Updated: Jul 10, 2016
id: stylish, Euro-inflected boutique hotel
cool detail: magnificent staircase
By Terry Trucco
At a glance: How's this formula for a boutique hotel? Take one gorgeous 1903 building with stained glass galore, a commanding stone fireplace, soaring ceilings, a magnificent spiral staircase and a dash of history (the building was once the Chemists Club). Add chic minimalist furniture in soothing hues (creams, blues and dark woods). Stir in a restaurant partnered by...Britney Spears? Excuse me?
The Dylan, which opened in 2000, is proof positive that a winning hotel formula can be elusive, maybe even explosive. But Spain's Eurostar Group, which took over the Dylan in 2007, has tweaked this intriguing property, a block from Grand Central Terminal, with somewhat positive results. Guests for the most part hail from Europe. Prices are moderate and in line with what you get. And the restaurant has morphed from Britney into Benjamin, a steak house with sweet reviews.
The decor hasn't changed much since the hotel opened; you see the rigid minimalism of the 00 decade. Still, on a recent visit the Dylan looked less frayed. The lobby remains an inviting space if you're a modernist. And the bathroom glasses shaped like beakers? Great chemistry.
Rooms: Stylish, minimal - and dark. Depending on your mood, dark rooms can be cozy or gloomy, and having visited several times over the years, I've seen both. But rooms can also be serene, with sky-blue accent walls behind the clean-lined beds and spotless white sheets topped with velvet throw pillows. The royal blue floor-to-ceiling curtains in taffeta and organza are as glamorous as a ball gown, but best left closed (hence the darkness) to hide the minimal views and dirty windows (at least when we looked).
The smallish bathrooms are clad floor to ceiling in Italian Carrera marble and have washstands with bowl sinks and wood-framed glass doors. And though rooms range from big-enough-for-two--by-New-York-standards to downright spacious, high ceilings make even the little ones seem bigger than they are.
Crave color? Book the Alchemy Suite, a Gothic chamber with a vaulted ceiling and slender columns named for the symbols depicted on the 1932 stained-glass window.
Food and drink: Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the Benjamin Steak House, the hotel's third restaurant since it opened in 2000 but by now a keeper. With white tablecloths, a mile-high ceiling (a curved staircase leads to a terrace of tables overlooking the room) and waiters dressed bistro-style in long white aprons, the place looks like a classic steakhouse - or an English men's club.
I sat in front of the enormous fireplace, gas-jetted but gorgeous, and tucked into a juicy grilled hamburger on a roll with so-so fries - and excellent steak sauce, which arrived in a gravy bowl along with the breadbasket and (salted) butter. The lunchtime room bustled - almost every table was taken with a local business crowd and an occasional guest (the mathematician from Mexico City who sat at the table rhapsodized about the hotel).
Amenities: Flatpanel TVs, free WiFi, comp breakfast for corporate guests. The fitness center is small and very basic. Gilchrist and Soames bath products. Bi-lingual (English and Spanish) reservations staff.
Surroundings: The Dylan's location is superb unless you hunger for greenery (or want to be downtown). Grand Central Station is a block away. Bryant Park, the New York Public Library, Times Square and Broadway theaters are easy to reach. And Rockefeller Center, Fifth Avenue shopping, the Empire State Building and cultural treats like the Museum of Modern Art are a short hop away. Downtown Manhattan is a straight shot south. And buses and subways are steps away.
Back story: When the Dylan opened in 2000, it brandished the classic elements of a successful boutique hotel including a big name designer (Jeffery Beers), a trendy air and a drop-dead exquisite Beaux Arts building from 1903. But the hotel, developed by real estate magnate Morris Moinian, took forever to open and even longer to get its footing. The parade of restaurants occupying the dramatic dining space typified the hotel's uneasy fortunes. Virot, the creation of the talented chef Didier Virot, lasted but a wink and was replaced by Nyla, an ill-fated collaboration with Britney Spears. (The name is a contraction of New York and her home state of Louisiana - get it?) But Spain's Eurostar hotel group, which took over the hotel in 2007, appears to have a steady hand.
Keep in mind: Some rooms I saw smelled stuffy and felt close.
What We Saw: