The Four Seasons Hotel New York
Updated: Feb 20, 2014
id: luxurious one-of-a-kind high rise
atmosphere: serene bustle
cool detail: bathtubs fill up in 60 seconds
By Terry Trucco
At a glance: In a city where space is the ultimate luxury, the Four Seasons scores an 11 out of ten on the luxe-ometer.
Nothing in this towering ziggurat designed by I.M Pei and opened in 1993 feels cramped. The Four Seasons is a city block wide, 52 stories tall and home to some of Manhattan’s highest ceilings. The wood and limestone lobby, where illuminated onyx looms 33 feet above the black granite floor, is futuristic, classic and retro all at once.
I see hints of Frank Lloyd Wright, the movie Metropolis and the Egyptian wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but it’s like no other hotel on earth. And though it's more than 20 years old, the hotel feels timeless, like a Chanel bag.
True, it scale can seem daunting; the concierge desk looms above a flight of stairs as you enter, like the Gates of St. Peter.
But settle in, and the Four Seasons breaks out the good stuff, offering relaxation, comfort and serenity, even with its thick-of-things Midtown address.
Because it's so huge, surprises await -- nice ones, like the magnificent (gas-jet) fireplace in the Ty lobby lounge, the tiny caviar bar tucked in the back, the full-fledged art gallery behind the front lobby, the aerobic buzz if you power walk from end to end. Given such stupendous square footage, the paltry seating prompts a roll of the eyes. Plenty is available, of course, in the lounge and Garden Wine Bar that bookend the lobby, albeit for the not insignificant admission price of a meal or a drink.
As befits a grand hotel, the ever-changing cast can fascinate. I've spotted well-heeled business people, well-manicured families, the odd superstar (Julia Roberts raved about the mattresses on Oprah), cool techies in T-shirts and, with increasing frequency, guests brandishing Starbucks cups.
Still, the ultimate star is all that sleek square footage. Small surprise that the women's restroom is larger than some Manhattan apartments -- and a lot more glamorous.
Observation: I was shocked -- shocked! -- to see how worn the lobby’s striped velvet chairs looked. But on a subsequent visit, they sported new plump cushions and fresh upholstery.
Rooms: Think classic blond (the walls are paneled in golden English sycamore). Though components are replaced regularly, the look of the curtains, carpeting and bedspreads -- yes, bedspreads, but they’re turned down and stashed at night – are much the same as I remember when I stayed first here in 1993, shortly after the hotel opened: contemporary and comfortable (or businesslike and bland, depending on your sentiments).
Size is the sweetener. The smallest, a minimum of 600 square feet, are like junior suites, the suites could be small apartments, and all boast decent-to-dazzling views of the city or Central Park, thanks to their 10-foot ceilings and Pei’s clever recessed design. The king-size bed floats miles away from the two buttery club chairs and wall-mounted flatpanel TV that swivels for maximum viewing. A sizable dressing area adjoins the marble bathroom, where a generous, glass-lined stall shower and separate soaking tub, complete with flatpanel TV -- and zapper -- await.
Cool detail: Push-button curtains so you can command your view of the city or park from the bed.
Food and drink: L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, the fanciest of the hotel’s dining areas, closed on June 30, 2012 despite 3 Michelin stars, and as yet there is no replacement.
I opted for a leisurely Saturday breakfast in the spacious bar, a handsome, strawberry-blond of a room with a mile-high ceiling, magnificent wood paneling and an NBA player I couldn’t quite identify with his wife and kids seated near a towering window. My hash, accompanied by potatoes, sliced cherry tomatoes and wheat toast, was excellent, and the service nicely choreographed (and -- gasp -- $56 with coffee and juice).
At the front of the hotel, two lounges bracket the lobby like parentheses: the Garden restaurant and Wine Bar specializes in American cuisine, and the Ty Lounge, named for owner Ty Warner, serves $30 hamburgers, desserts and drinks.
At the rear of the hotel is the newest offering, the Calvislus Caviar Lounge, a pretty little pocket cafe featuring sustainable Italian-farmed caviar.
Cool detail: When the breakfast hostess noticed I was wearing black, the heavy white napkin, a lint bomb no doubt, disappeared and was replaced by a large black napkin.
Less cool detail: Though servers were polite and plentiful during a recent visit to the Ty lounge for dessert, no one offered to refill my empty water glass. And when I asked the server about the dessert choices, he didn't mention that all options were on view under glass on a table near the entry.
Amenities: Ample. The mirrored basement fitness center is well equipped with personal trainers available but lacks a view (naturally). The subterranean locale is more conducive to the full-service spa, which oozes serenity and resembles the rest of the hotel, only more zen. Lots of goodies for kids including a welcome gift, children’s menus, baby toiletries and kid-size robes. Comp shoe shine. WiFi ($15 for 24 hours). Elevators require keycards to operate. Pets stay free of charge.
Surroundings: Midtown central. Fifth Avenue shopping, Central Park, Midtown businesses and countless restaurants are within walking distance as are the Museum of Modern Art and the Paley Center for Radio and Television. Times Square and Broadway theaters, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station, the New York Public Library and Lincoln Center are only slightly further afield. Subway stops are a short walk away. The bus stop is at the end of the block.
Back story: You’d never know from its silky demeanor, but the Four Seasons New York had a tumultuous conception. Though architect I.M. Pei was on board from the get-go, the hotel was originally designed as a link in the luxurious Regent chain. But ownership changed, deadlines languished, and construction took nearly five years. (Locals may recall the hulking construction site that seemed in suspended motion between Madison and Park.) The hotel opened at last in 1993 under the management of the Four Seasons. In 1999 it was purchased by Ty Warner, founder of the Beanie Baby empire, a boon for young guests, who often receive stuffed Beanie Babies at check-in.
Keep in mind: A pot of coffee in the restaurant costs TEN DOLLARS, and so does a glass of juice.
What We Saw: