Tried & Tested

Hotel check: The Carlton

25 Oct 2006 by business traveller

What's it like? An independently-owned and managed hotel, built in 1904, that has recently had a US$60 million renovation – although the property still retains many of its original features. A new lobby has been added, with a two-storey waterfall providing a relaxing welcome to the hotel.

Where is it? On Madison Avenue between 28th and 29th Streets, a short walk from the Empire State Building.

How many rooms? A combined total of 316 guestrooms and suites.

Room facilities There was some confusion over my booking but hotel staff managed to find me a room to use initially and I was moved to another room later in the day when I returned from my meetings. There are three main room types in addition to the suites – twin (with two double beds), king and queen. All the rooms have been modernised and are fitted with traditional furnishings in creams, white and browns.

Guestrooms have a small desk with a chair, a couple of comfortable armchairs and two mahogany cupboards/wardrobes – one of which contains the TV and minibar and the other a safe, iron and mini ironing board. All furnishings are of high quality and I slept well in my large bed, which had cotton linen and soft duvets and pillows. The clock-radio also has a docking station for an iPod. The bathrooms are fitted out in marble with large bathrobes and toiletries from Penhaligon's Quercus range. Wireless broadband is provided for free and works well, and wireless cards can be rented from the business centre.

Restaurants and bars There is a bar/café/restaurant called Country, situated on the ground floor and first floor. It has two bars, one feeling very much like a gentlemens' club and the other far more modern. The decor is traditional with a modern twist.
Country's café is open from 7am until midnight. It has plenty of seating for dining but is very busy. I had not booked a table but showed up at 6.30pm and was lucky to find one small table available, but on the whole, booking is strongly advised. The menu in the bar includes a wide variety of food such as chowder, salads, shrimp, pasta, fish and steak. Starters are from US$10-21 with main courses from US$17-US$36 and desserts at US$8.

I skipped the starters and had a herb risotto with caramelised mushrooms and crisp shallots. Both this and my guest's burger were very good, although the vegetables that were ordered (instead of fries) did not appear without chasing up. The desserts – risotto rice-pudding with passion fruit gelée and mango sorbet, and lemon-mousse cake with vanilla sorbet – were wonderful.

Service was very quick, so if you're looking to spend time over your meal, don't order too soon. The bar has a real buzz, but if you want a more subdued drink, the champagne bar upstairs is quieter and a little more relaxed. There is an extensive US and international wine list. I chose a bottle of Gavi which, at US$34 plus tax, was one of the cheaper items.

The main restaurant is for fine dining and opens each day from 5.30pm. There is a fixed menu, at US$85, with regularly changing items and four or five choices per course. Again, booking is recommended.

Room service is also available from 7am to midnight from the same kitchen, which means, with chef Geoffrey Zakarian, quality should be good.

Business and meeting facilities There are several meeting and function rooms capable of holding everything from small board meetings to receptions for 175 people. Each room has its own unique style. A business centre with a couple of modern PCs and printers is available to guests 24 hours a day on the ground floor behind reception. There is also an ATM there.

Other considerations There is no gym yet but guests can show their key at Boom Fitness Centre five blocks away at 4 Park Avenue and receive complimentary access. A spa is being built shortly for treatments and this will open in mid-2007.

Price Best flexible internet rate for a midweek stay in early November was US$429 plus taxes for a classic room.

Verdict A well-located hotel with good service and a relaxed vibe – I felt very much at home.

Contact The Carlton, 88 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, US, tel +1 212 532 4100;

Julian Gregory

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