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.
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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 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 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 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.
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?
If you are a couple or small family looking for a mid- to high-end option in Midtown Manhattan then The Carlton may well be the place for you. While certainly not at the top of the ever-lengthening ladder of New York hotels, it has found a comfortable place somewhere on its superior rungs, especially since the addition of its new restaurant. In terms of style, it has not strayed too far from its traditional, Beaux Arts origins and may well be labelled, since its rooms were renovated in 2008 by The Rockwell Group, as modern luxury (although better examples do exist, The London NYC, for example.) Well equipped guest rooms and an attentive service are probably trumped by its great location and excellent eatery/bar, Millesime.
Not our favourite of the New York Thompson properties (that distinction goes to 60 Thompson), but certainly more joyous than the Gild Hall a little further south from here. Featuring the clean lines and smart, muted colour schemes that we have come to know and love together with some unique design characteristics by Yabu Pushelberg, the Smyth TriBeCa is a funky property which boasts sleek, well appointed and decent sized rooms, comfortable and intimate public spaces and fine dining and drinking options. Located Downtown, close to FiDi, it is perfect for those looking for a different perspective on Manhattan other than that of the touristy Midtown. Although it is more of a hotel for holidaying couples, it could equally appeal to the business person or family who are just as welcome!
There's no getting away from the fact that the Verve is not one of New York's top hotels as its design, location and services suggest, however, what we can definitely say is that it knows exactly what its clients needs and provides it effectively at great value. Its rooms are basic but clean, functional and spacious and there hotel boasts many nice touches which make this a good option for money-conscious tourists and business people who are not too worried about being right in the mix of things in Manhattan. As long as you are conscious of its limitations, we'd recommend this quiet, friendly hotel in an area which will soon be thriving.
Another one of those pleasant surprises, the Condor is a homely little number with some well-equipped, spacious rooms and a great team of staff. There's no getting away from the fact that its situation is not great if you are in town for sightseeing, however, Manhattan is accessible if you are not in a huge rush to move around. One of the few kosher hotels in the city, the Condor might not be the most stylish or trendy, but it does offer great value for money and an alternative to the clichéd Midtown properties.
The Z was the first big noise on the Long Island City hotel scene and to a certain extent we can understand why: the building itself is quite imposing, the views across the East River are magnificent and the spacious, nicely appointed rooms offer far better value than you'd find in Manhattan. That said, there are some downsides to staying in this relatively undeveloped part of the city and there are elements of the hotel, such as the staff and the food, which we found to be a little disappointing. Suitable for couples who've been there and done that in Manhattan and who are looking for a new perspective on New York City.
A welcome addition to the Williamsburg hotel scene, this new property, which was acquired by King and Grove no sooner had it opened, is very much a reflection of the fashionable neighbourhood in which it is found. A fresh, net and contemporary architecture is married with sleek, '60s Scandinavian style interiors, top notch fitness facilities and stunning views from its rooftop. This, together with the hotel's hip and friendly staff, make of the Williamsburg the new go to hotel in the area, particularly suitable for young couples and professionals whether they be in NYC for business or pleasure.
An historic property two thirds of the way up Central Park on the Upper East Side, the Hotel Wales is ideal if you are searching for a calmer location than Midtown in a leafy neighbourhood setting. It is true that some of the guestrooms are in the pokey side and certain bits of furniture could do with being replaced, but the place retains a certain charm with some original features and a pleasant communal lounge on the first floor. It is ideally located for those requiring access to Mount Sinai Hospital as well as those wanting to be close to Museum Mile and the high end shops of Madison Avenue. There are no wellness facilities on site but there is a branch of the chain restaurant Sarabeth's next door.
One of the city's newest hotels, the Aloft just also happens to be one of the hippest too. The Starwood brand, a kind of 'no frills' W, makes its debut in New York and is, incredibly, the first new hotel to be built in Harlem for 40 years. Not only does the Aloft represent a new concept in hotels in the city, but also reflects the rise and rise of this once unexplored borough north of Central Park. The property's design is highly contemporary, the rooms are generous in their surface area and the staff members are not your usual suspects (more on them later). What's more, come the evening, the lobby takes on a new lease of life and attracts a trendy, eclectic crowd. A loft is a breath of fresh air which young travellers on a medium-sized budget should definitely experience.
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.
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.
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?
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.