It's the small things which make the biggest of differences and there are plenty of them here at The Surry. This is a truly special hotel where the attention to detail and irreproachable service lead us to place it amongst the finest properties in New York. In addition to its original artwork, which is another of its many assets, the hotel boasts exceptionally well appointed rooms, a beautiful spa and world class dining. Its location too, in the fashionable Upper East Side but still close to many of the city's attractions, gives it yet another edge. Suitable for couples, groups of friends and families, this is one to seriously consider if you have the budget necessary to experience such quality.
The hotel is situated on East 76th Street, in the leafy and affluent Upper East Side district of Manhattan, just a block 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.
The building which houses the hotel was built back in 1926 as a residential hotel. In its time, the likes of JFK and Bette Davis have temporarily called it home. At the tail end of 2009 the hotel reopened after a one-year, $60 million recreation which, while modernising the property, also restored its old world charm. Included in the renewal were works by several international artists which led to The Surrey being named the official hotel for The Armory Show 2011.
For those of you who are fans of cocktails (Who isn't? I hear you cry in disbelief), The Surrey offers a service whereby one of the hotel's barmen shows you how to prepare a cocktail of your choice in the comfort of your own room and then leaves enough of the ingredients for you to make four or five more! What more could you ask for?
The lobby of The Surrey is the scene for one of the best hotel welcomes in the city. Its size is spot on - not so big that people start milling around within it, but not too small that it feels claustrophobic. To your left is a cosy seating area composed of distinguished grey fabric chesterfield armchairs and sofa at the centre of which is a simple glass-topped coffee table with an orchid. To the right is the marble-topped reception desk from behind which you'll be greeted and checked in by some of the most amicable and charming front of house staff in the city. Above is an opaque glass roof through which light fills the space. Further on down the corridor opposite the entrance are several works from the hotel's art collection. The first is one that you'll see directly in front of you as you walk into the hotel and is a tapestry of Kate Moss by Chuck Close. Another is the hotel's spray-painted signature armoire, themed around love, which includes a list of the top ten fashion must haves of the Upper East Side and a display of jewellery from the collection of Padma Lakshmi, former wife of Salman Rushdie. An interactive video installation by South African artist William Kentridge and two photos, named You Are My Own and But The Myth of Love, complete the mini exhibition.
The Spa at The Surrey is the hotel's bespoke wellness centre where all treatments are discussed beforehand with one of the experts. Again, you'll be greeted warmly and will notice the relaxation area to your right with armchairs and leather footrests. There are six treatment rooms and two for couples each with a steam shower, hydrotub and marble vanity. A full menu of treatments is available including massages, facials, exfoliations, waxing and manicures and pedicures (for which there is a separate area). The spa uses two brands of product: Darphin and Li'tya, which applies Aboriginal wisdom of medicines and healing rituals. Adjacent is a small but well-equipped fitness centre with yoga and pilates gear and personal training on request.
Other services at the hotel include a business centre and wifi, both of which there is a charge for. The public spaces of the hotel are in impeccable condition and getting to your room, via the lifts for which you require your roomkey, is an easy and quick process.
The Surrey offers a good range of guestrooms (or salons as they are called here) and suites amongst its 190 accommodations. All rooms are decorated similarly in various tones of white, grey and black and have views of Madison Avenue, 76th Street and/or partial views of Central Park. The standard room, which comes in at a spacious 31m², features a king size, custom Duxiana bed dressed in Sfetta linens. Opposite is a hand-painted armoire in which you'll find the flatscreen television and DVD player. There is a seating area with corner couch and coffee table while at the window is a long bench type seat on which you can perch which has a custom made cushion embroidered with a quote. The room also features a low, marble-topped cabinet concealing the minibar, on top of which are some snacks, drinks tray and coffee machine. Inside the closet is a safe and umbrella, while other amenities in the room include a desk with built in vanity and iPod docking station. The white with black vain marble bathrooms are of a good size and have stand up showers, fixtures from Waterworks, Pratesi bathrobes and personalised Laura Tonatto toiletries. Some of the larger salons have extra beds, fireplaces, terraces and/or bathtubs.
The two regular suite types are appointed similarly, but have separate living areas, bathtubs and some have top-of-the-range kitchenettes. The Penthouse suite's entrance is a magnificent brass and copper door which has been preserved from the original hotel. Features of the suite include the dining area, full kitchen, warp around terrace of over 100m², fireplace, modern painting by Amy Sims and powder room. Guests can also enjoy reading a book on art or design from the library or watching a DVD on the retractable screen. Also on the technology side is the function to be able to control the sound system from any room in the suite and the iMac on the desk. The Presidential suite boasts a baby grand piano and chaise longue upholstered in a fabric which is embroidered with the recipe for a Manhattan cocktail.
The Surrey has chosen Frenchman Daniel Boulud, best known for his eponymous New York eatery, to take care of the food side of things at the hotel. The space itself was conceived by New York architect James Harb and Parisian designer Patrick Naggar and features rice paper shades, Tibetan-inspired wool carpets and smart wood panelling. A round the tables, laid with Rivolta Carmignano linens, Limoges porcelain and Spiegelau glassware, are custom-designed, mahogany framed chairs with burnt coral leather seats and cocoa banquettes which ensure a truly comfortable dining experience. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch as well as a daily prix-fixe menu. The beautifully presented continental breakfast buffet is one of the options for the morning meal, however, there is also a choice of eggs, sausage, bacon, waffles, cereals and bagels.
With Boulud's four culinary muses (la tradition, classic French cuisine; la saison, seasonal delicacies; le potager, the vegetable garden; and le voyage, the flavors of world cuisines) in mind, executive chef Gavin Kaysen and pastry chef Noah Carroll deliver a French cuisine including a red wine risotto with braised oxtail and castelmagno cheese or poulet rouge coq au vin with carrots, fingerling potatoes and celery at lunch and white asparagus gratinée with poached hen egg, speck ham and frisée salad or seared short rib dumplings with daikon radish, shiitake mushrooms and scallion vinaigrette in the evening. Finish off with caramelised apples with walnut sable, vanilla bavaroise and calvados ice cream or the molten chocolate cake with coffee ice cream. Oenologists will find their calling with the US/French dominated wine list which features hundreds of bottles.
Just next door to the restaurant is Bar Pleiades, named after the French restaurant popular with Manhattan's art elite during the 70s and 80s. The Art Deco décor, inspired by Coco Chanel, features black and white lacquer finishes, quilted walls and leather banquettes. Just like the cuisine next door, the signature cocktails follow Boulud's four muses.
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