Attempting to describe New York City is like attempting to describe a diamond with a thousand different facets. It’s a centrifuge of energy, spinning at a pace so fast it’s almost dizzying the first time you set foot on its historic grounds. It’s gritty, but when traversing its various pathways and corridors, there’s beauty to be found on nearly every street corner. Most of all, it’s a city that epitomizes America. It symbolizes freedom; it symbolizes diversity; it symbolizes everything that makes America great. And it’s a city that as an American, you unequivocally must visit on at least a semi-regular basis. Last week I had to the opportunity to return to New York City to attend the New York International Auto Show, and while there, I also had the pleasure of residing in one of its premier hotels: the Four Seasons Hotel New York.
To be honest, calling the Four Seasons Hotel New York a hotel seems unfair. Yes, by standard definition the Four Seasons is a hotel, but after spending three nights amidst its towering limestone confines and partaking in its extraordinary level of amenities and service, I can tell you that grouping the Four Seasons Hotel New York in with every other New York City hotel is, if anything, an injustice. If you’re not feeling ambitious enough to read my entire review, I’ll put it as simply as possible: when visiting New York City, the Four Seasons is among the finest destinations you can reside in. I won’t waste your time telling you it’s the best, or the finest, or the most luxurious, simply for the fact that every individual has their own ideals of what luxury and design should be; but I will tell you that in the event you do stay here, irrespective of your personal style and preferences, you will not for a second regret your decision.
Superbly located just off Central Park between Park and Madison Avenues, the Four Seasons Hotel New York is a towering monument to renowned architect I.M. Pei – the individual best known for his work creating the Louvre’s infamous glass pyramid. Rising 52 stories above the Manhattan skyline, the Four Seasons is the city’s tallest hotel, and yet despite its impressive stature, the hotel’s post-modernist contempary design is characterized by a certain level of subtlety, if you will. It’s not the Trump Tower, adorned in a glistening gold facade, begging you to pay attention to it. It’s a far more self-confident design – one that rests gracefully amidst its surroundings while still offering a meticulous level of detail upon closer inspection.
Entering the Four Seasons New York, you’re immediately transported from the intensity of the city to a grand yet welcoming limestone and marble-clad lobby. Look up, and you’ll witness a gorgeous 33-foot high backlit onyx ceiling. To your right lies the newly opened Garden Restaurant and Wine Bar (I’ll come back to your dining options in a moment), while to your left is TY, a relaxed seating area that offers hors d’oeuvres and a varied selection of aperitifs, spirits and champagne. It is by all accounts a majestic entrance, but for every part of its splendor it offers an equal part warmth. At no point does the hotel feel uninviting or unapproachable, but rather it manages to stay supremely comfortable amidst its grandeur.
Ascend the elevators to one of the 368 guest rooms, and you’ll immediately discover one of the Four Seasons New York’s trademark attributes – rooms, on average, boast 600 square feet of living space (approximately 400 sq. ft. for the sleeping area, 120 sq. ft. for the bathroom and 100 sq. ft. for the dressing area). By any standards, the rooms are spacious, but by New York City standards, the rooms are apartments unto themselves. Complimenting their size, the rooms feature a very precise assortment of amenities to ensure your every need is met. It sounds cliché, but every element of the Four Seasons has been carefully planned to be as functional and accomodating as possible. There’s the standard luxury items: plasma television, office desk, private bar, etc., all of which one comes to expect from a luxury hotel. But what’s unique about the Four Seasons New York is the meticulous detail they pay to each distinct item. There’s a oversized soaking tub, but more importantly, it fills in a brisk 60 seconds. There’s window shades to provide privacy from the outside world, but they’re electrically operated, allowing you to easily block the morning sun (or invite it in) from bed with the press of a button. There’s a pillow menu, ensuring you have the optimum level of support under your head as you sleep. Newspapers are neatly delivered each morning in a branded Four Seasons tote hanging from your door. To be honest, I could probably devote an entire article detailing each of the amenities found in the Four Seasons New York and the thoughtful planning that went into each, but at the risk of sounding like an overzealous time-share salesman, I won’t.
