Tried & Tested

Hotel review: Virgin Hotels New York

11 Apr 2023 by Tamsin Cocks
Virgin Hotels New York opening (photo by Tamsin Cocks)

Background

Virgin Hotels New York had a soft opening in February, before the official grand opening party on April 4. Business Traveller was at the launch event, attended by Richard Branson.

This is the seventh Virgin hotels property in the portfolio, following the recent opening in Edinburgh. The next one due to open will be in Glasgow in May, with the two Scottish properties the only ones currently outside of the US.

The brand recently merged with luxury brand Virgin Limited Edition, a collection of eight unique retreats, including Necker Island.

Occupying a brand new skyscraper of 39 floors, the hotel features 460 guest rooms (known as “Chambers”), including 39 suites and two penthouses.

NY skyline from VHNY (photo by Tamsin C)

Where is it?

The property is located in the heart of Manhattan, in the city’s NoMad neighbourhood (north of Madison Square Park). Nearby attractions include Madison Square Gardens, Times Square and the Empire States Building, which can be viewed from many of the guest rooms and public spaces. 

VHNY lobby motif (image from Virgin)

What’s it like?

Virgin Hotels New York is a visual feast that’s full of character and attention to detail. The design language was spearheaded by Brooklyn-based MARKZEFF and architectural firm Stance to bring out Virgin’s cool, distinctive brand personality alongside a taste of New York.

There are more than 100 works of art throughout the property. This begins in the lobby with a fun “Where’s Richard” mural by Nigel Sussman, that subtly references various businesses in the Virgin portfolio. Lobby staff are cool, friendly and individual – the person checking me in sported a fabulous pair of bejewelled glasses. Even the door keycards have been given attention, with a funky cassette graphic in a nod to Virgin Records.

After the lobby, you go down a narrow corridor to a bank of six “smart lifts” where you select your floor from a digital panel that then directs you to a lift and – theoretically – streamlines the process. However, in this case, the smart technology didn’t quite live up to its name, as the swiping motion on the panel was hard to use, the lifts were slow, and during the hotel tour we actually got stuck in one lift and had to be rescued by a mechanic… but let’s put this down to teething problems. 

VHNY Chamber King (photo by Tamsin C)

Rooms

I stayed in room 1512, an entry-level Chamber King. It’s surprisingly spacious for a New York hotel at 277 sq ft. Distinctive Virgin-red accents pop up everywhere, from the front door to the Smeg minibar fridge to the shower head. Before you do anything, you’re going to want to walk straight to the far end of the room, where floor-to-ceiling windows offer thrilling views of the city. From my corner room, I was just able to glimpse the side of the Empire State Building.

VHNY King Chamber (photo by Tamsin Cocks)

There are lots of distinctive and quirky details in the room. The custom-made king-size bed has a unique concept to double up as a casual work area. This is achieved with a sofa extending from the headboard, with a movable circular marble coffee table in front of it, plus two built-in US power sockets and two USB ports. Overhead is a stylish black overhead hanging lamp.

More bizarrely is a sort of chair back attached to the right hand bottom corner of the bed to allow people to use the bed as a chair to work in, or to host collaborative sessions – a sort of bed boardroom? Personally I found this more of a novelty than a practical solution. The bed itself was extremely comfortable, with a soft mattress you sink into, luxurious pillows and soft white cotton sheets.

Facing opposite the bed was a wall-mounted HD TV screen. In addition to featuring 74 TV channels, it features chrome cast options to stream your own content. The TV can also be intuitively navigated via the remote to order room service, control the air conditioning, and select a host of concierge services like requesting more hangers or booking transportation. This can also be done if you download the Lucy App.

By the side of the bed is a bedside table with phone, alarm clock (which annoyingly had not been adjusted to daylight savings, so was an hour behind), a wireless fast-charging port, a phone, notepad and pen, as well as plugs and USB sockets, plus a master panel for lights – although they are not clearly labelled as to which control corresponds to which light. Wifi was free and fast. On the headboard wall is a cool NY cityscape artwork done in a signature red crayon sketch style. Automatic lighting throughout the room is controlled by motion sensor, which, while this may be environmentally friendly, was also a bit distracting at night if you are a restless sleeper as they are very sensitive. 

