This mythical New York hotel has seen its fair share of changes, both within in its walls and outside, however one thing remains constant: The Carlyle is one of the swankiest, smartest, seductive hotels in the city. The very few flaws of the hotel (for example the size of some bathrooms) can be excused by its age; otherwise there are very few hotels of this genre which can claim to offer a similar experience. Not only does it offer top notch service and facilities, but its location and commanding views are also something spectacular. Throw in a rich history, fine dining and exquisite décor and you get a hotel (literally) fit for kings. If you've got the cash, don't even ask yourself the question?
The Carlyle has an enviable position on East 76th Street at Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side, just a block away from Central Park. Within walking distance of Museum Mile, you have the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim, Whitney and Frick Collection just moments away. Also in the immediate vicinity are beautiful galleries and exclusive designer boutiques as well as other shopping opportunities a little further down Madison and Fifth Avenues. To get to the heart of Manhattan, you can take lines 4 or 6 from the 77th Street-Lexington subway station just a few blocks away. For other destinations you can change at Grand Central. JFK is 16 miles from the hotel, La Guardia 8 miles and Newark 17.
Purpose built and completed in 1930, The Carlyle is still the tallest building on the Upper East Side, meaning that it has unrivalled views of Central Park, one of its many assets. The hotel has seen many a VIP guest in its day, including every American president since Truman, several European royals (Charles and Diana amongst them) and the likes or Richard Rodgers (the hotel's first tenant) and Ingrid Bergman. The hotel, which is named after the Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle, employs over 400 staff members ? that's over 2 per room!
As soon as you pull up to the smart entrance, flanked by plants that twist out of their pots and with a custom carpet so large that you don't even have to walk directly on to the 'sidewalk', you know you're in for something special. And the Art Deco lobby just the other side of the revolving doors (which you need not touch either, thanks to the presence of the impeccable doorman) does not disappoint. Restored in 2002 by Thierry Despont (keeping with the ideals of original decorator Dorothy Draper), it similar to several other Upper East Side hotel lobbies in its intimacy and the presence of a black and white marble floor. Split over two levels, the space contains orange upholstered furniture whose reflection bounces back off the highly polished floor, a working fire place either side of which are Jan Weenix originals originally owned by the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and an array of plants and flowers which give the space that extra homely feel. Also worth pointing out is that there is always a member of staff available to speak to whether behind the reception or concierge desks or milling around in the lobby.
The third floor houses Sense, the hotel's luxury spa, open to guests and as well as the general public. The modern face of the hotel, it has been designed with a black grey and white colour scheme throughout and the public spaces boast features such as luminous lacquered walls, charcoal faux leather floors and chandeliers from England. You'll also notice around the spa, prints of the photographer Kenro Izu as well as, in the relaxation area, velvet sofas, white damask upholstery and polished nickel fixtures, also from England. The stairs going down to the lower level of the spa are barrel-vaulted and are covered in dazzling platinum mosaics. In all there are five treatment rooms, including one with a state-of-the-art Vichy shower which combines water, sound, light and steam treatment. Separate male and female locker rooms each boast their own rain showers and steam rooms while the Carrera marble clad salon by Yves Durif, coiffeur to the starts, offers a full hair and make-up service. The spa itself offers a wide range of specialised cures including anti-age treatments combining scrubs, massages and facials, rejuvenating body sense treatments and individual massages as well as masks, waxing and aesthetics. A small fitness room with top-of-the-range machines is also available to guests 24 hours per day and provides complimentary towels and headphones.
The hotel's public spaces are immaculately kept and smell delightful. Getting to your room is quick and simple via the lifts which are some of the very few left in the city to still be manned by operators. You'll notice as you walk out of the lift on any floor that there is always a sideboard in front of you with a large bouquet of flowers. Another nice feature is the original mail shoots beside the lifts, while the corridors are wide and easy to negotiate and the walls dressed in suede.