Paired with the amenities, the level of service is equally superlative. The room service staff is exemplary, taking care that each element of your room is exactly as it should be. Shampoo, conditioner and soap aren’t just refilled, they’re perfectly centered in the shower tray. At night, slippers and floor mats appear bedside as part of the turndown service, while the leather encased television channel guide is placed neatly next to the bed on the night stand’s pull-out tray. And what may be most impressive, the staff excels at understanding your individual needs. Traveling with my wife and infant son, we returned to our room after a day out on the town to find an assortment of children’s items – baby shampoo, body wash, lotion, etc. – situated neatly in the bathroom, not at our request, but rather based on the staff’s observation we were visiting with a child. It’s a level of professionalism that extends throughout the staff of the hotel. Need ice? Press a button, and it’s delievered within minutes. Forget to pack your umbrella? The bellman will provide one for you (along with the day’s forecast). Need a ride to a nearby restaurant? Complimentary car drop off is included within a two mile radius. Every element of the service is thought-out, carefully planned and executed beautifully.
Dining at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
When dining at the Four Seasons Hotel New York, there’s a variety of options (6 total) to choose from. The hotel’s flagship restaurant is L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, a uniquely intimate take on casual dining that offers seating for only 46 guests (20 of which are at the restaurant’s pearwood counter, offering superb views of the open kitchen). Blending a variety of French-inspired selections with Asian and Mediterranean influences, such as Robuchon’s famous pommes purée truffée (truffled mashed potatoes) and the caille farcie de foie gras et caramélisée (free-range quail stuffed with foie gras), L’Atelier has quickly established itself as one of the city’s preeminent dining establishments. L’Atelier’s accolades include a three star rating by the New York Times, being named “Best New Restaurant of the Year” in 2007 by the James Beard Foundation and holding a top ten ranking in the Zagat Survey.
Dining at The Garden Restaurant and Wine Bar
New to the Four Seasons Hotel New York, The Garden Restaurant and Wine Bar is described as an enchanted forest in the heart of New York City. Adorned by four 20 foot African Acacia trees, The Garden offers superb breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch services, with an emphasis on popular American cuisine: eggs Benedict and omelettes at breakfast and brunch; salads, pasta, chicken and steak at lunch. At night, however, is when The Garden comes to life, transforming itself into a vibrant wine bar. Bronze hardwood flooring, a 15 foot high black lacquered wine display and hundreds of flowers form the perfect canvas on which to enjoy a sophisticated, supremely intimate night out on the town. Over 700 bottles of wine are available to choose from (150 of which are available by the glass), as are extensive cheese and chocolate tastings and an exemplary charcuterie menu. My wife and I both loved The Garden, and if you’re staying at the Four Seasons or if you’re just in the area, we both highly recommend visiting, as it really is an exquisite setting.
Ty Warner Penthouse
Despite everything I’ve told you about the Four Seasons Hotel New York, there is still a defining attribute that I’ve failed to mention – the Ty Warner Penthouse. Named for the hotel’s owner, Ty Warner (the elusive CEO of Ty, Inc., creator of the Beanie Baby and real estate magnate), the Ty Warner Penthouse encompasses the entire 52nd floor of the Four Seasons New York. Commissioned by its namesake and designed by I.M. Pei, the Ty Warner Penthouse is a nine room, 4,300 square foot living work of art – one that took 6 years and an estimated $50 million to complete. With a price tag of $35,000 per night, it’s also the most expensive suite in the world.
Before I go any further, I have to tell you: while visiting the Four Seasons, I contacted the hotel requesting a tour for the sake of this article. They were gracious enough to grant me my wish, and they were even more gracious to allow me the opportunity to set foot on the hallowed ground of the Ty Warner Penthouse in person. In other words, the following, as does everything else in this article, depicts actual events.
Ascending to the top of the Four Seasons is an experience unto itself. It’s as if the elevator knows it’s rising to special heights, and it knows its job is to get you there as quickly as possible. By the time we passed the 40th floor, sounds reminiscent of a Vegas slot machine were echoing in my head as the floors raced by in such rapid succession. And then as quickly as it began, it’s over. The doors open, and suddenly you’re in a place that is as close to floating on a cloud as one could conceivably get. There’s huge, 25 foot cathedral ceilings with floor to ceiling windows in each of the penthouse’s three main areas, letting in so much light that it feels, quite literally, like you’re flying. The view is indescribable – there’s simply no way of characterizing it. Slowly, you become acclimated to the fact that virtually all of Manhattan is at your feet; your senses start to return; and you begin to notice the details of your surroundings.
Everywhere you look, on every surface, there are elements reminding you of the craftsmanship that went into creating this extraordinary space. In the living and dining rooms, cream walls are inlaid with thousands of pieces of mother of pearl. In the bedroom, the walls are covered in straw marquetry, a tedious process where thin pieces of straw are assembled in a perfectly smooth pattern. Think of it as a wood floor, perfectly flush with no seams, where each piece of straw is less than an inch thick. It adorns every wall of the master bedroom, and it took over a year to construct. In the powder room the semi-precious stone “Tiger-Eye” adorns the walls and sink top. In no sense does this feel like a hotel suite – my beautiful tour guide described it as a billionaire’s apartment, and it’s a completely accurate description.
