2 Lexington Avenue, New York 10010New York, United States of America -See the map
Amy AdejokunSection editor
"This is a one-of-a-kind thing. It's a complete left turn for me and different than anything we have ever done before, and I expect it will wind up being a prototype for the hotel industry the same way my first hotel was 25 years ago." This is how Ian Schrager, the genius behind the project, sums up Gramercy Park Hotel (GPH) and who are we to argue. It is arguably the most complete hotel we saw: jaw-dropping design, highly sought-after artwork, the hippest of staff, a rich history and home to one of the most exclusive bar scenes in the city. Add to this the top quality amenities, an eatery from an acclaimed restauranteur and access to the only private park in New York and you have a Boho hotel which is quite simply in a class of its own. You won't be stunned to hear that this sort of experience doesn't come cheap, but if you are looking for an unforgettable stay in the city, why spend your cash elsewhere.
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The hotel is located on an exclusive square at Lexington Avenue and East 21st Street which border the only private park in New York, Gramercy Park. The area is mainly residential however there are points of interest close by, such as Union Square to the south, where you can also pick up many a metro line. Perhaps the nearest star attraction to the hotel is the Empire Station up on 5th Avenue at East 34th Street level. For Times Square and the museums and shopping around Central Park, nest to take the metro. You are also not far at all from many of the newly hip quarter such as the Village, SoHo, NoHo and NoLIta, although you might want to take public transport. Aside from Union Square, you can also catch the metro at 23rd Street station a couple of blocks north. JFK is 18 miles away, La Guardia 9 miles and Newark 15.
There are several categories of guestroom at the GPH which follow one of three colours schemes: jade green, renaissance blue or rose. Then there are six Gramercy Suites, each one different from the next. All rooms were conceived by Julian Schnabel and feature both his furniture and custom hand-made furniture from other artists from around the world. The Superior room, the most basic is fairly small at 220ft², but has all the amenities of a room several categories superior. The bed is dressed in Italian 400-thread count and has a plaid draped over its corner. The desk has a hand-stitched leather surface while all the chairs are embroidered by hand. The rugs are hand-made too and imported especially and they lay on oak wood floors. There is a mahogany English drinking cabinet featuring a decent selection of drinks and snacks with Crystalacarte glasses as well as custom products and a 'Best of' collection of bathroom products as chosen by 'Allure' magazine (to reflect the reality of life at home where we buy different brands).
On the walls are prints of Magnum photographers such as Marc Riboud. Other amenities include flatscreen television, CD/DVD player (guests can borrow DVDs at no extra cost), iPod docking station (charged iPods can also be borrowed) and safe. Other rooms, such as the Loft (roughly 400ft²) feature more impressive works such as a wingback chair by Maarten Baas, a Swedish designer famous for his lacquered burnt wood furniture. At the foot of the bed is a plush velvet covered trunk (which doesn't open) while the Moroccan bedside tables and standalone unit in the closet are covered in stretched leather.
The bathrooms feature marble vanities, mahogany paneling and oversize showers or bathtub with velvet curtains. The Park Suite, the largest of the guestrooms, looks onto the square and reflects the conditions in which an artist like Schnabel might live. Amongst the furniture is a rocking chair and although the décor is rather bohemian, it remains luxurious and enjoys much natural might. The six custom suites have features such as deep soaking tubs, dining areas and fireplaces. "I wanted to give people an unprecedented level of luxury service and attention simply not available anywhere else," says Schrager. Again, he's hit the mark.
The GPH is situated in a calm residential area meaning guests can be assured of discretion (at least when there are no celebrities in house). The modern rococo/baroque lobby is nothing other than a masterpiece with stunning individual pieces of furniture, objets d'art and paintings.
