The name says it all. If any hotel in New York has the right to stick the word 'palace' to the end if its name, it's this one. As soon as you walk in the door you sense you're in for something special. The rooms are some of the plushest we saw, the views are incredible, it has a Michelin-starred restaurant and a top quality spa and fitness centre, not to mention a fascinating history. We'd recommend highly this fabulously located, lavish property for all types of traveller, no matter what their motive for travel. And if you don't believe us, ask anyone who has stayed; we didn't hear a bad word!
The New York Palace has an address to make most other hotels green with envy: 455 Madison Avenue, between West 50th and 51st Streets, bang opposite St. Patrick's Cathedral and surrounded by skyscrapers. You couldn't get any closer to the shopping areas of Madison and Fifth Avenues, while the Rockefeller Center is just a block away to the west. MoMA, Carnegie Hall and Central Park are all within a few minutes' walk and there are several metro stations surrounding the hotel meaning you can get down towards Times Square and the southern part of the island easily. JFK is 18 miles away, La Guardia 9 miles and Newark 17.
The original building on the site which now houses the hotel was built in 1882 as a private mansion by Henry Villard, a journalist and railway tycoon, who briefly went bankrupt. The most ornate of the original houses is Villard Mansion which is now home to GILT restaurant. In 1980 the site was converted into a hotel at which point 55 storeys were added to accommodate the 899 rooms. The hotel is now part of the Dorchester Collection, the only one in New York. The American television series Gossip Girls is filmed at the hotel, which is a big pull for families with adolescent girls.
The original mansion built by Villard is somewhat overshadowed by the huge tower that has since been constructed behind it and which houses the hotel's nearly 900 rooms. But this 'old meets new' aspect to the property is one of the many ways in which it is special, especially when the old mansion is lit up at night. The lobby is as grand as the hotel's name would suggest and is divided into three main parts. Upon entering you come to the circular reception area with the welcome desk and concierge on either side each which is grand, but nothing compared to the lobby staircase and its surroundings a little further on, including the gallery complete with gilding, statuettes, chandeliers and imperious marble columns. It is certainly an impressive spectacle, which explains why the lobby is always busy with guests either gazing up at the wondrous architecture or working away on their laptops, but could be accused over being over done. The back of the lobby is given over to one of the hotel's restaurants, Istana. On the eight floor is located the spa and fitness centre. The gym has an extensive range of both cardio and weight machines in a large, bright space with views onto St. Patrick's Cathedral and the city, while the smart spa has a full list of treatments including massages, facials, waxing, body treatments and manicures and pedicures. There are several packages available too, such as the jet lag therapy or the three and a half hour divine moments option at $500. Personal trainers are available at the fitness centre-just ask at reception. On the 39th floor, the Executive Lounge is available to all those guests in Executive rooms (although it is possible to buy into this option). With a view directly onto the cathedral opposite, guests can enjoy complimentary breakfast and lunch as well as tea, coffee and snacks throughout the day until 8pm. In addition to the business centre, there are meeting rooms, flatscreen televisions and a selection of press. For those not able to make use of the lounge, the hotel does have another business centre as well as wifi throughout the building. There is a complimentary house car service (subject to availability) which will take guests anywhere within a 20 block radius as well as a free twice-daily shuttle to Wall Street and the theatres on Broadway. From what we saw during our visit, the hotel is in top tip condition and order reigns everywhere. All the members of staff we came across were both charming and charismatic and couldn't have been more helpful.
The hotel offers both guest rooms (Deluxe, Executive and Tower) and suites (several types) which differ in décor, size and height up the tower. The basic rooms are well if not soberly appointed in neutral hues and have well crafted furniture including chest of draws, bedside tables, desk and small seating area at the window. The room has the option of accommodating two double beds and are dressed in fine linens and plush pillows and cushions to match the drapes and wallpaper. There is a full range of amenities in the room including alarm clock radio, flatscreen television with webmail, safe, wifi, iron and ironing board and bathrobes. The marble bathrooms have hairdryer, bathtub and boast Aqua di Parma toiletries. All of the Deluxe rooms are on floors nine to 29, which is one of the main features which distinguish them from the Executive rooms. This second category has its rooms on floors 30 to 39 meaning a slightly better view but the only other advantage of the room itself is the iPod docking station. Guests though in these rooms do have access to the Executive Lounge on the 39th floor (see Hotel Overview). Tower rooms, the final guest room category, are another 100ft² larger than the others and are situated at the top of the hotel for the best views. Aside from the extra living space the other advantage is the choice between a classical or contemporary décor. If you require more space or are travelling as a small family then there are a number of suites to choose from. The most basic is the Tower Junior Suite, located, like the guest room equivalent, at the summit of the hotel. It offers 600ft² and includes a bedroom separated from the living space by a retractable curtain. The décor and cabinetry is more modern than that in many of the other suites and the view is of St. Patrick's cathedral. The bathroom boasts a double vanity, separate bathtub and shower and a bidet. The Tower also exists as a corner suite and has both a one- and two-bedroom version with large living areas, dining for up to six people and a fully equipped kitchenette. The three-bedroom speciality suite, which has either a contemporary or Art Deco interior, has an extremely generous living space and en suite bathrooms with that in the master bedroom having a jacuzzi bathtub. The three en-suite bedroom Royal Suite is absolutely fit for purpose and is the most lavish of the hotel's room. The Empire style décor includes imitation antique furniture custom made by a Parisian firm and exquisite drapery and gilding. However it is the four triplex suites which take the accommodation top spot with the highlights being the floor to ceiling windows and the terrace on the top floor with some of the finest views of Manhattan anywhere. You have to see it to believe it!
With the wonderful backdrop of the hotel's lobby, Istana is the Palace's American brasserie option, serving breakfast and snacks and simple dishes all day long until 10.30pm. Breakfast is the usual mix of continental and hot fare with the addition of rarer options such as the Japanese breakfast and French toast with toasted almonds and bananas and a country sausage. The all-day dining menu features salads, sandwiches, dishes such as dry aged New York strip steak and sweets including a twenty layer crepe cake. It has a fairly broad range of wines with which to wash down your meal and on Sundays offers a brunch. However it is GILT that is the hotel's star turn, with young chef Justin Bogle having won two Michelin stars. The setting is magnificent too, the restaurant being in the original mansion designed by Stanford White and featuring Tiffany glass, original Gaugins and a gilded, vaulted ceiling. GILT is open for dinner only and has a strict business casual dress code. First courses are split into cold and hot and include foie gras and diver scallops, while the main courses are divided into ocean and land and feature sturgeon and suckling pig. For dessert choose (if you can) between roasted pineapple cheesecake, lemon poached apple or mandarin orange creamsicle. You can go for all three courses at the fixed price of $89, which is remarkable value for a restaurant of this standing. The wine list is one of the most extensive we saw with over 1,400 bottles available. After diner you must retire to the bar next door which marries old and new in the most dramatic of fashions with a fibre glass sculpture covered in stretched polyester and illuminated by a changing colour LED light wrapping the bar. It is truly a unique setting and one that we fell in love with. GILT provides the food from the bar menu which includes snacks (burgers, pizzas and finger food) and desserts.
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