WHAT’S IT LIKE? A member of the Leading Hotels of the World, the Chatwal opened its doors as a hotel in September 2010. The oldest half of the Stanford White-designed building dates back to 1905 when it was opened as a clubhouse for the Lambs Club (the-lambs.org) – America’s first professional theatre organisation, and was the haunt of the likes of Fred Astaire and Cecille B De Mille. Ten years later, a mirror image of this building was erected next door, which is why even today it has two entrances.
The interior aesthetic of the ten-storey hotel was envisioned by Thierry Despont, and the result is an undeniable success. Think “the art of travel” and “the days of cards and cocktails”, 1930s ocean liners, Louis Vuitton trunks, art deco interiors, crimson, noir and burnt orange, smoked mirrors, cashmere and suede, James Bond technology, old-school porters in black and tan outfits, Nat King Cole, polished chrome, Mad Men minibars, and the best of refined New York glamour and prestige.
WHERE IS IT? A short walk from Times Square it is in the heart of Midtown Manhattan on West 44th Street. Newark International airport is about 45 minutes’ drive away (about US$80 in a cab), while JFK is 20-30 minutes by taxi (US$50).
ROOM FACILITIES Bedrooms come in a range of sizes (starting from 28 sqm) and looks, with subtle colourways of either oxblood red, blue or chartreuse in the tinted mirrors of the bathroom, along with either light ochre, grey or light brown suede wall coverings. Wardrobes are clad in faux leather with handles that resemble those of an old suitcase, as are the lids of the workdesks, which when lifted up reveals a mirror for doing make up.
As with many of the rooms, my Stanford bedroom had a couch with a cream cashmere throw, and a coffee table with a backgammon set on it. A retro-style radio was by the bed, art deco posters on the walls, and a well-stocked minibar in one of the wardrobes provided temptations in the form of Debauve and Gallais chocolate, spirits, champagne, beer and a cocktail shaker for your martinis.
The comfortable beds are made up with 400-thread count Frette linens and all rooms feature free wired/wifi internet, Bluray DVD players, a 42-inch flatscreen TV, a safe, turndown service, free shoeshine, mineral water, a personal butler, morning paper and 24-hour room service.
The bathroom was one of the highlights for me, fitted out with tinted mirrored walls, twin chrome and glass-topped sinks, a Japanese Toto toilet with mood lighting, a 19-inch TV screens integrated into the mirror, Asprey bathing products, Kashwere robes and a combined rainshower and spa bath. Some bedrooms have access to outdoor terraces, which are worth asking for if you are staying during the warmer months of the year.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS On the ground floor is the super-stylish Lambs Club lobby bar with high-backed stools, polished glass and steel, and a wall of gleaming bottles. It’s the perfect place to grab a nightcap or meet a client for an obligatory Manhattan in Manhattan before dinner. The adjacent Lambs Club restaurant seats 80 people on slick red leather banquettes for á la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tables are set with crisp white tablecloths and silver cutlery, while freestanding chrome lamps and black and white prints of famous actors and actresses adorn the walls.
I ate here one night and was impressed by the standard of service and the general ambiance of the place – it is obviously popular with locals, which is always a good sign. While vegetarians will be hard pushed to find anything on the menu to eat, those who enjoy meat or fish will be spoilt for choice. Chef Geoffrey Zakarian cooks up modern interpretations of American classics including prime Delmonico steak with braised shallots (US$48) and seared sea scallops with porcini and Vadouvan sauce (US$32). Good value three-course pre- and post-theatre menus are available for US$44.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES There are two meeting spaces – the Club room can seat 100 delegates and can be divided into two for smaller events (although be warned that the yellow and black furniture, red doors and jazzy coloured carpet won’t be to everyone’s taste), while the wood-panelled Stanford White Studio, complete with working fireplace and outdoor terrace, can accommodate up to 35 people. The Studio can also be booked as a guest room for over-night stays.
LEISURE FACILITIES The 220 sqm Chatwal spa is open daily 7am-8pm (8am-6pm Sundays) and has three treatment rooms, two plunge pools, a saltwater lap pool, a relaxation room, a manicure and pedicure station, the use of Kashwere robes and a 24-hour cardio strength studio. Treatments include the 60-minute Gentleman’s Elixir Facial for US$180 and the 60-minute Perfect Performance “deep therapeutic massage” for US$195.
VERDICT An outstanding luxury New York hotel with just the right balance of historical charm and contemporary fixtures and fittings. The service was possibly the best I have ever had. It’s expensive but if you want somewhere special that would appeal to the Mad Man inside you, then this is a must. Don’t forget to try the Lamb’s Club restaurant.
HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 44 bedrooms across four categories including 28 sqm Classic rooms, 32.5 sqm Stanford rooms, 37 sqm Chatwal Theatre rooms and the 56 sqm Stanford White studio, plus 39 suites of nine types including the 48 sqm Premier Junior, the 70 sqm Stanford one-bed, the Chatwal two-bed, the Producers two-bed, the one-bed Directors suite and the Barrymore penthouse.
ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The sophisticated high-end design, state-of-the-art technology, the superb mirrored bathroom with Japanese waterjet Toto toilets, spa bath and Asprey amenities, the backgammon set, free wifi and butler service.
PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in May started from US$634 for a Classic room.