There is almost too much to look at, with every single item and feature having a story and fighting for attention. For example the cypress wood on the ceiling which in a former life was a shipping crate for art; it's as if the lobby has been packaged up itself to put it out of harm's way. Then you have the lobby's columns which are made from Douglas fir, which used to be a building on an upstate mushroom farm. The furniture is a mix of Julian Schnabel creations and antique medieval pieces and includes various Chesterfields, the bronze concierge desk, Moroccan antique tables, a shark's rostrum lamp and French made Murano glass chandelier. This all sits on a lush custom made GPH rug and before a constantly burning fireplace nourished by Pinon wood shipped in weekly and covered by a coat of mail. The black and white checkered floor reminds of a medieval court while the vintage Spanish matador's jacket found by Mr. Schrager is one of the lobby's highlights.
You must not miss though the impressive original art work collection upon the walls from Fernando Botero (the foremost Colombian artist), Richard Prince (the controversial American artist and photographer), Jean-Michel Basquiat (a prominent black American artist), Keith Haring, Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol.
The hotel's Aerospace Gym is a state-of-the-art facility with individual screens on the cardio apparatus and a range of weights machines as well as free weights and punch bag. Personal trainers are available on request. The Aerospa is the hotel's wellness centre and offers a full range of facials, massages and manicures and pedicures. There is a supplement of $50 for any treatment taken in-room.
Just as the lobby is full of features unique to GPH, so the rest of the hotel boasts novelties such as the lifts which are lined with mahogany reclaim and the corridor carpets which bear the rooms' numbers. Every part of the hotel was in perfect condition and spotless and we couldn't find a flaw anywhere. The members of staff are all young and trendy, much like the guests, and are some of the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their product of any we meet in New York. The young gentleman who showed us round was able to answer all our questions, however obscure, in detail.
The hotel's restaurant, Maialino, has just opened during our time at the hotel. This Roman-style eatery is the latest project of Danny Meyer who has several other restaurants in the city including 11 Madison and Tabla, both of which have been in Zagat's top 10 New York addresses for the last decade. The chef, Nick Anderer, was brought in from another Meyer venture, Gramercy Tavern. The trattoria, which was designed by the Rockwell group, serves food all day, being a coffee shop in the morning (it has a bread, pastry and coffee station, which smells divine) and then later opens for lunch and dinner.
Another station, this time for salami, cheese and antipasti lies opposite the other and together they spilt the area inn two. One side is the actual trattoria, with typically laid tables and wooden booths, while to the other side is the bar, a long smart wooden affair with light pouring in from the windows behind. It is also possible to grab a bite here, but in the form of snacks and lighter fare.
The waiting staff here has no uniform and are instead asked to dress as if they were going to grandma's house for Sunday lunch! The menu adheres to the Italian tradition of salumi to start, antipasti (octopus and purple potato salad, pig's foot, coco beans and celery) to follow, then primi (carbonara, spaghetti with clams, suckling pig ragu and arugula), secondi (swordfish, fennel and mushrooms, oxtails with carrots and celery) with side orders and the lot finished off with Italian cheese. The bar menu features salami and cheese as well as finger food such as pizzas, croquettes, typical desserts. The extensive wine list is exclusively Italian and favours red over white. The Jade and Rose bars are two of the most exclusive spots in the whole city, attracting the highest calibre of celebrity and the rich and beautiful of New York. Each one has art work from the likes of George Condo (the American contemporary artist specialising in caricature portraits), Warhol, Prince and Haring and includes a pool table by Haas in his trademark lacquered burnt wood.
There is no doubting the quality of the décor, which includes fireplace, rostrum lamps and bronze and plaster details, however the one big disadvantage is that not even hotel guests are guaranteed a place in the bar-quite unacceptable in our opinion, no matter how famous the night's patrons are. On the top floor of the hotel is Sofia and the private roof club. The former is a space in which guests can take all their meals and features an installation of 2,000 bulbs on the ceiling (not all of which are alight at once) and has a gentlemen's club feel. Next door is business lounge area with international press, laptops free for use and a flatscreen television. It is the terrace though that guests really come up for. Running round three sides of the building, it was almost completely designed by Schrager and features an amazing collection of plants including clementine trees and has a completely retractable glass roof. Not only is this roof's acoustics excellent (sound bounces back off it) it also helps to keep the space at a constant 69°C. It is a truly remarkable setup and one of our favourite spaces in the city.
