Let's not mince our words; The Peninsula is quite simply one of the finest hotels in New York, even more so now it is the other side of a renovation. From the very first moment you enter the hotel you'll have no doubt about the quality of experience that awaits you. There is very little to pick holes at here where excellence comes as standard: the large rooms are finely furnished, the restaurants of the highest caliber, the spa one of the most beautiful and complete in the city and the service faultless. Like all top class hotels this all comes at a certain price, however if there was ever one hotel which could justify the cost it would be this one.
The Peninsula has a fantastic location on Fifth Avenue at 55th Street, close to so many of the city's attractions. Within walking distance you've got Central Park, MoMA, the Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the theatres of Broadway, Times Square, Grand Central Station as well as a host of top class shopping and restaurants. There are several subway stations within a few blocks of the hotel with lines which will take you uptown, downtown and to Brooklyn. JFK is 16 miles away, La Guardia 8 miles and Newark 16.
The Beaux-Arts building which is now home to The Peninsula was opened in 1905 as The Gotham Hotel and stayed as such until the late 1970s. It was briefly under the design direction of Pierre Cardin in '87 when Maxim's de Paris occupied the building, but then was bought by The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, Ltd a year later. In late 2010 the hotel took delivery of two bespoke MINI Cooper S Clubmans which they had spent two years developing in collaboration with BMW. These cool little runarounds are available for up to three hours (chauffeur included!) to guests who book a suite and can be used for shopping excursions or for one of the concierge-conceived motoring tours of Manhattan. An iPhone or iPad is also made available to guests for the duration of their trip.
Before entering the hotel, take a moment to raise your head and appreciate the architecture of this landmark building with its limestone carvings, copper cornice and Doric columns. This grandeur at which the exterior hints is met straight away upon entering the building with the magnificent staircase flanked by equally impressive flower arrangements whose petals are recalled in the carpet. It is worth looking skywards again at this point to admire the original turn -of-the-century plaster ceiling and chandelier. There are several enclaves to this entrance floor all impeccably kept and appointed with antique furniture, black and white photography and more attractive flower arrangements. The staff members behind the carved wooden Art Deco reception and concierge desks are well turned out and extremely helpful. Like at all the best hotels, there is always someone available to speak to and answer your question.
The Peninsula Spa by ESPA is a magnificent space spread over three floors and is one of the best equipped hotel spas in the city. The entrance features the reception desk, behind which is pleasant staff, a couple of seats carved by hand from acacia wood, a large window displaying all the (own brand) treatment products and a sweeping staircase up the higher floors. The centre boasts 12 beautifully appointed treatment rooms one of which is a private spa for two with aromatherapy steam shower, private bathroom, soaking tub and refreshment area. Other features include the Asian Tea Lounge, thermal suites with saunas and ice fountains, separate relaxation and changing rooms and personalised music selection for treatments. There is a full range of Asian, Ayurvedic and European treatments including massages, facials and aesthetics as well as signature Peninsula 'ceremonies' unique to the hotel. The facility also encompasses a 13-metre indoor pool with city views, a top-of-the-range fitness room, the Movement Studio for classes and a hair salon. A special healthy eating menu, Naturally Peninsula, is available poolside or on the terrace.
The upper levels' simple U-shaped layout and the multiple lifts mean getting to your room along the smart, wide corridors is a simple and enjoyable exercise. The hotel is fully wheelchair accessible.
The hotel's spacious, technology-rich guestrooms and suites were updated back in 2009 and still look a million dollars. They are all decorated along the same colour ways in tones of grey, taupe and gold and manage to retain their classic charm while at the same time incorporating modern elements. The standard room is extremely well appointed with quality upholstery and linens, in particular the bed which is dressed in D. Porthault French sheets. It features excellent cabinetry in the form or a desk, buffet and bedside tables and has an armchair to one side. On the technology side there is plenty to get excited about: a flatscreen television with memory card slot, CD/DVD players, several phone lines, wifi and dial up internet, fax machine/printer and a touch screen panel by the bed which controls the lights, television, radio, air conditioning and alarm. Other amenities it the room include minibar and snacks, bathrobes and slippers, safe, shoe kit, complimentary water and stationary. The marble bathroom boasts a soaking tub with television and radio at its food, make up mirror, Davi toiletries, hairdryer, hands-free telephone, scales and three mood light settings. The other guestrooms offer more surface area, extra seating space and separate showers and toilets in the bathroom. The smaller suites, aside from offering even more space, have entrance foyers, separate living rooms with elegant decorative 'objets' and libraries as well as extras such as iPod docking station and larger televisions. The larger ones afford luxuries including walk-in closets, dressing tables, dining tables and stunning Central Park views. The Peninsula suite boasts a grand piano and jacuzzi tub.
The hotel's main restaurant is Fives, a name given due to the fact that the hotel is found on Fifth Avenue at 55th Street. It is very comfortable, sleek and intimate space which offers impeccable service (greeting by name, discretion, knowledge) and fine American-Asian cuisine courtesy of chef Thomas Piede. The tables are laid with crisp white tablecloths topped with Christofle cutlery and a delicate flower in the centre. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as brunch at the weekend. The morning starts with a traditional mix of continental and hot breakfasts including set breakfasts (Japanese, Chinese, fitness) and speciality dishes such as grilled Angus sirloin. Lunch beings with dishes including cavatelli pasta with braised veal, roasted peppers and manchego cheese and continues with salads, sandwiches or fish and meat dishes (sautéed Hawaiian bass, grilled chicken paillard). Finish off with coconut panna cotta or the chocolate crunch bar. Dinner features many of the same dishes with the addition of mains such as five spice duck breast and Colorado lamb chops. The restaurant has an adjacent bar serving wine by the glass, champagne and cocktails.
The Gotham Lounge, name after the hotel which occupied the building at its opening, is a library-themed lounge well-known for its afternoon teas (2.30pm-5pm). An elegant space with comfortable armchairs and frescos up above, it is perfect for small gatherings or an informal business meeting.
The hotel has a rooftop bar and terrace named Salon de Ning. Designed by Henry Leung in the style of a traditional shikumen, or stone gate house, it is named after a Shanghai socialite, Madame Ning who set up salons all over the world. The décor, including contemporary art by Yao Junzhong, Moroccan lanterns and Chinese daybeds, reflects her passion for collecting pieces on her travels. The bar has two terraces, one looking east, another west, with Fifth Avenue views. As well as serving cocktails and wine there is a sharing menu featuring such dishes as chilled shrimp, hummus and olives and smoked salmon tartare. It is an undoubtedly breath-taking space, although some parts are starting to show signs of wear and tear.
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