It's perhaps befitting that a hotel of this stature begins at the 35th floor, as if to suggest that it couldn't possibly be seen as sharing common ground with its competitors. And in many ways it is justified. This luxury property is technically located at the very centre of Manhattan and boasts incredible views from every room. It also has a world-class restaurant, one of the most breath-taking spas in New York and design from world-renowned designers and architects. Now place all this under the umbrella of the prestigious Mandarin Oriental brand and you have a hotel which brings together the very best of the East and West. It doesn't come cheap, but if you can stretch that far, don't even ask yourself the question?
Rather like Charing Cross in London, the animated Columbus Circle is the point from which all distances are measured from New York, making it the true heart of the city. As well as the enormous Time Warner Centre which the hotel is part of, there are a whole host of attractions nearby, the most obvious being Central Park. The Museum of Art and Design is just the other side of the Circle while a few blocks to the north is the Lincoln Center. Within 15-20 on foot you can be at the Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick's Cathedral as well as the theatres of Broadway and MoMA. World-class dining and shopping is also on your doorstep both around the hotel and the other side of Central Park along Fifth and Madison Avenues and on the Upper East Side. There are a couple of subway stations very close to the hotel which will get you anywhere you need to be on Manhattan or in Brooklyn. JFK is 16 miles away, La Guardia 8 miles and Newark 17.
The hotel is part of the Times Warner Center, which is the largest multi-purpose building development in the city's history with upscale boutiques and restaurants. In fact, the area between 58th and 82nd Streets has the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in New York.
As smart as the ground floor entrance of the hotel is, don't hang around here when you could be whisked up to the 35th floor by the express lifts where the doors have clouds painted on their fronts as if to hint at the heavenly experience awaiting the guest. Aside from the incredible view of the city from the floor-to-ceiling windows at the back, the sky lobby is remarkable for several reasons. The space is dominated by Dale Chiuly's sculpture Crystal Cranes which is a hand blown piece rising from a moss and ivy bed. You then have the Oriental touch with several framed textiles and traditional dress reminding of the hotel group's roots. But the item unique to this property is the Mandarin Oriental fan, which every one of the group's hotels have, this one designed by the fashion designer Vivienne Tam and made from Lucite. Situated around the lobby are the hotel's restaurants and bars (see 'Food and Drink'). Entering the sky lobby at the hotel could be justifiably described as an experience and not simply as a mere step to complete in order to reach your room.
The Spa at Mandarin Oriental is arguably the most impressive in all Manhattan with its bamboo, stone and gold leaf interiors. Spread over the 35th and 36th floors, it is run by the hotel and uses its own-brand products for all treatments which take place in one of seven rooms, including the magnificent VIP suite which includes two treatment beds, cabanas, a steam room, sauna, whirlpool tub and fireplace, not to mention uninterrupted views of the city. This latter feature is also true for the spacious relaxation space decorated with orchids and traditional tea pots where the trickle of the fountains' water helps the guest slip into a state of pure relaxation. Other facilities include a Thai yoga suite with soaking tub, men's and women's areas with vitality pools, an amethyst crystal steam room with aromatherapy and a 23-metre pool with glass roof. There is of course also a fitness centre with state-of-the-art machines and more stunning views to boot.
The rooms at the Mandarin Oriental are among the largest in New York and boast some of the most impressive views with all of them looking out over Manhattan or the Hudson with Central Park views. The standard rooms, which measure almost 40 square metres, are beautifully appointed with high quality linens and cherry wood furniture and have floor-to-ceiling windows. The bed is made with Fil d'Oro linens and has a mirrored headboard with a black and white print above it. Two oriental style lamps hang each side of it while a plaid is draped across its foot. The furniture consists of a desk and chair, a table and armchairs at the window, a drawer unit and plenty of storage space in the wardrobe. Amenities are numerous and include flatscreen television, sound system with CD and DVD, wifi and dial up internet connection, iPod docking station, touch screen telephones, minibar and snacks, adapter and bedtime reading (these books are free to take). You'll find a safe, umbrella, iron and ironing board, yoga mat, torch and shoe kit in the closet. The bathroom is of an extremely generous size and boasts a double vanity, both a monsoon shower and soaking tub, separate toilets, Aromatherapy Associates toiletries, bathrobes and television. Most of the guestrooms are very similar to the standard room, just the view, number of beds or colour scheme changing. For the best views, go for one of the premier rooms which are located higher up the building.
Three regular suites (although there is nothing ordinary about them) and three speciality suites, which are all located on the corner of the building, are on offer in addition to the guestrooms. The smallest, the Mandarin executive, has a similar bedroom to the guestrooms with the addition of a chaise longue at the foot of the bed. The real difference is in the separate living space which features a seating area and home entertainment system as well as a guest bathroom. There is a similar suite which looks out over Central Park as well as a premier version of the same room. The Taipan suite on the 54th floor has two bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms and boasts a light-infused living and dining area, while the Oriental suite's unique features include a separate study, walk-in closet and kitchen. The largest suite, the Presidential, has 360° views of Manhattan, an extensive electronic entertainment system, custom furnishings and original Asian artefacts including a 250-year old parchment calligraphy book recounting a Chinese tale of happiness and good fortune.
Located to the back and left of the sky lobby, Asiate is the hotel's main restaurant. Designed by world-renowned designer Tony Chi, the room has floor-to-ceiling windows giving on to Central Park and the Manhattan skyline, a wine wall featuring 1,300 bottles and a ceiling sculpture of silver sticks which are designed to resemble tree branches. The tables are exquisitely laid with crisp white tablecloths and slim chrome vases with bright yellow flowers. The seating is a mixture of banquettes, single tables and booths with a private dining room also available. Overseeing the kitchen is chef Brandon Kida who has worked his way up the ladder at Asiate since its opening in 2003. A graduate from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, he offers a cuisine with Asian influences which have won the restaurant many awards. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served here with brunch offered at the weekend.
Adjacent to Asiate at within the main sky lobby is the lounge also with impregnable views of the city and two colourful giant paintings at each end by Valerio Adami. This space is perfect for a quiet drink between friends, a business meeting or a quick bite to eat. Afternoon tea is available every day between 2.30pm and 4.30pm. The 1930s residential building-inspired MO Bar, also conceived by Tony Chi, is open Tuesday to Saturday from 4pm and serves cocktails and wine by the glass.
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