By Terry Trucco
In mid 2019 this newish Midtown hotel tower changed flags and voila, the trendy Viceroy morphed into the European-inflected Le Meridien.
Though both brands are upscale and stylish, Le Meridien, founded in 1972 by Air France for well-heeled customers and now part of Marriott, has different stylistic DNA from the Viceroy, with its hip SoHo look and Southern California origins. Just how different can be seen in the changes on view in the lobby, originally devised in 2013 with a Downtown vibe and a craftsman/hip library in the back by the sought-after hotel architects Roman & Williams (Ace, the Royalton, Standard High Line).
The new look is a jewel-toned take on the French Riviera in the 1960s, a long leap from Downtown Manhattan. Twin, brass-framed curiosity cabinets, sculptural and sleek, hold artfully arranged books and objet. Glamorous seating is provided by boldly patterned sofas and cream leather wing chairs. The eye-catching showpiece, a changing digital artwork, replaces the mural that gave the original iteration the feel of an ocean liner.
A workspace enveloped in a glamorous ink blue replaces the library. You can pull up a good-looking stool and plant your laptop atop the handsome circular table or curl up in a lone club chair. Your eye inevitably falls on two sleek brass wheeled luggage carts, a reminder that Le Meridien makes no bones about being a hotel, not a home.
What the new decor doesn’t do any better than the original is mask the fact that the lobby is snug and awkwardly shaped, a common trait in sliver buildings like this one. Also snug are many of the guest rooms.
But Le Meridien is gifted with a terrific location if you long to roll out of bed and meander around Carnegie Hall, Central Park and Bergdorfs without working up a sweat. The paned windows blanketing the front of the hotel, a legacy of the Viceroy’s SoHo warehouse esthetic, are gorgeous. And the adjoining Kingside Restaurant, with a snack bar and stools in front and banquettes in back, is airy and atmospheric.
For now, the hotel inhabits a stylistic Two Faces of Eve netherworld with its midcentury France lobby, guest rooms straight out of millennial SoHo and a good-looking restaurant and roof bar leaning towards the latter. But with new room decor is tap for 2020, a cohesive style is coming soon.
Note to returning customers: Here’s why you’re seeing the name Le Meridien all by itself. For over three decades, the towering property next door was Le Parker Meridien, a member of Starwood (now Marriott). In 2018, Marriott backed out and the hotel, renamed The Parker Hotel, switched flags to the Hyatt group. Cut free from a hotel in dire need of renovation, Le Meridien, which has 100 hotels worldwide, landed in a six-year-old building next door.
Rooms: The full Roman & Williams treatment is on view for now, and it’s impressive even if the dimensions aren’t. I saw a 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 extra) or Central Park in its sights (pricier still); located on the fourth floor, its large, plain window, swathed in white sheers, stared onto The Parker 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 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 gorgeous 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.
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 as the Viceroy. 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. As mentioned above, the hotel became Le Meridien New York Central Park in 2019 about a year after the Europe-based chain was muscled out by of its original, much larger perch Le Parker Meridien next door by flagging conflicts. (Le Meridien is part of Marriott; the renamed Parker Hotel is now part of Hyatt.)
Keep in mind: The smallest rooms are quite 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. Valet parking is $75 a night with no re-entry.