By Terry Trucco
At a glance: If it isn’t in England, shouldn’t a hotel called The London be in Las Vegas? This one even had the requisite celebrity chef — Gordon Ramsay, the tempestuous, foul-mouthed Scot, now banished from the premises.
But with 500 smart, ultra-sleek suites (the hotel doesn’t offer anything smaller), one of the best-looking hotel gyms in town and an air of brisk efficiency, this 54-story tower, opened in 2006 on the site of the former Rihga Royal, could just as easily be called The Manhattan.
Why the anglophile appellation? Across-the-pond inflections abound, luv.
The cheeky/sophisticated interior with custom furniture and shiny surfaces galore is by London designer David Collins. The liquid soap in the restrooms is from Floris of London. And if my observations are correct, a fair percentage of guests carry British passports (I watched what looked like a convention of Eric Clapton’s grizzled back-up players check in).
The big black-and-white stone-clad lobby is attractive (I love the clean-lined deco inflections) though hardly serene. It bustles with porters pushing luggage carts and people milling about. They’re standing, of course, because there’s no place to sit unless you perch on the ledge of the gas-jet fireplace. But the two little mezzanine salons overlooking the lobby sport jewel-like sofas and club chairs upholstered in gold pleather, looking somewhat worn at the moment, unfortunately. As for the (often) agreeable prices, long live the Queen. Low-season suited start at $249, one of the best deals in town.
Though the London’s bones are superb, the hotel looks a little rundown around the edges. Let’s hope a refresh is on the horizon.
Rooms: A big step up from the Rihga Royal’s pink and gold digs (so long, Krystle Carrington). Basic equipment includes oak parquet floors warmed by area rugs, bay windows and big white marble bathrooms outfitted by Waterworks, with separate stall showers and soaking tubs or enormous double showers outfitted with full-length mirrors.
In the sitting room I saw a sleek berry-colored banquette, a granite-topped coffee table that swivels up to become a dining table and a handsome leather desk. The bed, crowned by a massive tufted fabric headboard, gobbles up most of the sleeping area, but colors are restful grays and whites. Kudos to the door-free dressing area that doubles as a closet.
Suites are available with separate living and sleep areas or open plan, and top floors have jaw-drop views (which you pay for).
Food and drink: London Bar is a stylish David Collins concoction of a room that serves breakfast, French-inflected small plate offerings throughout the day and evening and crafted cocktails. The sprawling space, divided into two open rooms by leather banquettes, mirrors and hanging panels, is upbeat and stylish with neat details (pewter buttons on the tufted banquettes, a chandelier over the bar that’s a replica of the Metropolitan Opera House’s signature crystal starbursts, the ones the ascend just before the performance begins).
Amenities: The sprawling gym, beautifully equipped and open only to guests, is window-lined, wood paneled and almost too pretty to be a sweat factory. Bonus: computer-operated Kinesis machines monitor your workout. Free WiFi, iHome docking stations, adjustable “mood lighting” in the rooms. Dogs under 25 lbs. allowed ($125 cleaning fee). A house computer is available on the mezzanine. In-room spa services available.
Surroundings: First rate if you’re in the mood for midtown. Rockefeller Center, the Museum of Modern Art, City Center, Fifth Avenue shopping and the Theater District and Times Square are steps away. Central Park and Lincoln Center are only slightly further afield and are walkable if you want to stretch your legs. Bus stops are a block away, while subway stations are within four or five blocks, ie walkable.
Back story: This 54-story tower was built from the ground up in 1990 as a branch of the Rihga Royal, a mid-luxe chain best known in Asia. It had all the advantages of a new building (great heating and air conditioning, up-to-date plumbing), was conventionally plush (crystal chandeliers, pink marble galore, gold bathroom fixtures) and its all-suite make-up made it a sweet deal. I stayed here a couple of times and was never disappointed. But a decade later all that pink marble reeked of Eighties excess, and the hotel felt dated. A radical renovation Londonized the property, dumping everything but the all-suite layout. A left-coast sister hotel, the London West Hollywood, opened in 2008.
Keep in Mind: This big, brisk hotel can feel impersonal. As mentioned above, I’ve seen signs of wear in the rooms and the mezzanine.