First opened in 1926, and operated by Intercontinental since the 1970s, this venerable Manhattan property was one of the original railroad hotels, built near Grand Central station. It closed for a US$180 million renovation in 2014, reopening 20 months later in April last year.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
The 16-floor building was originally designed in “neo-Federal, American Colonial” style by Cross and Cross, also behind Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue store. The revamp, which involved the redesign of more than 39,000 sqm of space, boosted the room count from 685 to 702 by reducing the number of suites. A Club Intercontinental lounge, two large ballrooms and a splendid top-floor Penthouse suite were also added.
The lobby is expansive and elegant, with plenty of marble, columns, floral displays and, at the far end, a new Carrara marble grand staircase leading up to the meeting floor. There is lounge seating in the centre, with reception desks, a concierge room and business centre to the right, and the Gin Parlour bar to the left. It’s an impressive, bustling space.
WHERE IS IT?
Well located for either business or leisure in Midtown, on East 48th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues.
The 702 rooms, which include 33 suites, have been revamped to be “reminiscent of a classic Park Avenue home”, while adding modern touches. In a largely pale grey colour palette, many feature wall murals inspired by 19th-century Hudson River School landscapes, while others have fireplaces. Categories range from entry-level Superior (from 24 sqm) to the 250 sqm Harold S Vanderbilt Penthouse suite, which also has a fabulous 120 sqm terrace looking on to the Chrysler Building.
Included as standard are comfortable king or queen beds (I slept well and there was only a limited amount of noise from the outside world), 42-inch LED TVs, a table to work at, tea and coffee facilities, iron/ironing boards, safes, minibars, robes, and bottled water on arrival. Wifi costs US$15 (plus taxes) per day for standard access or US$20 for high-speed (free for IHG Rewards members). Turndown service is available on request.
Bathrooms have a mixture of walk-in showers only, showers over baths, or separate tubs and showers. The shower power could do with being a bit stronger. Suite guests receive toiletries by Caswell-Massey, which had its flagship store in the hotel for 84 years; otherwise it’s Intercontinental’s standard Agraria products.
The Club Intercontinental lounge is tucked away to the left of the lobby. Open 6.30am-8pm, it’s a large space and was quiet whenever I dropped in. It serves a buffet breakfast, light refreshments, afternoon tea, evening cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Club guests can check in here and avail of its business centre and meeting room. Access costs US$100 for double occupancy or US$80 per single guest on top of the room rate (free for Royal Ambassadors; 20 per cent discount for Ambassadors).
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
Considering the size of the property, there is only one, modestly sized bar and restaurant, the Gin Parlour – I imagine that is a reflection of the breadth of choice you will find outside the hotel. Inspired by Dutch and English gin bars of the 1920s, it serves 88 gins and an international menu. It comprises an oval-shaped bar with a dining room behind, and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The property has some 1,400 sqm of event space, mostly located on the first floor, including the impressive 460 sqm Grand Ballroom, which accommodates 450 people theatre-style. A second ballroom holds 350 for a reception.
There is a good-sized 24-hour gym with Technogym kit.
The refurbishment has reinvigorated this historic property, adding contemporary touches while maintaining its classic feel. Comfortable and well equipped for business travellers, in a convenient Midtown location.
Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in July started from US$243 for a Deluxe room.
111 East 48th Street; tel +1 212 755 5900; intercontinentalnybarclay.com