There's been a lot of excitement about New York City's hippest hotel nexus, anchored by the Ace, on streets in the upper 20s, east and west. But I'd been hearing a buzz about hotels in midtown, of all places. Traditionally thought of as the home of boring business accommodations, these hotels were revving up with design and amenities geared towards a young, style conscious and demanding clientele. Although there are a ton of hotels in the area -- the Radisson, the Marriott, the Roger Smith, as well as the grand dames the Intercontinental and the Waldorf Astoria -- the following four, stretched along four blocks of Lexington Avenue -- could give 29th Street a run for its money.
The newest kid on the block, the Hotel Boutique is also one of the best deals: Prices start as low as $139/night. Once you can find the entrance on Lexington Avenue and take the elevator up, you'll discover an admittedly spartan second floor lobby (changes are in the works) whose greatest virtue is a speedy check in. I checked out a standard room, not so small by N.Y.C. standards, and attractively appointed with a handsome striped damask duvet. It had a corner banquette of metallic leather and gold-flecked fabric, with a linoleum-topped table that doubles for work, meeting space or dining.
For an experience that rivals the trendy Standard hotel downtown, with its floor-to-ceiling windows that leave nothing to the imagination, rent a suite at the Hotel Boutique and breathe easy -- their walls of windows have been treated to let guests look down at the city at their feet, while no one can look in.
Most of the 100-plus rooms have tidy kitchenettes. For those not up to cooking, in-house dining comes thanks to Davio's restaurant downstairs. I'm not a steak house kind of gal, but chef Chad Brown does wonderful roasted veggies, pan seared salmon, pasta with lobster, prosciutto pizzas and bison burgers, accompanied by a nice list of international beers and wines
This first-ever W opened 1999, pioneering the possibility that a midtown hotel could be cool. Rooms were, and still are, exercises in minimalism: linear and grey, today lightened with touches of metallic and a unique zebrawood bed with a backlit arty headboard. Bathrooms are stocked with Bliss Lemon Sage beauty products. The bowls of green apples that provided the initial shots of color still stand on the reception desk in the lobby, which, with its insistent techno music 24/7, still has a nightclub vibe. The lobby lounge, which is inescapable, since its open to the reception area is being redecorated, and the last time I was there the hotel had brought in models to DJ, which might explains all the low couches filled with young guys in suits.
Hyatt 48 Lex:
The entrance to the Hyatt 48 Lex hotel is a bit obscure -- or discreet, to be polite -- and, intentionally so, to make the hotel appear more residential. The grey and white pinstripe carpeting in the hallways, however, makes it clear that this midtown Hyatt is all business. Rooms can be small, but glamouros; corner suites have floor to ceiling windows, and boast such luxuries as white ostrich skin club chairs, ivory shagreen walls, and Warren Tricomi beauty products. Rooms have kitchenettes, but there's also a house barrista in the serene second floor lobby who whips up wonderful double macchiatos or any variation guests desire.
The most traditional of the group, the Benjamin recently completed a renovation to update their look. Gone are the TV armoires in each room, and the flat screens now sit on a simple stand. Aside from the all-white bedding, rooms are a medley of soft browns -- beige shadow-striped wallpaper, camel velvet couches, copper leather ottomans, bronze silk drapes. The building itself, originally designed by Emery Roth in the 1920s, has presence, as do the old bronze elevator doors. Booking here gets you a reservation at chef Geoffrey Zakarian's popular The National restaurant off the lobby.