The Whitby is the second New York property (after The Crosby, in Soho) for London-based boutique group Firmdale Hotels. It opened in February.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Like all the Firmdale properties, the Whitby has an immediately identifiable design aesthetic, courtesy of co-owner and design director Kit Kemp. Her signature use of mismatched patterns, textures and colours and imaginative artworks and artefacts is again in evidence throughout the rooms and public spaces, to great effect.
Of all the Firmdale hotels, the Whitby is particularly reminiscent of the most recent London property to open, Ham Yard, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. Like Ham Yard – which was also a new-build – its bright, restful lobby features a multicoloured loom installation on the ceiling by Hermione Skye O’Hea, and an eye-catching clock-cum-art piece. This one, by Dutch designer Maarten Baas, is an ingenious mixed-media grandfather clock, the face of which shows a ghostly Father Time rubbing out and redrawing the hands as each minute passes.
The ground-floor spaces are arranged in a loop – the lobby leads to the guest-only drawing room, which has a fireplace and honesty bar, and in turn leads on to the Orangery and the Whitby bar for all-day dining. Staff are warm and keen to help, wishing you a good day on your way out, welcoming you back with a smile on your return, and quick to grab you a taxi.
WHERE IS IT?
An excellent Midtown location on West 56th Street at Fifth Avenue, three blocks south of Central Park (the group’s other New York property, Crosby Street, is in Soho).
There are 86 rooms and suites across 16 floors. They range from entry-level Superior (31 sqm) to the 171 sqm Whitby suite, which takes up the entire top floor and has a large terrace and the kind of luxurious residential-style interiors that make you want to go home and redecorate.
Each guestroom is individually designed in a colourful, homely style and has warehouse-style floor-to-ceiling windows looking to the front or rear of the property. All offer free wifi, Bose speakers, Samsung flatscreens, Blu-ray players (you can borrow DVDs), minibars and safes. Bottled water is provided at turndown.
Bathrooms are clad in granite or marble and have twin sinks, walk-in showers (suites also have deep free-standing tubs and TVs), thick robes and Kemp’s own Rik Rak toiletries.
Some 14 suites have private terraces, including my 15th-floor dual-aspect Junior Terrace suite, which was spacious, airy and well-soundproofed with blackout blinds, a sumptuous king bed, a desk with USB sockets, a walk-in wardrobe and a floor-to-ceiling case of books. The roomy terrace was a great place for a nightcap looking out at the lights of Manhattan.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
Located off the lobby, the Whitby bar and restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and drinks. As throughout the hotel, there’s plenty to look at – some 52 baskets of all shapes sourced from across the British Isles hang above the nine-metre-long pewter bar, while a wide variety of artworks and framed Victorian ceramic plates adorn the walls. The adjoining Orangery is a calm space for a coffee, a bite to eat or one-to-one, with a glass vaulted ceiling and a small terrace.
I had a very good breakfast, selecting some luscious fresh fruit from the continental selection along with a filling avocado toast dish from the à la carte menu. Dinner was also excellent, with both my roasted eggplant starter and pork schnitzel main featuring some lovely, subtle flavours. Cocktails were well mixed, too.
On the lower ground floors are three richly decorated event spaces – the adjoining Araminta and Anrep, which hold 90 people for a reception in combination, plus the Reading Room, which hosts up to 48 delegates seated. Lined with books, it can be used by hotel residents. There’s also a 130-seat screening room.
There is a good-sized 24-hour gym on the third level below ground.
Beautifully designed interiors, personal, professional service and a good food and drink offering make the Whitby a worthy addition to the Firmdale stable. The location is excellent if you want to base yourself in Midtown.
Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in July started from US$595 excluding tax for a Superior room.
18 West 56th Street; tel +1 212 586 5656; firmdalehotels.com