Tried & Tested

Hotel Check: The Setai Fifth Avenue

30 Apr 2011

BACKGROUND Opened at the end of last year, this is the first Capella-managed hotel property on the East Coast. The great location, contemporary décor and exciting F&B all ensured it got a lot of attention – from both New Yorkers and visitors – right from the start.

WHAT'S IT LIKE It oozes luxury and sophistication from the minute you step into the lobby. Not the pretentious, in-your-face glamour of some five-stars, but an understated cool which speaks of taste, class and money. Every guest is assigned a personal assistant before they arrive, so you know the service is going to be good. And it is. Your PA is there to make dinner, spa and other reservations and to help with any query, no matter how bizarre. It’s this attention to detail which gives the hotel its edge.

WHERE IS IT? Centrally located in the midtown stretch of Fifth Avenue – between 36th and 37th Streets – it’s prime real estate and just a few minutes walk from Times Square, Macy’s flagship store and Madison Square Garden. The old Tiffany’s building, with its high windows and stunning façade, is directly opposite. The hotel rooms and suites occupy the lower half of the building and privately-owned condominiums – with a separate lift access – are on the upper floors.

ROOM FACILITIES The Capella Group is known for its generosity when it comes to room size and it hasn’t skimped on the New York property. Almost all the rooms are 65sqm or more, making them easily among the largest hotel rooms in Manhattan. Ask for an “Avenue” room or suite to make the most of the view onto one of the world’s most prestigious stretch of pavement. The windows have been cleverly faceted, a smart design which allows for a wide view of the street below and lets in plenty of light.

More than one third of the rooms are suites and have a separate bedroom and living room and a kitchen that’s well equipped with sleek Miele appliances. The suites are so spacious that some even have a washing machine – almost unheard of in a hotel room.

We stayed in a studio suite with large windows that – once you hit the remote for the curtains – let in plenty of natural light. The fittings and furnishings were of excellent quality – Italian wood finish, Calcatta Marble, Duxiana beds and Pratesi linens. The separate dressing room was smartly designed to make unpacking a breeze. And the natural colour palate – pale, earthy tones – extended into the spacious bathroom with its deep-soaking tub, rain shower and television set into the mirror. Even more spacious are the three penthouse suites. The two-bedroom suites are just under 186sqm, with the option of linking two together for a sprawling four-bedroom apartment.

Restaurants & bars The jazz band and extensive wine menu at Bar on 5th contribute to the buzz in the street-level bar, a big hit with the after-work crowd. From there guests can ascend the sweeping staircase to the fine dining restaurant, Al Fiori. The menu celebrates the cuisine of the Italian and French Riviera and Chef Michael White gives a modern twist to some traditional dishes. It’s definitely worth making time for breakfast, also served here. 

Business meeting facilities The Setai doesn’t look like a business hotel, there is no business centre off the lobby, no ugly fax machines cluttering up surfaces, but there’s no doubt it plays host to the cream of the international business community. New York’s movers and shakers keep the bar and restaurant buzzing after office hours and the suites, particularly the larger ones, make a good option for day-time business meetings. Indeed, we are told they are regularly booked for this purpose.

LEISURE FACILITIES The Auriga spa which occupies the entire fourth floor – more than 1,068sqm – takes the urban wellness retreat to a new level. Highlights include the dreamy hammam and state-of-the-art vitality pool and there’s also a sauna, steam room and high-tech experiential showers. The treatments are designed according to the phases of the moon and the massage therapist had magic fingers. A Julien Farel Salon is incorporated into the spa, with separate men’s and women’s salons for private, personal pampering.

VERDICT The Setai is one of New York’s happening hotels. Enjoy the buzz in the bar and restaurant, then retreat to your room or spa of privacy and indulgent pampering.

Kate Whitehead



How many rooms? There are 157 guestrooms, plus 57 suites, including three penthouse apartments.

Room highlights The spaciousness of the room is a massive plus, particularly in New York. Wifi and all the technology you’d wish for, plus an espresso machine.

Price Internet rates for a mid-week stay in June start at US$595.

Contact 400th Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10018; tel +1 212 694 4005;





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