20 West 29th StreetNew York, United States of America -See the map
Amy AdejokunSection editor
Owner Alex Calderwood said he wasn't interested in being trendy, he just wanted to create an instant classic. Well, he has achieved both, whether he likes it or not. One of the most original, innovative and inspired hotels you'll see anywhere, let alone in New York, the Ace is a masterpiece from top to bottom that will attract backpackers, groups of friends and couples alike. Every aspect, and we mean every aspect, has been meticulously mulled over from the name of the hotel itself (see 'To Know' section) to the iron board covers' wording. Effortlessness and a carefree attitude seem to be the dominating characteristics of the hotel as can be witnessed from the borderline too-cool-for-school porters and the auto flush loos in the public WC. Indeed, as the caption on the stairs leading back to the lobby from the aforementioned services reassures, "Everything is going to be alright."
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The Ace is located on West 29th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, with Broadway cutting diagonally across the street. The district is Nomad, just north of the Flatiron District, with Madison Square Park and Gardens close by, as well as Times Square at the end of Broadway and Penn Station a few blocks away. To put it simply, it's right in the mix of things in Midtown Manhattan. There are three metro stations within walking distance of the hotel: 23rd, 28th and 33rd Streets. JFK airport is 18 miles away, La Guardia 9 miles and Newark 17.
One of the Ace's finest qualities is its non-pretentiousness. It could easily choose to be stuck up and restrictive given the number of well-heeled yuppies who call it their second home, but this is not the Ace's style. In that spirit, the hotel is accessible to all kinds of traveller from backpackers to those wanting a slice of New York apartment living. The bunk rooms are of an honourable size and feature all the quirks of the larger rooms such as the fly case which acts as a stand for the flatscreen television, the open closet made from bent plumbing pipes and the artwork (in the example we saw a mural of a Mamiya C330 dominates one wall). There is even room for a desk with water and coffee and iron and ironing board comes as standard as does the hairdryer which comes in its own canvas bag.
The sizeable bathroom also matches up to those in the rest of the hotel with bathtub and Rudy's brand toiletries and Malin and Goetz soap as well as the same pipe bends implanted in the wall which act as hooks. The first conventional room is the Standard Full which is slightly larger than the bunk room and has a queen bed, fully stocked Smeg fridge and locally sourced snacks, custom made Pendleton blankets, music hall clock radio and Wings & Horns bathrobes. We can find more peculiarities in the bathroom (similar to that of the bunk) in the form of the caption heading the mirror which reads "Love is meant to make us glad"; a mantra whose first word could easily be replaces with the hotel's name. The remaining four categories are named 'small', 'medium', 'large' and 'loft'. Each one gets slightly bigger and has a different artwork by one of the hotel's many contributing artists. The amenities rest the same however from 'medium' up you'll find turntables in the room and a collection of vinyls to spin at your leisure and views onto either Broadway or 29th street. The extra space in the rooms is filled with various furniture, including some vintage pieces. The pièce de resistance of the hotel though is its magnificent military/industrial style loft. This huge open plan studio centres around what was almost probably a tailor's cutting table surrounded by six circa 1960s designers' chairs. Fitting like a glove into the alcove, from where the Empire State Building looms down, is a semi circular couch in front of which is a coffee table and animal skin rug. Other unique features of the room include an army munitions box, a textile transportation box (home to the iron), a factory shelving unit complete with old wooden reels, Fostoria lamps and to top it all off a custom made Gibson guitar. Now/not now magnets for the door let the maids know whether they are to make up the room. The bathroom, which is separated from the room by double doors, has a standalone bath and shower.
The building's exterior cannot possibly betray the marvels that lay the other side of the entrance, namely one of the most happening hotel lobbies in New York. To the right as you walk in is the reception desk and its approach which contains on one side a cabinet displaying hotel memorabilia and other desirable gift items and on the other side a glass unit full of stuffed birds. The main lobby is essentially divided into three sections, roughly according to the wonderful white columns dominating the space. To the foreground you have a seating area featuring tartan-upholstered armchairs and industrial looking tables. Running through the centre of the room a communal table has been put at the disposal of guests only. Then, just the other side of a display of stuffed badgers, are two u-shaped arrangements of red couches with animal skin throws straddling both units, with further seating at the back of the lobby directly under a purposefully frayed Stars and Stripes. The wooden paneling with incorporated book shelves, together with the Chesterfield sofas and subdued lighting, lend a warm, hunting lodge feel to the back of the hall. Around the edges of the room, aside from more seating are books on all subjects, diagrams of the bone structure of various creatures and even a photo booth of yesteryear (which still functions).
The real focal point of the hotel, indeed the neighbourhood, the lobby brings together all sorts from locals just wanting a coffee (see Stumptown Coffee Roasters in the 'Food and Drink' section) to students studying for their finals in ordinary differential equations, from young advertising executives to jewellery designers working on their latest collection. So many reasons for frequenting the place (the coffee, the atmosphere, people watching, business meetings) but one thing above all which unites them; the MacBook. You'd be forgiven for thinking that admission to the lobby was dependent on your ability to pull out the portable computer from Apple. The rest of the hotel's public spaces are almost by the by as if you are not in your room you'll want to be in the lobby. Having said that the messages posted on the walls facing the lifts as well as those on the lifts themselves bring a smile to the face and make the Ace what it is?as do the staff, who are horizontal in the laidbackness, but attentive (and rather attractive) all the same.
April Bloomfield, the Brummie responsible for introducing the gastro-pub to New York with the Michelin-starred Spotted Pig over in the West Village, opened up the Breslin Bar and Dining Room just off the hotel's lobby weeks before we visited the Ace. And by all accounts it's already as notorious. In a backdrop which pays a tenuous homage to the British pub, guests, locals and food tourists alike can chow down all day long from breakfast (pastries, fried peanut and banana sandwich, eggs how you want), past brunch (pumpkin pancakes, full English, chargrilled lamb burger), on to lunch (onion and bone marrow soup, skate and potato terrine roasted poussin) and ending with dinner (terrine boards, salt cod brandade, stuffed pigs foot). The food is not exactly light, so if you're watching your waist line, hold your nose and put it down as a day off.
Also off the lobby and with an entrance on West 29th street is Stumptown Coffee Roasters. This small, unassuming shop, a branch of the Portland-based company, sells speciality coffees from all over the planet and is one reason why Ace's lobby is so busy. Coffee is sold to drink on site or take away as well as in brown paper bags with information labels on its origin, elevation and flavour. Rumour has it that despite having been open for only 3 months when we were there, this franchise was the highest grossing speciality coffee shop in North America, an astounding achievement. The hotel has a lobby bar too in the back left hand corner of the lobby which serves its own exclusive 'Aberdeen Cask Ale'.
Where to begin? Everywhere you turn at The Ace there is a story to be told. Indeed you can be sure that stories are being created constantly in the hive of activity that is the hotel's lobby (see 'Hotel Overview' section). The hotel is housed in a building dating from 1904 which has been in its time both the Breslin Hotel and a rent-controlled residential block (some of the occupants from the latter's era refused to move and still reside in the hotel). The interior of the hotel was designed (in collaboration with the owners) by Roman & Williams, the same people who brought you the uber-cool Standard hotel over in the Meatpacking District, with exceptional vision and taste. The same goes too for the hotel's staff who sport a number of labels including Converse and Dr. Marten's (shoes), Coto (ties), L. Gambert (shirts), Levi's (jeans) and Spiewak (peacoats). In fact the doormen and porters are so stylishly sapped that we mistook them for guests (one of whom in turn then mistook the author of this article for?yes, a member of staff!). And the story behind the name 'Ace' I hear you ask? Well, in cards, the ace can either be low or high, just in the same way as the rooms at the Ace hotel can be low or high end (see 'Accommodation' section). Clever, huh?
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Staying at the Eventi is one of the best hotel experiences you can have in New York - the hotel just oozes coolness. But not that snooty, exclusive, look-at-me type of cool you find in some properties. This is genuine, fun, down-to-earth cool which makes the hotel such an enjoyable place to stay. Every element of the hotel has been well conceived from the spacious, funky rooms to the buzzing, good quality restaurant, from the professional spa to the most personable of staff. This well located, modern hotel has an identity of its own which is hard to beat for the money. Highly recommended!
