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Insider’s Guide: New York’s hip and grand hotels


BY JAMES WILKINSON IN NEW YORK

New York is home to a number of the world’s leading boutique and luxury hotels that span the length and breadth of Manhattan. SpiceNews checks-in to five of the top properties to find out what they offer and how they are trend-setting against some fierce competition.
 

Boutique at its best: New York’s Crosby Street Hotel

CROSBY STREET HOTEL
Owned by the London-based Firmdale Group, the 86-room Crosby Street Hotel is all about designer rooms, cocktails and mini-burgers with some of New York’s finest hospitality. Led by General Manager Jakob Hansen, the property stands tall as arguably the finest hotel in the hip New York neighbourhood of Soho even whilst the ‘hood has seen a significant increase in room inventory over the last few years. The interior design by the famed Kit Kemp has a strong emphasis on colour and texture, reflecting the designer’s personal style, which is best described as fresh, contemporary and “sometimes quirky” according to Firmdale. Each room has been individually designed and is highlighted by the fabrics, textures and unique pieces of furniture. The ceiling-to-floor warehouse-style windows have views over Soho, while the rooms also feature the latest technology, including flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations, DVD players and WiFi. The bathrooms are luxurious and are highlighted by the feature of granite, oak and glass and complement the oversized studio rooms.  Downstairs, the lobby is led by grey oak floorboards, a 10-foot-high Jaume Plensa steel sculpture of a human head and individually-designed furniture. Below is something truly unique – a 100-seat cinema, popular for both events and when the hotel is screening a black and white flick. The hotel’s Crosby Bar features not just brilliant design – including 1950s lights, a long pewter bar and comfortable couches – but arguably the best mini-burgers and martinis in Soho. Guests can enjoy drinks in the exclusive courtyard next door, which features a tall, petrified tree sculpture and rustic furniture. 79 Crosby Street, New York, NY, www.crosbystreethotel.com
 

The Andaz brand champion: Andaz Fifth Avenue

ANDAZ FIFTH AVENUE

Hyatt’s Andaz brand has seen significant growth over the last three years and in New York, two properties in the company’s lifestyle collection have proven to be global standouts for the US-based global chain. The Andaz Fifth Avenue and Andaz Wall Street (see below) showcase the best of the brand in two unique ways, highlighting how Hyatt are trying to ensure each hotel in the collection remains individual. At the Andaz Fifth Avenue, the property’s Australian General Manager Jonathan Frolich leads a team that needs to be on the ball in a challenging market like New York. In the Big Apple, Andaz Fifth Avenue sits in the lifestyle segment – dominated by brands like W, Thompson, The Standard and Crosby Street – and Frolich acknowledges that it certainly is challenging. He said the hotel has a large range of guest profiles, from those that seek a lifestyle offering to people that want a five-star experience without the luxury rates. Andaz Fifth Avenue defines what Hyatt is trying to do with the brand. There’s no huge sign outside and there are no check-in desks. Instead, guests are checked in on tablets while given a glass of wine, coffee or water in what is by far the most relaxed arrival experience in New York. Each of the 184 guestrooms (which start at 322 square feet) offer free WiFi, a complimentary minibar with non-alcoholic drinks and snacks in a unique glass cupboard, a small daybed, oversized bathrooms with large showers and polished floorboards. The property is located across the road from the New York Public Library (where ‘Ghostbusters’ was filmed) and in the lobby, guests can enjoy a range of books on loan in what is a brilliant example of going the extra mile. 485 5th Avenue, New York, NY, www.andaz.com
 