Also in the bedroom is a feature minibar section, with a large red SMEG mini fridge packed with goodies, from Perrier Jouët champagne to bottled cocktails, plus hefty bottles of Absolute vodka and Hudson Whisky NY. Still and sparkling bottled water are chargeable (though free water and an ice machine are located in hotel corridors). The fridge had a tendency to buzz rather loudly, which could be distracting through the night. A dual bin offered normal waste and recycling partition, which I appreciated. There was also a Nespresso machine with complimentary capsules, “Sugar Daddy” sweeteners, and recyclable stirrers. A selection of quirky snacks included Tiny Tate’s cookies, popcorn, beef jerky, colourful M&Ms and potato chips. There was also a “couples pack” with two prophylactics and lubrication… 

VHNY Dressing Room (photo by Tamsin Cocks)

A sliding door separates the bedroom from the dressing room, and when closed, this also reveals a full length mirror. This is again a stylish space with some nice details. An elegant dressing table features a very flattering backlit mirror – almost like a selfie ring, with another magnifying handheld mirror in the drawer and Gilchrist & Soames vanity pack of earbuds and cotton pads, plus a large tissue box and decorative holder. 

The vanity table could also be used as a desk, with power sockets and USB port nearby. Either side are two light wood wardrobe spaces, that can be concealed with a draw curtain, and feature a number of proper hangers, safe, bathrobes and slippers. It’s also a useful space to store luggage. There is also an iron and ironing board, umbrella and a yoga mat in every room.

The sink area is opposite the vanity table and is also an attractive area, with black fixtures and a white marble surface, plus two wall-mounted lights either side. 

A separate shower and toilet are behind frosted glass doors. The shower was large with a bench seat and featured a rain shower option as well as a handheld nozzle (again in signature Virgin red) plus a range of high quality red flower amenities in large bottles for shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. A selection of towels are under the sink, with hooks on the back of the door to hang them up once used. 

VHNY EVERDENE DAY (photo by Virgin)

Food and drink

Everdene is the hotels all-day dining/bar/terrace space. This is an enormous 4,000 square foot area occupying the whole of the third floor, with multiple sections such as the more exclusive Shag Room and a fantastic wraparound terrace that offers impressive city views even though it’s relatively low down. It’s size, decor, and numerous spaces lend themselves well to all kinds of occasions from casual meetings, co-working, drinks, fancy cocktails and more. There is live music six nights a week and space for DJs (we enjoyed a live jazz performance centred around the grand red piano), while on Sundays there is a drag brunch cabaret. The main bar can open to the outside thanks to garage-like windows. 

Extensive breakfast options (7am-11am) range from the “Not so Virgin Breakfast” fry-up ($30) to a more wholesome superfood granola ($17), with a selection of fruits, juices and sides – the “Beet it up” was a favourite. For dinner, highlights included the kale and cabbage salad ($18) and a moreish taglioni with forest mushroom ($30). The wine menu is still in development, but there is a good selection of beer on tap and signature cocktails. Service however was slightly frustrating. While the staff were friendly and their individual personalities shone through (one waitress sported a fabulous velvet red catsuit), service was also quite slow and forgetful.

A signature Italian restaurant (name yet to be revealed) will open this summer on the fourth floor. It can be accessed from Everdene via a striking grand winding red staircase. Cuisine will be Italian with Latin influences directed by the group’s executive chef Freddy Vargas, and will feature an open kitchen. 

Meetings

The hotel features 19,000 sq feet of event spaces, which includes two meeting rooms, Level 38 – the Sky Loft event space, with incredible views through floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding the venue, and the Conservatory and outdoor terrace on the third floor, which can be used for weddings and private events.

Leisure

The fifth floor gym is large with a good selection of internet-enabled TechnoGym equipment, including four treadmills (with views overlooking the Empire States Building), three cross trainers and various weights and machines. There is also a large outdoor terrace which is a great spot for yoga (with complimentary mats provided in all rooms). 

A pool is located on the fourth floor. This was relatively small, but has a nice patio with deckchairs and is connected to a stunning pool bar making it a cool option for private events, and the city views were fantastic.

The Exhale Spa is also due to open towards the end of the year, which will be located on the lower “Sub Cellar 2” level. 

Verdict

Cool, fun and packed with personality in a fantastic location. The Virgin Hotel New York certainly stands out and will appeal to a cool, modern guest. Once a few kinks have been worked out with service and the lift situation, this will be a very appealing option. 

FACT BOX

  • Best for: Stylish stays in the heart of Manhattan to mix work with leisure
  • Don’t miss: Events and stunning views on the 38th floor Sky Loft 
  • Price: Rates start from US$595
  • Contact: 1227 Broadway, New York, NY 10001; virginhotels.com/nyc
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