The Indigo is a mid-range full service hotel (minus the spa) in the Fashion District of Manhattan. Although its rooms are starting to show their age in terms of décor, they are in perfect condition and very spacious for Midtown and are fairly well-appointed. The restaurant, which has changed hands a number of times since the hotel's opening, now seems to have found stability and is a decent option for a bite to eat at any time of the day. The fitness centre, complimentary business centre and panoramic rooftop bar make of the Indigo a good all round option if you prefer to be away from the busier parts of town but still within walking distance of the major attractions.
The MAve is a basic yet fun hotel with a decent central location in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. The rooms are on the small side, but are nicely appointed with good amenities although the hotel as a whole lacks the services of some of its competitors and of the larger hotels. More of a tourist hotel than one for business, The MAve offers reasonable value for money, especially if you book in advance or take up on one of their offers. Just don't expect a full-service experience with lots of surprises and unique touches.
One of the most exciting hotels to have opened in 2010, the Gansevoort Park Avenue ticks all our boxes: generous, comfortable and beautifully furnished rooms, a fantastic restaurant boasting good food and service, a convenient midtown location, great wellness facilities, a buzzing atmosphere and a genuinely friendly, down-to-earth staff. Aimed at the young/young-at-heart middle aged traveller who wants a laid back, unfussy, quality service across the board, the hotel seems to have got it spot on from start to finish. If the ambiance and image of the hotel is as important to you as those of the town you're in then this is the property for you.
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.
Q. What do you get when you take $150 million and put them into the hands of one of the world's greatest architect/designers? A. The Mark. Be under no illusions, what Jacques Grange and co have conceived in the leafy surroundings of the Upper Eastside is now the yardstick against which all other hotels will now have to measure themselves. After over two years under renovation with some of the most sought after names in the creative fields working on the project, The Mark has transformed itself from a decent hotel to a hotel of superlatives. Everything is top draw from the design to the staff, from the food to the wellness centre. This all, of course, comes with the price tag that its quality demands, however rest assured that no other hotel can come close to what The Mark has to offer.
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We were quite simply blown away by this hotel. Rare are the occasions where there is nothing to fault, but staying here was one of those - it just couldn't put a foot wrong. Generously proportioned, impressively appointed rooms are complemented by a relaxed yet top class Italian restaurant, while the spa is a sight to behold. You'll have a tough job finding a property where the service is paralleled and don't even get us started on the views! A magnificent, modern and memorable hotel, we recommend the Trump Soho to all kinds of traveller, newcomers or old hands, couples or families. A huge thumbs up.
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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 Pierre has always been a landmark hotel in New York City?and we are glad to report that after its latest $100 million renovation following its takeover by Taj Hotels, it is still very much one of the hotels by which others must judge themselves. It is true to say that it may not have some of the facilities of some of the other top hotels (no spa, smaller rooms), but when it comes to service, style and sophistication, not to mention history, it is untouchable. With a location that would make most hotels weep with envy, fabulously appointed rooms with an Asian touch and a new, top quality restaurant, The Pierre is back on top of its game and ready to welcome once again all types of traveller, no matter their motive for visiting the city. All this comes, of course, at a price, but if you had to choose a place to spend your hard earned cash, this has got to be near the summit of your shortlist.
You may be coming to the United States to see New York, but the St. Regis is a destination in itself. The most sumptuous hotel we have visited to date in the city, its beautiful Beaux-Arts interiors are a sight to behold. It's (rightly) famed for its unrivalled service and King Cole Bar (more in 'Food and Drink') as well as its beautiful, spacious and well appointed rooms, however it does lack some of the high tier amenities of its rivals, such as a swimming pool, and the views are not quite as good. That said it can boast an Alain Ducasse restaurant and original antique décor. It's true to say that some may find the hotel's opulence a little overbearing, but let's not lose sight of the fact that this is nonetheless a true masterpiece. Even if you don't have the means to stay here, come and take a look around as the property has some unique features. Couples, friends or business travellers will all find their calling at the St. Regis.