Moving through the penthouse, you encounter three main areas. The first is the living area, an airy, primarily cream colored room that offers gorgeous western views of the Manhattan landscape. There’s a variety of seating options – a chocolate three seat sofa, two champagne-colored silk loveseats and two club chairs with hand carved legs are the center pieces – along with a dining room table that offers what’s undoubtedly one of the most romantic dining experiences in the city. Also present is a 3 1/2 by 3 foot working fireplace – one that I’m told was carved out of a solid block of chiampo mandorlato stone imported from Italy. Next is the library, where a Bosendorfer Grand Piano sits quietly, framed by a southern view of the city. Walls are covered in a rich caramel colored French lacquer; two 12 foot tall book cases with translucent amber onyx shelving and a vine motif house various literary works; and a second seating area – this time a dark brown calf skin sofa, a beige loveseat and dark brown leather ebony chairs – offer an additional area of respite to escape the stresses of the city. The last of the three primary areas is the master bedroom, draped in the straw marquetry I told you about earlier and offering stunning northern views of Central Park. The centerpiece of the room is a Thai canopy bed – one that features a Syrian inspired hand woven cream gold bed curtain and a Swedish Hästens Vividus mattress that took 160 hours to complete (no, I didn’t try it nor can I attest to its comfort). Sitting directly under the soaring floor to ceiling windows, a light caramel color lacquered desk with arched legs allows the penthouse’s occupant to put the finishing touches on his or her $500 billion corporate merger, while a silk bordeaux art deco chaise lounge and two silk burnt orange round chairs offer the master bedroom’s final seating options.
It’s a supremely beautiful space, and one whose views alone justify both it’s construction cost and nightly rate. Add to that complimentary use of every one of the Four Season New York’s numerous services, including a chauffeured Maybach and Rolls Royce, and the Ty Warner Penthouse starts looking like a bargain (almost). But after everything I’ve told you, what may be the Ty Warner Penthouse’s most endearing trait is that despite the mother-of-pearl inlays and despite the intricate straw marquetry and despite every other precious material found throughout its 4,300 square feet, at no point is there a feeling of uneasiness as though you’re treading on something you shouldn’t be – it’s a superbly comfortable space and one that you or I could move into tomorrow and feel completely at ease.
It’s a characteristic that speaks testaments to the Four Seasons New York as a whole. Everywhere you go, everywhere you look, there’s a beauty and a precision to the Four Seasons – never ostentatious – and one that makes you feel completely at ease the moment you enter. I said it at the beginning of the article and I have to again echo the same sentiment: when visiting New York City, the Four Seasons is among the finest destinations you can reside in. It manages to find the perfect balance between a distinguished grace and a welcoming comfort, and if you do stay here, I can assure you – you will not for a second regret it.
When you go, here are a few tips from personal experience that will help make your stay even more enjoyable:
- When dining at the Four Seasons Hotel New York, talk to the concierge as early as possible about making reservations. Part of the restaurant’s intimacy comes from the limited seating areas, so reservations are highly recommended.
- When selecting a guest room, about 50 percent offer views of Central Park. If views are of importance to you, be sure to specify your preferences when making a reservation.
- When traveling with children, the Four Seasons Hotel New York offers a variety of services that will save you from having to pack your entire kid’s room. Cribs, bottle warmers, baby shampoo, body wash, lotions, etc., are all available upon request, as are child care services with advanced notice (hourly fees apply).
- For easier access when traveling with a stroller or for those with disabilities, there’s a secondary entrance on 58th Street that has multiple full sized elevators. The grand lobby does has an elevator as well, but it’s much smaller and slower to use than the 58th Street entrance.
- Although hidden on one of the Four Season New York’s sub-levels, there is a 24-hour Fitness Center featuring a variety of cardio and weight training machines for guests, along with complimentary juice, fruit and various spa services (steam room, sauna, etc.)
- If you’re thinking about booking the Ty Warner Penthouse, we have to warn you: the $35,000 price tag is firm. There are no discounts and no exceptions. Also, if you’re thinking about booking it for a photo shoot, it’s not going to happen. Reservations are restricted purely to individuals booking the penthouse for personal use.
For more information regarding the Four Seasons Hotel New York including direct booking options, you can find the complete details at the official Four Seasons Hotel New York website. Also try hotel coupons for possible savings.