By Terry Trucco
At a glance: When Dream New York opened in 2004, the manager described it to me as a Surrealist playground for adults. Backdropped by hand-drawn murals of nudes, the lobby was black, white and mirrored with a crystal chandelier shaped like Captain Hook’s sailing ship suspended above the check-in desk. Just beyond, an enormous, oddball bronze of Neptune, a Tsarina and a Madonna and Child baffled viewers. And that was before you got to the curiosity cases laden with stuffed ravens and skulls.
It never jelled, which is probably why they kept tweaking it over the years. Finally, they gave up, and in 2016 they started all over. Then, in 2017, they did the lobby over again. Fortunately, this incarnation looks like a keeper.
Sleek and open, the new lobby is still playful but feels more like it belongs to a hotel with a gracefully curved check-in desk planted where the immense bronze statue once stood. The designers addressed the lobby’s ungainly proportions with individual seating areas — each different and all eye-catching (my favorite features two sassy rocking chairs) — and a large media table embraced by comfy plaid upholstered wood stools (trust me, the plaid looks great). Besides lightening things up, the pale wood-paneled walls add glamour, underscore the room’s contemporary vibe and focus attention where it rightfully belongs — on the gigantic cylindrical aquarium stocked with exotic beauties, the sole survivor of the lobby’s previous incarnation.
Compared with the adventurous Dream Downtown, Dream Midtown always struck me as the awkward sibling outshone by its newer, cooler sister. Dream’s makeover helps even things up. The hotel boasts three stylish nightlife venues, including the new subterranean Fishbowl, a sports-minded play space boasting an eye-catching two-lane bowling alley, The Rickey, an atmospheric, retro ’30s cocktail den that opens off the lobby, and the rooftop PHD Terrace, a dashing indoor/outdoor midtown outpost of Dream Downtown’s rooftop lounge.
But the party vibe starts in the lobby, where music pulsates day and night. Dream is not where you bring the kids. The crowd it attracts no doubt appreciates that.
If you’re curious about Dream’s infamous bronze statue: There’s an image at the end of our photo slideshow.
Rooms: Refurbished with a completely new look in 2015, the rooms are minimal and chic with one flamboyant feature — a built-in floral canopy that backs the bed in the larger rooms (the floral print simply backdrops the bed in smaller rooms). The print reminded me of the celebratory flowered garlands seen in India. Decorative pillows, throws and furniture in gray, eggplant and chartreuse pick up colors from the florals which stand out against the creamy white walls.
Suites are spacious, but rooms are small — from 150 to 285 square feet. Still, the new decor is more upbeat than the minimal blue and white rooms it replaced. And beds feature allergen-free pilot mattresses and feather duvets.
Bathrooms are small, often cramped, with tub/shower combos, tiled in Dream blue and white.
Food and drink: The main attraction if you’re hungry is an outpost of Serafina, Manhattan’s stylish chain trattoria with a whimsical David Rockwell-inspired interior (mosaic images of flames over the pizza oven, upholstered banquettes). In keeping with Dream’s whimsical theme, Fellini movies are projected onto a wall. Breakfast is offered, but pastas and pizzas rule, the latter big enough for two to share if you’re not starved. Arriving post theater, we split a salad and pizza with eggplant, mozzarella, goat cheese, arugula and red pepper, drowning in olive oil. There’s a sidewalk café during warm months.
But true to its name, Dream caters mainly to nightlife. PHD Terrace, a midtown outpost of the successful PHD Lounge at Dream Downtown, is a multilevel roof bar built for rain or shine. The Rickey, the freshly designed bar opening off the lobby, features crafted cocktails designed by celebrity mixologist Johnny Swet. And Fishbowl, an enormous space located under the hotel, is a lively game room and bar complete with a two-lane bowling alley and, as advertised, yet another gigantic, well-stocked fish tank.
Amenities: No fitness room on the premises, but guests can use the nearby Crunch Fitness Gym. Free WiFi in the lobby, bar and rooftop (fees apply in rooms).
Surroundings: A boring block in Midtown West, but steps away from good stuff, including Roundabout Theater’s Studio 54, the Late Night with Stephen Colbert studio, the up-market mall shops and restaurants of Time Warner Center (Williams Sonoma, Hugo Boss, J Crew and Bouchon Bakery), Broadway theaters, City Center and Central Park. Rockefeller Center, Times Square and Fifth Avenue shopping are also nearby. Bus stops are across the street — and the subway is a short walk away.
Back story: This gorgeous 1895 Beaux Arts building was a run-down wreck when Vikram Chatwal, the playboy hotelier with the Wharton degree, got his hands on it in 2004 and gave it the full boutique treatment. Chatwal, whose specialty is trendy, buzzy boutique hotels with one-word monikers, conceived Dream as a surrealist playground for adults. In 2013, Dream New York and its branches came under the management of the Wyndham Group. Night, a sister hotel begun by Chatwal, also joined Wyndham. Following a top to refurbishment in 2015, 2016 and 2017, Dream New York looks more cohesive and put together than ever– not quite as sexy or sleek as Dream Downtown but getting a lot closer.
Keep in mind: The elevators, though of differing sizes, are snug; the smallest of the bunch may be the tiniest I’ve ever boarded.