Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Jumeirah Essex House New York

1 Mar 2008 by business traveller

WHAT’S IT LIKE? This 44-storey property, overlooking Central Park in midtown Manhattan, is housed in a 76-year-old building, one of over 200 hotels and resorts listed under the National Trust Historic Hotels of America. Polished beige, tan and black marble floors, dark mahogany wall panelling, gold-leaf mouldings and crystal chandeliers are some highlights of the expanded lobby – the result of a recent US$90 million facelift by Atlanta-based design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates that paid homage to the hotel’s original Art Deco heritage. Paintings and photographs of the Manhattan skyline and Central Park were commissioned under the hotel’s new artists-in-residence programme, to enhance the interiors. All 515 guestrooms, the health club, spa and the corridors were also transformed as part of the refurbishment completed during the last quarter of 2007. A restaurant serving modern American food opened just last month.

WHERE IS IT? John F Kennedy International Airport is less than 19km away and Newark Liberty Airport is 24km. In the epicentre of New York’s cultural buzz, the hotel is within walking distance of famous leisure and entertainment attractions like Fifth Avenue, Columbus Circle, the Theatre District and Times Square. The nearest subway station, 57th Street-7th Avenue is two blocks away.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 515 rooms and suites ranging from 26sqm to 84sqm, with views of Central Park and Manhattan.

ROOM FACILITIES: All guestrooms were outfitted with a user-friendly LCD touch-screen control panel for lighting and moods (for reading, relaxing and watching TV), background music and temperature. For the benefit of less tech-savvy guests, the hotel has kept the traditional control switches after the renovation. An uncluttered living area was achieved through the use of wall-to-wall wood cabinetry units offering ample workspace, a sleek red leather-lined stationary compartment, accordion-fashioned blinds and a flat-screen television. Other room standards include a leather swivel chair, leather-rimmed mirror, honey-toned wood veneers, VOIP phone, wireless and mobile phone repeaters, high-speed internet connection (from US$7.95 per hour, up to US$49.95 weekly), electronic minibar, laptop-size safe and ostrich-print upholstered headboard with a custom-programmed colour-changing LED fixture for creating a variety of different moods in the room. The sensor lights under the tables beside my king-size bed were useful markers for night time.

My favourite spot was the beige lounge sofa by the park-facing window, for watching the day go by in the comfort of my Central Park King Room on level five. However, it is advisable to ask for a room on a higher floor, lest you find the footsteps of passing horses a tad noisy.

RESTAURANTS: Replacing the all-day dining Art-Deco outlet The Restaurant, the Tony Chi-designed South Gate has a fresh, sleek interior and looks out to the park. Celebrated chef Kerry Heffernan, formerly of Eleven Madison Park, serves up a modern American cuisine here.

BARS: The lobby lounge is cosy, with plush white-leather banquettes, burgundy-draped alcove and faux crystal-beaded table lamps reminiscent of the 1920s. Light breakfast, all-day snacks, hot beverages and cocktails are available between 0700 and 2200 daily and afternoon tea is from 1400 and 1800.

BUSINESS FACILITIES: The Grand Salon can accommodate up to 550 people, while the Petit Salon caters to 150. There are also 16 meeting rooms and a business centre with meeting rooms as well.

LEISURE FACILITIES: A 232-square-metre spa provides sauna, steam bath and massage services, while the 24-hour health club has an extensive range of equipment like weight resistance exercise machines and elliptical machines. Complimentary walking tours around Central Park can be arranged by hotel staff. Outside the hotel, guests can partake in the quintessential New York experience, like a horse-drawn carriage ride (from Central Park South at 59th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues), dining at the numerous delis and visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

PRICE: A weekday stay in late May starts from US$549 nightly without taxes.

VERDICT: A carefully executed project that delivered the luxurious hospitality that Jumeirah is known for.

CONTACT: 160 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019, tel 1 212 247 0300, www.jumeirah.com

Julian Tan

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