WHAT’S IT LIKE?
The Mark takes the form of a luxurious five-star property in a renovated landmark building from the 1920s. A hotel throughout the course of its history, it was closed in 2006 for a 2.5-year facelift that saw its interiors entirely reconstructed to 21st-century standards and proportions.
The art deco rooms and public spaces were conceived by French designer Jacques Grange, who has previously worked for Yves St Laurent and Valentino. He also partnered with Parisian gallerist Pierre Passebon, who oversaw the furnishings and objets d’art dotted around the place.
Entering the ground-floor lobby of the 16-storey building (though note there is no level 13), the chic, inviting lobby is decked out in black and white striped marble, with the reception desk tucked away around the corner to the left. Doormen are always on hand to help with luggage and whistle for cabs, and receptionists are cheerful, welcoming and helpful.
To the right is a seating area with funky orange armchairs and, straight ahead, two lifts that serve the upper floors. Just off the lobby, immediately to the left upon entering, is the Mark bar, leading through to the Mark restaurant by Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
While the lobby is a little more on the funky side, the bedrooms look and feel considerably more conservative and elegant, with a palette of cream, gold, chestnut and spearmint green. The Mark is not an ostentatious hotel but you can expect high quality amenities, décor, technology and service.
WHERE IS IT? In Midtown Manhattan, on Madison Avenue at 77th Street, close to Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
ROOM FACILITIES Standard Superior Courtyard rooms start from 37 sqm and are located on floors three to eight. Each has a king or queen beds made up with Italian linens and Quagliotti pillows and covers, with furniture in sycamore, ebony and velvet. All guests receive a free daily paper and bottles of Evian.
Black granite bars feature drawers that slide out, inside of which are snacks, soft and alcoholic drinks, and ice, while tech includes Creston room controls for the lights, air conditioning and entertainment (useful in theory but it didn’t always work very well), plus 32-inch Bang and Olufsen HD televisions (though some of these are being replaced with Samsungs), TVs integrated into the bathroom mirrors and free wifi.
Bathrooms are very stylish, with black and white striped marble, huge tubs, heated towel racks, twin sinks, plush robes and slippers, glass-enclosed walk-in showers and spearmint cupboards with nickel finishes.
I was staying in a Seventy-Seven King room facing the street through a deep-set window. (Annoyingly, the wind wouldn’t stop whistling through it.) The room was a good size, at 46 sqm, with space for a circular workdesk, two chairs, an armchair and ottoman at the far end. Overall, I couldn't help feeling it was a bit bland.
Inside the wardrobe was a handy iron/ironing board but not enough coat hangars. (I’m sure they would have brought more on request though.) I was impressed with the shower, which was really powerful and invigorating.
Higher category Studios and suites come with kitchens, which make them good for longer stays, as well as additional space in the form of living rooms, foyers, dining rooms and studies.
The fittings tend to be upgraded too, with hardwood floors, plush area rugs and the option of different mattresses, depending on how hard or soft you like them. Suites on the higher floors also have better views, mainly of the city but some also glimpse Central park.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS The ground-floor Mark bar isn’t big but it’s usually buzzing with well cut businessmen and glamorous ladies reclining on cow-hide sofas and drinking kumquat mojitos. There is a curving stainless counter with sit-up stools, offset with Moroccan-style lighting and a red diamond-patterned carpet. It’s a surprising combination, but quite atmospheric after dark.
Continue through the bar and you will be led by a tiger-print carpet, past a wine wall, into the orange-hued Mark restaurant by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. There are three main sections – the first a more casual area with another bar and round dark wood tables, and then two more formal spaces where tables are draped in white cloths and one of the seating sections is beneath a glass atrium.
The restaurant, I was told, is popular with politicians, actors and fashion executives, and can seat up to 170 people. There is also an adjacent private dining room for up to 28 guests.
I had breakfast one morning, and wasn’t particularly impressed with the service or the value – I wasn’t asked whether I wanted bread or a bagel (I was given a piece of baguette), and didn’t feel especially welcomed. To make matters worse, the cheapest continental option of a bread/pastry basket, fresh orange juice and coffee amounts to about US$50 with gratuity and tax.
My experience in the evening was a lot better. I sat in the less formal part of Jean-Georges, and found the waiting staff to be very charming and helpful, talking us through the extensive, varied seasonal menu and making recommendations.
Along with pasta, pizza and salads, there were Japanese-American “raw” bites such as shrimp cocktail (US$24), beef carpaccio (US$23), chilled Maine lobster (US$26), and crispy-coated sushi of salmon, tuna, scallop, hamichi and avocado (US$25), which my guest raved about.
I started with the chilled artichoke petals with a citrusy, mustard dipping sauce (US$20), followed by the black truffle and fontina cheese pizza (US$28), simply because I had never had a truffle pizza before and thought the combination of my two favourite things might be heaven on Earth. In reality, it was rather too rich to finish. But it was pretty delicious.
Fish options included roasted hake with lemon crumbs, spinach and sweet garlic sauce (US$34), while the meat section gave diners the choice of “simply cooked” salmon, veal chops, roasted chicken and the like, or more calorific dishes such as the Mark cheeseburger with black truffle dressing and brie (US$31). They do love their truffle here.
There were also half a dozen daily specials and a host of tempting sides, from maitake mushrooms with sesame and lime to hand-cut French fries. If you are indecisive when it comes to ordering, you’ll be in trouble. Check out the latest food offerings here. And don’t miss out on the sour cream cheesecake with raspberry glaze.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES
A stylish option for small corporate get-togethers, there are two meeting rooms with natural light on the second floor with high-speed internet and iButlers for any IT issues. Metropolitan can host 14 delegates for a conference, while Whitney can seat 20 theatre-style.
The Mark suites can also be hired. There is no ballroom or business centre, but guests can borrow laptops from reception or forward documents to them to print.
There is a modern, high-tech 130 sqm fitness centre on the second floor with a good range of Life Fitness equipment and free weights, as well as the option to take classes in Thai kick boxing, with martial arts experts at Punch Fitness. The gym is open 24 hours a day with access provided with a room key, but the best idea is to go for a run in Central Park, just a couple of minutes away.
Bikes are available for hire, and guests have access to Bergdorf Goodman 24/7, thanks to a special partnership with the high-end retail store. Also on the second level is a John Lobb shoeshine station and a large Frederic Fekkai hair salon.
VERDICT A comfortably stylish five-star hotel in a great Manhattan location. Unless you are looking to host large events here, which you can’t, or are on a budget (it’s expensive), the Mark is ideal for corporate travellers who will be very well looked after. The Jean-Georges restaurant is a destination in itself, and worth trying for a meal in the evening, whether you are on your own or with company.
- HOW MANY ROOMS?
There are 100 rooms in three categories (Superior Courtyard, Madison and Seventy-Seven Kings) and 50 suites (Mark Studio, Mark Premier Studio, Courtyard Junior suite, Seventy-Seven Junior suite, Park Studio, Manhattan suite, Garden suite, Mark Premier suite, Madison suite, Mark two-bedroom and Mark Premier two-bedroom suites).
- HIGHLIGHTS The free wifi, the superbly comfortable bed, the huge bath with a TV integrated into the mirror and the Midtown location near Central park at the Met Museum.
- PRICE Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in June started from US$526 for a Superior Courtyard room.
- CONTACT The Mark, Madison Avenue at 77th Street, New York; tel +1 212 744 4300; themarkhotel.com