Tried & Tested

Hotel check: The Alex

27 Jan 2008 by Tom Otley

WHAT’S IT LIKE? This is a designer hotel with a personal touch. Revolving doors take you through to a small reception with a triple-height ceiling, a large fireplace, glass-enclosed bamboo, and a colour scheme of tan, beige and pale green “chosen to reflect the elements of earth, land and sky”. Designed by David Rockwell, it’s a suitably low-key, restrained introduction to the style of the hotel. On check-in or when reserving the room, guests complete a “preference profile” so staff can stock up the fridge or book a personal fitness assessment.

WHERE IS IT? Midtown, close to Grand Central station.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 203 rooms and suites in a 33-storey tower.

ROOM FACILITIES Rooms are furnished to a high standard: Frette linens, limestone bathrooms, Frederic Fekkai toiletries and fully-equipped Poggenpohl kitchens with Sub-Zero fridges stocked with Dean and Deluca snacks (bafflingly there was no kettle, but I was told that these could be requested). Rooms have flatscreen TVs, digital audio players, and DVD players, while other nice touches include sweets laid out in drawers in each of the place settings under a glass-topped table. There was a decent-sized workdesk, which folded down out of a credenza, and combining this clever use of space with the personal touch there’s also the Alex Business Cart, which is a “fully-equipped office on wheels which can be rolled into your room and contains a printer/fax/scanner plus writing and office materials”. I was a little disappointed by the condition of the room, with several things broken including a cupboard door which had been propped against a wall, but was impressed by how quickly these were fixed once I had pointed them out. It also had the happy result that with the door back in its right place I found the previously hidden climate control for the room, so could finally turn up the temperature, which had been too cold.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS Under chef Marcus Samuelsson, Riingo offers both American and Japanese classics, with chef Shigenori Tanaka in charge of an eight-seat sushi bar. In addition, there is a 30-seat bar and lounge area next to the lobby, with a good list of cocktails as well as a selection of infused sakes and sake cocktails. The walls are decorated with attractive artwork and the à la carte breakfast is delicious.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES On the third floor there is a small business centre with computer terminals.

LEISURE FACILITIES For a small hotel, there is a good-sized gym (on the third floor), well-equipped with towels, water, fruit, yoga mats and headphones for the exercise machines.

VERDICT The sort of place an independent business traveller would love, habit-forming almost, with the friendliness of the staff, the can-do attitude to requests, and the excellent concierge Flo Marinez.

PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in early February started from US$520 for a Deluxe room (24-hour cancellation).

CONTACT 205 East 45th Street, New York; tel +1 212 867 5100;

Tom Otley

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