By Terry Trucco
At a glance: It’s not hard to imagine the directive when architects Roman & Williams were hired to design the Viceroy.
The towering hotel – built from the ground up and opened in 2013 — occupies a narrow plot of prime Midtown turf steps from Tiffany, Bergdorf-Goodman and Carnegie Hall. But its soul hails from points south – the amalgam of SoHo, Tribeca and the East and West Village that reads Downtown (add a dash of Williamsburg, Brooklyn to the mix if you want the full effect).
The Downtown vibe announces itself with the exterior – the gorgeous industrial-inflected black paned windows, the soaring black and white bar and restaurant, the sleek san-serif VICEROY sign.
Step inside and you’re greeted by a smart update on classic grand hotel accoutrements — a high ceiling, glamorous, veined marble panels and low sofas and club chairs in buttery leather. Head straight back and you reach a compact lounge, moody and dark, its gorgeous wood shelves lined with books, its chairs and sofas inviting and soft.
Slip between the crisp white Sferras upstairs, and you gaze upon an impeccable mix of wood, industrial steel and buttery leather. The angular dull brass pulls and hooks are custom designed. And the view through those paned windows if you’re on a high floor? Central Park. Downtown never had it this good.
But this is Midtown. And the Viceroy, for all its beauty and cool, is basically a sliver hotel, wider than many, but a sliver still. Its public spaces are narrower and less generous than other evocative Roman & Williams creations, like the Royalton and Ace New York. And rooms range from spacious to extremely snug. For anyone who needs to stay in Midtown but longs for SoHo, I can’t think of a better place to alight. But if unadulterated Downtown is what you’re after, you’re probably better off going for the real thing.
Cool detail: Guests get a free Uber ride up to $40.
Rooms: Like the lobby and restaurant, the rooms are exquisitely designed and should delight anyone who keeps a mental – or photographic – collection of cool hotel details.
I saw a superior, aka standard king – the smallest in the house — with a courtyard view. That meant it didn’t have the gorgeous SoHo-style paned windows you see on the 57th-Street side (those cost $50 extra) or Central Park in its sights (pricier still); located on the fourth floor, its large, plain window, swathed in white sheers, stared onto Le Parker Meridien, the hotel next door. At 250 square feet, the room felt small, ideal for one person or two people who don’t plan on spending loads of time in the room but care deeply about design.
Viewed by appearance alone, the room was delicious, pieced together like a clever burr puzzle. The big, white bed nestles in a sleek wood construct that includes a very small closet (with a bathrobe), cupboard space, tufted leather at the head and built-in bed lights. A desk stood opposite. I also liked the wood frame encasing the wall-mounted TV. But the sweet spot was the leather chaise — with a clever pull-out drawer — doubling as a window seat. Every room, large and small, has one.
The bathroom, a gorgeous retro-contemporary mash-up, also channeled the SoHo industrial loft look, with tiny tiles, a spacious shower and a gorgeous display of marble. Note the aged brass faucets and fixtures if you stay. They’re goreous and were devised for the hotel. Alas, a friend reports the placement of the shower required her to reach through scalding water to adjust the temperature, so beware.
Larger rooms are a variation on the same theme, and they do get spacious. Go with one of these if you can.
Food and drink: Kingside Restaurant, another splendid Roman & Williams visual concoction, features an ultra-contemporary, locally-sourced-when-possible menu and is run by Scott Gerber, whose hotel nightlife properties include Whiskey Blue at the W. The black-and-white setting is gorgeous with great details – rough-hewn vertical tiles, chessboard tile floor, a handsome cooking area in the rear and buttery leather banquettes the color of caramels. The bar in the front, with stools facing the street, is equally appealing and serves barrel-aged cocktails. My hamburger – the Kingside Burger – was enriched with white cheddar, a thin slice of soppressata and a tangy relish and came with a big wooden bowl of salt-and-pepper fries . Delicious. And the coffee was strong and flavorful.
Aptly named, The Roof bar wows with views of Central Park and midtown buildings. Open year round, it includes a dark, moody indoor seating as well as a deck and is quite a scene. Look for special events open to all, like the annual Oscar Viewing Party with themed drinks and free popcorn.
Amenities: A well-equipped fitness room with Technogym cardio, strength and Kinesis equipment as well as yoga and Pilates equipment (there’s a pool but it’s closed at the moment and it’s not clear when it will re-open); Free WiFi; pets under 25 lbs. allowed ($100 daily charge unless you’re in a suite); nightly turndown service; comp daily newspapers (stacks of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today are in the sitting area); comp bottled water upon arrival; bath products by Neil George.
Surroundings: The heart of midtown – steps away from Carnegie Hall and a short walk from Central Park, Time Warner Center and Broadway theaters as well as Late Night with David Letterman. Fifth Avenue shopping is also nearby as are Rockefeller Center, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Art & Design, the Museum of Radio & Television and countless midtown businesses. Bus stops are steps away, the nearest subway stop is a several block walk and taxis cruise regularly along 57th Street, a major thoroughfare. The area is true midtown – downtown and uptown are easily reached but require transportation of some sort.
Back story: The hotel, built from the ground up, opened in 2013. Several years in the building stages, it was originally to be the Willow, part of a now-defunct hotel group that included the Mansfield, the Wales and the Shoreham. Along the way the project was taken over by the Viceroy Hotel Group, which grew to an international chain of city luxury hotels from a small hotel in Santa Monica designed in the 1990s by Kelly Wearstler. Uber designers Roman & Williams (Ace New York, Royalton) were brought in to give the hotel its distinctive look. They succeeded.
Keep in mind: The smallest rooms are pretty small, surprising in a luxury hotel built from the ground up. The Roof bar on the 29th floor gets noisy, so if you’re noise phobic ask for a room on a lower floor.