Of all the attributes that the GPH can boast of there is one that no other hotel in the New York can compete with no matter how hard they tried. The park at the centre of the square on which the hotel finds itself has been owned by the Gramercy Park Block Association since 1831 and is open only to residents of the square, including hotel guests. The small haven was established by statesman Samuel B. Ruggles who aimed to recreate a typical London square. Many a famous American has graced the square with the hotel itself being on the site of Stanford White's former house. The likes of Mark Twain and John F. Kennedy frequented the park while the hotel as it used to be welcomed characters such as Babe Ruth, S.J. Perelman and Humphrey Bogart who got married here.
A funky little property perfect for young (at heart) couples looking for a quiet base from which to explore the city, The Marcel at Gramercy marries style with functionality in its 136 guestrooms. Although slightly off the well beaten tourist path, it is easy to reach the city's main attractions if this is what you are after but just as easy to discover neighbourhoods that you may not know well. The clean-lined, contemporary décor will appeal to design fans although the breakfast and wifi prices may put others off. The tall-ceilinged rooms are a little small in some cases, but many have excellent light and great city views. Those who like to party at the weekend will only have to walk downstairs to the hotel's bar to enjoy a night out while there are plenty of other entertainment venues close by.
Hotel Giraffe is a pleasant mid-range hotel with pretty rooms, a lovely staff and a fine Italian restaurant. Its location slightly outside the main areas of heightened activity will suit those who are looking for a hotel in a slightly calmer district. Its cute little terrace and evening receptions accompanied by a pianist also make the hotel one of the most civilised. We would certainly recommend this hotel to both business and leisure travellers as well as to couples and families.
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.
Located in the Flatiron district of Midtown Manhattan, the Park South hotel is a comfortable, honest hotel if not rather non-descript and slightly ageing. While the guestrooms can be on the small side, they are reasonably well-appointed and have all the amenities expected from a three-star hotel. There is no doubt that in order to keep up with its competitors it would need to update itself somewhat in terms of furnishings and technology for example, but the property is clean and functional and seems to be a calm environment. The biggest pull of the hotel is probably the restaurant which occupies the space to the right of the ground floor. Probably more of a touristic hotel than a business venue, the Park South is a decent base from which to explore the island but if you are looking for that extra special touch then you may want to search elsewhere.
More of a community than a hotel, The Gershwin is a one-of-a-kind property in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. An art lover's paradise, this is the most creative hotel in the city with art at its very core. It welcomes an artist-in-residence twice a year, has regular exhibitions and shows and has its own collection to boot, displayed throughout the hotel. Almost secondary is the actual accommodation, which is basic yet retro and fun and surprisingly well-appointed. It has a quirky coffee shop-come-library, a young, vibrant staff and a relatively central location which makes it the ideal place to stay for alternative, arty travellers looking to both see the city but also to dip their foot in the waters of New York's art scene.
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.
We're going to stick our necks out here and say that of all the hotels we have stayed at in this city, the Setai probably takes top spot. Of course there are many different types of hotel in the city and not everyone is looking for what the Setai has to offer, but as on overall experience, it can't, in our opinion, be bettered. The rooms are not only some of the biggest in the city, but they are likely to be the best appointed in terms of amenities too. The stunning, contemporary spa is as luxurious as it is spacious and in its restaurant the hotel has one of most memorable dining experiences to be had. But what impressed us most, and where the hotel rises above it competitors, is the consistent attention to detail and impeccable service the likes of which we've never seen. Although new (November 2010 opening), this is right up there with the old masters and the best thing is that it can only get better!
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.
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.
Although no longer associated with its Parisian namesake, the Plaza Athénée New York continues to offer one of the most refined hotel experiences in the city. Its style may not be as subtle as some of its competitors and thus some many find it a little overwhelming, but there is no getting away from the fact the hotel is a class act from top to bottom. It boasts capacious, well-appointed and recently renovated rooms (January 2010), a fine wellness centre, a celebrated restaurant and bar and an impeccable service from a smart, professional staff. If you're after that classic European opulence the other side of the Atlantic then the well-located Plaza Athénée is one to consider.
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?