdy dishes like red snapper, filet mignon and lamb chops all at reasonable prices, available of course for in-room dining. Bar 44 is at one corner of the lobby and is part of the restaurant. Meals can also been taken here if required.
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