After a recently terminated $15 million renovation, it would be quite wrong to say anything other than "Money well spent!" The hotel, which has a location difficult to better, is certainly one of a kind and has some excellent facilities and original décor. Pet-friendly (to what some would say is an absurd point), it has that edge of eccentricity that one can only find here in New York. Popular amongst bohos and trendy thirty somethings it could equally serve as a familial base for a week or so's stay. However much we liked The Muse, and really, we are fans, it must be said that it has one huge flaw and that is its front of house staff. Shame, because everything else is spot on.
Right in the middle of West 46th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, The Muse can boast to having about as good a location as you could ask for in this city. Broadway runs past the end of the road, Times Square is a couple of blocks away, as is the Rockefeller Center, and Bryant Park is just a few minutes' walk south. You also have the shopping areas of Fifth and Madison Avenues within easy reach. Close by are several metro stations with almost a dozen lines serving all parts of Manhattan. JFK is 19 miles away, La Guardia 10 miles and Newark 17.
The Muse is a pet friendly hotel as can be seen straight away at the reception where Ginger, a Teacup Pomeranian who is the hotel's Director of Pet Relations, sits without a care in the world upon a doggy throne to one side of the desk. Personally we found this to be thoroughly cringe-worthy, especially as she is better accoutered than many of the hotel's guests, but it's obviously not at all out of the ordinary in a place like New York. As they say, only in America. Indeed one of the many packages available at The Muse is the Pampered Pooch which includes an amenity basket full of goodies and a 'woof warrior' travel pack. Also available is an anti-Valentine's package and a one for St. Patrick's Day. You'll notice that we don't usually talk about loos in our write-ups but you'll go potty over the unisex public facilities on the ground floor. Six cubicles have each been given a theme and decorated suitably: Envy is green, Rebel is black, Glam is gold, Macho features two tones of brown, Passion is fiery red and Vain has glass tiles and a flamboyant mirror over the sink. Even if you don't feel the urge to relieve yourself, you must take a look. Just make sure you knock first!
The hotel's lobby was the crowning moment of a $15 million renovation which was completed in April 2009. From the front door (at which there is a absence of a greeting smile ), three stripes of dark marble tiling, which stand out again the rest of the floor which is toffee in colour, lead one all the way to the reception at the back of the hall. To the right hand side of this contemporary take on the red carpet is a glass cabinet housing five light coloured tree trunks 'planted' in shards of glass, from whose branches are suspended half egg-shaped objects. Opposite is a mock log above which hangs a screen on which is projected the image of a glowing fire. Although no heat actually emanates from the ensemble, the crackling sounds you'd expect to accompany a real fireplace can be heard. Flanking each piece of art are two columns clad with tiles of varying shades of turtle shell which themselves frame four different video installations which had us staring inanely for their duration. On a carpeted area just in front of the trees and fireplace are seating areas with various benches and armchairs including gold and silver pieces and low metal podiums. Around the perimeter of the superior parts of the walls is a beautiful wood paneling which caps off a truly masterful introduction to the hotel. Off to the right of the lobby you'll find aforementioned public services and the lift bank whose elevators feature the same marble as in the lobby and huge mirrors with a fine, wispy-lined border. The hotel's gym, which is in the basement and therefore has no windows, has some top-of-the-range cardio machines with individual screens as well as free weights, but no weight machines. There is no wellness centre but a wide range of in-room spa services, which use Kerstin Florian products, can be arranged through the hotel. Guests can also enjoy a wine reception hosted in the lobby where between 5pm and 6pm one red and one white wine (selected a year in advance) can be enjoyed on a complimentary basis. In the very same place between 6.30am and 9am guests can help themselves to free tea and coffee. The upkeep and décor in all parts of the hotel is with flaw and we really liked the black carpet with white scribbles and the classic rotary dial phones posed on sleek sideboards on each floor. If everything in terms of design is up to scratch, the same cannot be said, sadly, for the girls we came across at the reception. We visited the hotel several times in order to complete this review and each time we were met with the same blasé attitude by the girls at reception all of whom seem to have had their personality surgically removed. Not the slightest hint of a smile, hardly a glance in our direction and an unhealthy juvenile obsession in Ginger, the over-pampered pooch at the front desk. It was as if they were doing us a favour by taking time out of their busy schedule to be there. Given that everything else at the hotel is a real success, it is such a shame that this should be your first impression.
Although The Muse offer what appears to be a wide variety of rooms, most are appointed in exactly the same way and differ only in size and presence of salons and balconies. The standard room has a generous square footage and is at once voguish and not at risk of becoming dated any time soon. The bed is beautifully made with Frette linens and features a custom plaid and plump cushions. At its foot is a black and white leopard skin upholstered chaise longue. The two bedside tables and their respective lamps are a funky modern take on Art Deco while the mirrors behind them are unconventionally framed with a half black and half gold edge. The cabinet, in the same style as the bedside tables, houses the minibar and posed on top of this is a bust of Thalia, Zeus' daughter and the 'Muse of comedy'. You'll find a desk next to the cabinet. The walls are adorned with Daliesque paintings as well as a flatscreen television. If you open the closet you'll find some quite hideous leopard or tiger print robes, camisoles, boxer shorts and slippers which are all available to purchase. Alongside these loud pieces of apparel are an iron and ironing board and an umbrella. Other amenities include a cordless phone, iPod docking station radio (which is playing as you enter your room for the first time) and safe. The bathroom is tiled in a gorgeous black green colour and features a bathtub and Aveda toiletries. The Premier rooms, which have extras such as a wingback chair, coffee table and perhaps better view, also have a corridor leading to the room which we thought a shame as it serves no obvious purpose and could have been sacrificed in order to make the room more spacious. Other larger rooms, such as the suites have a separate lounge with leather couch, the same wingback chairs and glass coffee table as well as a second flatscreen television. The terrace we saw had no particular view and was quite noisy from the traffic below. The Spa Suite boasts a jacuzzi in its bathroom.
Along with the lobby, Nios, the hotel's restaurant and bar, was part of the final phase of renovation back in early 2009. And similarly to the lobby it is a triumph. Covering exactly the same area as the entrance hall (if you exclude the small room at the back), the eatery is just the other side of the mock fireplace. It has a bar whose front surface is illuminated while behind there are two more screens diffusing video installations. Just in front of the window which gives on to the street is a high chunky rustic wooden table for eating and from this point until the edge of the bar stretches the refrigerated wine cellar which has an impressive array of bottles. At the back of the bar area are a few tables for dining, although for a more discreet space try and get yourself a table in the room at the back which has only 20 or so covers. The bar has a good ambiance with a mix of guests and locals, enhanced by the catchy music playing in the background. All three of breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at Nios and they also offer a pre-theatre menu at $35. In the morning enjoy both a continental or hot breakfast while at lunchtime choose from such dishes as persimmon salad, grilled arctic char and the power lunches which comes with a glass of wine. In the evening the choice is more varied and dishes offered include heirloom potato salad to start, bacon wrapped oysters or house made fettuccini to follow, cheeses, charcuterie, pizzas and sandwiches up next finishing with maple bread pudding or apple crisps. You must take a look at the wine list as it is put together by Emma Wines (yes, that's her real name), one of only 16 female Master Sommeliers in the world.
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