Take a step back in time and enter the golden age of 1930s travel at the Jumeirah Essex House. Formerly the tallest tower in New York, this Art Deco icon, which opened in the same year as the Empire State Building, was refurbished in 2007 just after its takeover by the Dubai-based hotel group and looks excellent for it. From whichever way you look at it, the hotel exudes class and has everything to put it right up there in the same mould as the greats: gorgeous rooms, a privileged situation, a fine restaurant and savvy staff. Thoroughly recommended by easyvoyage.co.uk for all types of travellers, whatever you're your motive for being in the city.
The Jumeirah Essex House has the type of location that makes pretty much every other New York hotel green with envy. With Central Park as its back yard, it is the perfect base from which to set out each day and explore the Big Apple. Within walking distance are so many of the city's attractions including Broadway and its theatres, shopping at the Rockefeller Center and on Fifth and Madison Avenues, MoMA, Carnegie Hall and a little further down south Times Square. There are three metro stations close by (59th Street-Columbus Circle, 57th Street and 5th Avenue) with nine lines between them meaning you can get pretty much anywhere you need with ease. JFK is 19 miles away, La Guardia 10 miles and Newark 17.
The hotel is the only one in New York to have an in-house curator in the form of Katherine Gass. Since joining Essex House in 2006, the vastly experienced Ms. Gass has overseen all of the hotel's art projects, including the Lobby Art Programme which currently features an exhibition named 'The Heart of Central Park', a look back at over 150 years of the Park through photographs, etchings, paintings, drawings and vintage advertising. The hotel also works closely with several artists, including the Korean Atta Kim and the American Mark Innerst, both of whom are artists-in-residence.
It is somewhat of a shame that the name of the hotel's Dubai-based owners adorns the front entrance as this takes away slightly from the ?30s vibe. Then again, that vibe wouldn't be so strong without them since they funded the refurbishment a few years back. The hotel's tower is an elegant affair with several levels of setbacks giving it that typical Art Deco look. Inside, once through the crowd of security guards, a wonderfully lavish lobby awaits, with its checkered marble floor and pillars of the same stone. Straight ahead of you is the corridor housing the collection of Central Park photos, either side of whose entrance are two giant photos of the Park taken by Atta Kim. To the right hand side is the front illuminated reception, behind which, together with the embossed golden panels, are some of the finest staff in the city, and the concierge who are equally charming. To the left, the other side of a central flower arrangement emerging from a bark vase, is a seating area of pristine white leather sofas and armchairs and an area of alcoves with corner couches. The area is surveyed over by black panthers while a smart Christofle dessert trolley sits in the corner at tea time displaying scrumptious treats. THE SPA at the Jumeirah Essex House, run by the contagiously chirpy Gaylen, is a boutique-style affair which greets with a water fountain and tremendous perfume. The centre offers the lot: massages, hydrotherapy, facials, manicure/pedicure, sauna, hammam and a stylish relaxation room for each sex. The products used are top quality and the robes and sweats are available for sale. The hotel's gym is also top-of-the-range with excellent machines and a warm up/stretching area. The water and fruit are a nice touch. There is a business centre available for guests as well as complimentary wifi in the lobby and South Gate restaurant. The rest of the property is in fine condition with large, wide corridors oozing Art Deco class from the floral carpet to the lamps, from the classic dial phones to the lifts which bear the message 'THIS CAR AVAILABLE'. The Essex House is a hotel where excellence is reflected in both the details and the staff.
Although the Jumeirah Essex House offers three types of standard room, the only different between them is the view on offer. The first gives on to the interior of the hotel, the second onto Central Park and the third on to Manhattan. All are appointed similarly with shades of whites, creams, tans and browns dominating. The beds, at the end of which are trunks cum butlers, are wrapped in the highest quality linen, while the headboards have a panel of modern art work which can be illuminated to set the right mood. The bedside tables, closets (umbrella, slippers, iron and ironing board) and desk are of the utmost workmanship, the latter allowing a generous amount of space in which to work. Other features include a flatscreen television, safe and well-stocked minibar, while the spiral-based lamps, floral curtains and '30s alarm clock are all nice touches. The bathroom, which is of a decent size, has a bathtub with two showerheads, scales, hairdryer and Cornelia Signature toiletries, with the rose-tinted basin being the highlight. Further up the category scale are the suites, the smallest of which is a Junior, perfect for a family of four with its sofa bed. Then come the Essex, Manhattan and Central Park Suites with interior, city and park views respectively. More spacious, they also offer extras such as an iPod docking station, his and her robes, walk in wardrobes and a telescope in the Central Park Suite. At the pinnacle of the Essex's offering is the Presidential Suite which has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, living space, a kitchenette and a security room.
South Gate is the hotel's restaurant and bar, a creation of Tony Chi, the Taiwanese-born American designer who has worked on eateries with some of the planet's top chefs. The highlights of the room include the glass fronted fireplace, a mirrored wall of fragmented glass and the magnificent wine cellar which displays some of the restaurant's 1,200 bottles. Eating at South Gate is a very enjoyable and above all comfortable experience with swiveling chairs which avoid the awkward experience of the waiter or waitress installing you in your place and the perfect balance of music and voices. The food, the responsibility of Kerry Heffernan, is exceptional and beautifully presented. For lunch you can choose either the à la carte option (iced oysters on the half shell, sautéed skate wing 'Grenobloise' with brown butter, caperberries and seared spinach followed by passion fruit meringue tart) or the prix-fixe menu (a choice between two dishes for each of starter, main and dessert) priced at an unbeatable $24.07 while at dinner there is just one à la carte menu (a mix of the two lunch menus plus dishes such as Hudson Valley foie gras, spice roasted cod and the chef's tasting menu). It is also possible take a drink at the bar within the restaurant, with a variety of cocktails available and a selection of wines. However good the food and décor are, the day we visited the service was a little off, with the waiter banging down the cutlery and bringing our desserts before our main course dishes had been cleared-rather surprising for a place of this standing.
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