There are a total of six guestroom types and 11 suites categories. The spacious guestrooms are, with the exception of the tower rooms, decorated in a Louis XVI style and are beautifully furnished and upholstered with high quality materials. The tone of the room is quite sombre, with whites, creams and beiges being preferred while the hardwood floors are the hotel's originals. You'll find in the rooms a king bed dressed in Yves Delorme linens, two armchairs and a small table, a leather butler and a bar area with minibar and snacks. Amenities include a flatscreen television with DVD player, an iPod docking station, desk, safe, shoe kit and three telephones. On the walls are prints by French-American ornithologist John James Audubon, architectural renderings by the artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi and English country scenes by Kips while some of the porcelain in the room was made especially for the hotel by Limoges The bathrooms are relatively small but do feature Kiehl's toiletries, make-up mirrors and hairdryer and are fitted with marble. There are several combinations of guestroom to choose from depending on whether view (courtyard, 76th Street/Madison or city), surface area or décor (the tower rooms, conceived by Alexandra Champalimaud, are more contemporary) is more important to you.
The 64 suites, of which the smallest is 700ft², are also distributed at different heights and offer different views, services and number of bedrooms/bathrooms. Each have their own living space, while others also boast a kitchenette and bathrooms are fitted with Nero Marquina (Spanish) and Thassos (Greek) marble. Some enjoy floor-to-ceiling windows with incredible views of Central Park and guests staying the largest can enjoy extras such as the library, B&W Zeppelin sound system, antique furniture and 'objets' and original artwork from the hotel's collection. In a select number of the suites, there is a baby grand piano (Steinway & Sons or Baldwin). It's possible for the some of the suites to be connected to other bedrooms in order to make a four-bedroom suite.
The hotel has several eating and drinking options, all of them having a reputation for themselves quite apart from that of the hotel. The main restaurant, The Carlyle Restaurant, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and, on Sundays, brunch. The setting is that of an English manor with suede covered walls, beautifully laid tables with custom crockery (Eschenbach) and cutlery and, at the room's centre, a tall flower arrangement rising from the chintz-covered banquettes. The artwork adorning the walls is a mix of English hunting prints by Fore and Liliacae engravings by Redoute. The breakfast menu comprises fresh patisseries, cereals and cakes, a range of hot plates such as lobster omelette and poached eggs on smoked salmon, reduced calorie options, fruit, juices and a buffet with a little of everything. The lunch menu features choices from the raw bar, starters such as jumbo lump crab and terrine of Hudson Bay Valley foie gras and mains including a tuna burger and sumac rubbed Amish chicken. There is also a three-course prix fixe option with a free glass of wine thrown in. The dinner menu is slightly different with sunchoke velouté available as a starter and the restaurant's famous Dover sole.
Café Carlyle opened in 1955 and has been an institution ever since welcoming a host of stars for cabaret evenings most days of the week, including Woody Allen every Monday. The main feature of the room, aside from the entertainment of course, is the restored murals by Marcel Vertès, art director on the original Moulin Rouge film. The menu, served evenings only, features a selection of dishes from the hotel's main restaurant. The intimate venue is perfect for shows of this kind where one feels a part of the action?and history.
Famous for its afternoon teas which include Devonshire cream flown in especially, the two tiered Gallery was designed by Renzo Mongiardino and is based on the sultan's dining room at the Topkapi Palace in Turkey. Featuring hand-painted wallpaper and velvet chairs and representations of Venice and Istanbul, this cosy retreat also serves a continental breakfast and lunch.
Bemelmans Bar, named after the creator of the Madeline children's books who painted the murals in the bar, has been the meeting place for the rich and famous since the hotel opened. Restored by Despont in 2002, it features a gold leaf ceiling, black granite bar and brown leather banquettes. Light snacks are served from midday until late and there is live music every night of the week. On Saturdays, bring the kids along for a sing along where they can also enjoy their own Madeleine's menu or afternoon tea!
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