By Terry Trucco
At a glance: For a certain type of visitor – book lovers, history buffs, Breakfast at Tiffany’s fans – a hotel room overlooking the New York Public Library defines bliss.
Just don’t expect the inside of the Andaz 5th Avenue to look like the venerable limestone pile that’s visible through it’s enormous Fifth Avenue windows. In keeping with the formula for the sleek Hyatt-without-mentioning-the-name business/lifestyle boutique chain, Andaz 5th is cool, contemporary and chic in a 21st-century way, more minimal than maximal, and just possibly the best Andaz of the bunch.
The white-on-white guest rooms designed by designer Tony Chi are elegant (or really spare, depending on your taste). That understated chic extends to the public spaces, which showcase luxurious materials like basalt and black-and-white-washed poplar and are practical and smart instead of cozy.
Like other nouvelle Hyatts including Andaz Wall Street, Andaz 5th guests are greeted by a staff member wielding a laptop and offering coffee, spring water or wine. The same person directs you to your room and, when the system works, calls you by name for the duration of your stay.
I like the Andaz all-in policy. Basics like mini-bar snacks and soft drinks, WiFi and phone calls are folded into the cost of the room eliminating add-on fees (is the airline industry listening?). It’s fun to pull a bottle of water out of the minibar and not think, “They’re charging me $10 for this?”
I also like the hotel’s LEED silver certification as a green building. True, it’s easier for new properties to achieve this status than old, but like much about Andaz 5th, it’s appealing and admirable. The hotel feels like the future. Bring it on.
Cool detail: The hotel grants Artist-in-Residence status to a lucky contemporary artist four times a year, a task that entails painting a mural on the doors of The Bar Downstairs – and a suite at the hotel to call home while on the job.
Rooms: They’re big (the smallest have king-size beds) and loft-like with 12-foot ceilings, enormous windows and white walls. Hard wood floors underscore the loft look as do the big open-plan bathrooms clothed in tavertine marble and outfitted with rain showers in gigantic stalls. Furnishings are stylish and spare — a sleek blonde wood desk, twin night tables and black curtains dressing those big windows. Suites feel like small apartments.
Food and drink: The Shop, the hotel’s locally sourced American restaurant, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in contemporary digs punctuated by tall, skinny windows. The look is lux-casual – dark wood tables, linen banquettes, hardwood floors, a line-up of wine bottles that doubles as a wall and an open kitchen partially hidden by a dark wood partition. I’ve seen locals as well as guests at breakfast and lunch, always a good sign. The menu changes with the season with an emphasis on Hudson Valley meats and produce. My open-face omelet with cheese, peppers and greens ($18) came in the cast-iron pan it was cooked in and was hearty, tasty and way too salty.
The front of The Shop features a grab-and-go with soups, sandwiches, pastries and coffee made with Café Grumpy beans – a smart, well priced alternative to room service. There’s also a large communal table if you choose to grab-and-stay.
For drinks the Bar Downstairs, with its own entrance off Fifth Avenue, offers a stylish setting and plenteous seating in wood chairs at communal tables. The arrangement makes it easy to partake in a clever range of Latin-style tapas. Drinks are equally stylish and au courant.
Amenities: Like other links in the Andaz chain, the 5th Avenue is, as mentioned, user friendly: lobby water and coffee, minibar snacks and drinks (sans beer and hard liquor), WiFi, phone calls and newspapers are all comp. The fitness center is well equipped. C.O. Bigelow bath products. Pillow menu available on request. Excellent electronics: the flatpanel TV serves as a giant ipad, performing myriad tasks with a click of the zapper.
Surroundings: An excellent lower midtown location directly across from the New York Public Library and Bryant Park. Times Square is a short walk away as is Grand Central Station. The Empire State Building is 12 blocks away. For shopping Lord & Taylor is steps away with Fifth Avenue haunts like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany & Co. up the street and Macy’s not far from the Empire State Building. Bus stops are nearby and it’s easy to zip down to Greenwich Village, SoHo, Chinatown and the Financial District. It’s equally easy to walk over to Madison Avenue and ride uptown to the Upper East Side, Museum Mile (the Metropolitan Museum, Guggenheim, Frick Collection and others) and Central Park. Subways are a short walk away.
Back story: Though you’d never guess from the inside, the building started out in 1916 as a department store – the last and largest of the Rogers, Peet & Co., to be precise, before becoming the global headquarters for Tommy Hilfiger. Public spaces are still a bit ungainly in places, as is often the case with reappropriated buildings. But guest rooms have a loft-like feel. The Fifth Avenue hotel, New York City’s second Andaz and aptly, the chain’s fifth link, opened in July, 2010.
Keep in mind: The restaurant is not very big; sometimes there’s a wait for a table.