Grand location: The Setai Fifth Ave

THE SETAI FIFTH AVENUE
One of New York’s newest hotels and managed by the fast-growing Capella Hotels company, The Setai Fifth Avenue has been a popular addition to the city’s accommodation industry thanks to not just oversized rooms and suites, but impeccable service. The 214-room property – made up of 157 rooms and 57 apartment suites – could simply rely on its mid-town Fifth Avenue location, but the staff go above and beyond when it comes to service, from the impeccable pressing service (five items are done free on arrival) to the complimentary Maserati transfers to most parts of Manhattan. In a city where attitude can dominate in restaurants, the service levels remain high in the hotel’s Al Fiori dining room, where wait staff give you genuine tips on food and wine without overselling. It’s a similar story when it comes to the concierge desk, especially when requesting tickets for shows and attractions in the Big Apple. Upstairs, the large rooms and suites – ranging from 450 to 2000 square feet – have been designed in a mix of contemporary and luxury. Guests can expect a large bedroom with Duxiani beds, Pratesi linen, bathrooms that star Grohe bath fixtures and Luce di Luna marble countertops, and kitchens with large fridges, cooking areas and espresso machines. Luxurious bathroom amenities and large wardrobes round-out the experience alongside lightning fast WiFi and large flatscreen TVs. The Setai Fifth Avenue may not have been the city’s most prominent opening over the last 18 months, but it’s been arguably one of the best and it’s easy to see why the property has been performing particularly well. 400 5th Avenue, New York, NY, www.setaififthavenue.com


Hip to be square: Andaz Wall Street

ANDAZ WALL STREET
Most visitors to New York wouldn’t think of a stay at the very bottom of Manhattan, but it’s increasingly popular for travellers to the city – and not just those doing business down this end of town. The first Andaz in New York, the 253-room Wall Street property has a strong following and a very high TripAdvisor rating, being number 10 of 430 hotels listed in the city. The hotel gets points for its contemporary-designed rooms, excellent room service and the helpful staff who are very good ambassadors for not just this property, but the Andaz brand. Like the Andaz Fifth Avenue, the rooms feature complimentary non-alcoholic minibar items and free WiFi along with luxurious C.O Bigelow bathroom amenities. Seven-foot-high windows are also a key feature, as is the in-room entertainment on the large flatscreen TVs. There’s also a 24-hour gym in the hotel and two impressive food and beverage outlets – Bar Seven Five and Wall & Water restaurant, both which serve good local wines and farm to table produce, something not regularly found in New York City. 75 Wall Street, New York, NY, www.andaz.com
 

Service, service, service: The Plaza

THE PLAZA
A hotel that needs little introduction, The Plaza has been the scene of 30 films, countless television shows and in its 105-year history has been a home-away-from-home for the most powerful men and women in the world. It’s been owned by famed business people and hoteliers alike – Conrad Hilton had the property from 1943-1955, while it was Donald Trump’s piece-de-resistance from 1988-1995 – and following an extensive three year USD$450 million refurbishment that finished in 2008, it’s now also home to some of New York’s most prominent residents. The ‘new’ Plaza is managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts and features 282 rooms (including 102 suites) and 152 private condo residences, all featuring classically-redesigned rooms that showcase the stunning architectural history of the hotel. The guest rooms are also technologically advanced – each has an iPad that controls a number of features in the rooms, including the lights, television and air conditioning. On the iPads, guests can also order room service, make restaurant reservations and communicate directly with the concierge team. For those staying in the suites that don’t want to embrace the new technology, a butler is available on call – a service that retains the Plaza’s rich history. Downstairs, the hotel is as popular with F&B as it is for stays. The Palm Court is the highlight and serves up arguably New York’s best afternoon tea, while the Champagne Bar has a wine list featuring the top bottles of bubbles from France. Below, The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English is an open-kitchen style food court that’s becoming increasingly popular for New Yorkers looking for a high-quality, good-value lunch. 5th Avenue at Central Park South, New York, NY, www.theplaza.com
 

Air New Zealand’s premium economy

GETTING THERE
SpiceNews flew to New York with Air New Zealand and Virgin America. A number of flights on Air New Zealand’s Auckland-Los Angeles service are operated by new Boeing 777-300 aircraft, which feature the next-generation premium economy cabin, which offers futuristic seats, gourmet dining thanks to new induction ovens, a fine selection of wine, entertainment on demand and large pillows to ensure a good night’s sleep. Virgin America offers one of the best domestic economy cabins in the sky, complete with live in-flight TV and WiFi, and food and drinks on demand, which can be ordered from your seat. Virgin’s schedule connects well with Air New Zealand and while you’re flying across the United States, you’ll also pick up valuable Velocity Rewards points to redeem on Virgin Australia flights. For bookings, visit www.airnz.com.au and www.virginamerica.com


A Virgin America A320