JONAS
Jonas Rask Eilersen
The Carlyle
35 E 76th St, New York, NY 10021, United States
3rd October 2015

When it comes to New York City luxury hotels, The Carlyle is clearly among the top three most well-known properties. We put it to the test to see if it lived up to its reputation. And, as The Carlyle is owned and managed by Rosewood, those expectations were high – read on!

Location
Make no mistake; The Carlyle is the top dog of the Upper East Side. It's in fine company, both when it comes to the nearby boutiques and galleries (some of the world's most exclusive), but also in terms of luxury hotels; it's mere minutes from both The Mark and The Surrey.
The location is über exclusive; occupying a building, with a high, high tower, covering the better part of a block on E76th Street, the hotel is a couple of minutes' walk from Central Park and another few minutes to e.g. The Guggenheim or The Met.
Who stays?
If you "mean it", you're staying at The Carlyle. While this is a place where you can easily hide from the paparazzi (and some do...for months at a time), this is also a favourite haunt of the rich and the famous who are happy to show it. However, this is not the hotel where you'll expect to run into Kim Kardashian - rather, it's where you may end up sharing a lift with Prince William or, as happened to me, Roger Federer. Indeed, this is the preferred hotel for European royalty, whether in terms of sports, culture, arts or just "plain" royalty - as I were to experience myself (read on!), my beloved Queen Margrethe of Denmark also calls this place her home when she's in town...
Style and Character
Where The Surrey is boutiquey and The Mark is "grand on a small scale", The Carlyle goes all out. Designed by the noted architectural firm Bien & Prince and named in honor of British essayist Thomas Carlyle, the hotel has a heavy Art Déco influence, with lots of black marble in the public areas. Grand flower arrangements and thick carpets add to a quite "heavy" atmosphere.
Service
Impeccable, and surprisingly personable. While this is absolutely a hotel which is staffed by ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen, it's clear that it's encouraged that staff also "take liberties" when dealing with guests. For example, maids are quite chirpy and elevator attendants appear a little moody. In terms of guest experience and perception, this kind of behaviour can go either way - it can make you feel that you're a long-lost friend of the house, or it can make you feel a little alienated. And either way, this makes it memorable (and I think: all the better for it).
Rooms and Suites
The feel of the rooms and suites is quite a bit different than the public spaces. For example, there's no Art Déco feel in the rooms which, while certainly luxurious, can feel a little underwhelming. However, and this needs to be underlined, this only goes for the rooms, The suites are spectacular, and I was over the moon with my outrageously amazing Central Park Tower Suite.
As the most luxurious one-bedroom suites at The Carlyle, the Central Park Tower Suites are king-bed and individually decorated with 1,200 sq. ft. of living space, featuring a large kitchen, corner bedroom and unobstructed views of Central Park. With floor-to-ceiling picture windows, I could not believe how downright incredible my views of the Park and Manhattan skyline were. I even had a baby grand piano.
Through the foyer, the suites are able to connect to a second bedroom offering either one king or two twin beds to create a superb two-bedroom suite. In addition, some of the Central Park Tower Suites can join to another room and become truly grand three-bedroom suites.
There are lots of little memorable touches to take note of here; the most memorable one, clearly, is the fact that every suite guest gets his/her initials embroidered on their pillowcase - to be kept at The Carlyle for the next visit. Can you imagine...?! Loved it. What I couldn't believe was that my own Queen Margrethe of Denmark had slept in the very same bed that I was sleeping in....I had to pinch myself.
However, as much as I adored my suite, I did notice that the suite, as well as the rooms, could do with a bit of a touch up. Everything is immaculately clean, of course, but while a little wear does add character - it can also just seem a little, well, worn; and this is not what you expect at these prices.
Food and Drink
The Carlyle is a dining and drinking destination, and mainly for one reason: Bemelmans Bar. Wow. This is one of the most memorable, atmospheric and characterful bars anywhere in the world - mark my words. You can't help but love the décor (note the whimsical murals of Central Park with picnicking rabbits and ice skating elephants done by Ludwig Bemelmans) - but just as noteworthy are the sights and sounds (celebs chatting quietly over a cocktail and the tunes from the piano). Occasionally, Woody Allen performs with his band here. Do not miss this bar - even if you're not staying at The Carlyle.
The Carlyle Restaurant is eclipsed by the sheer glory of Bemelmans, but the restaurant, as well as the more relaxed Café Carlyle, are still excellent places for a meal in this part of town.
Features, Wellness, and Amenities
With Rosewood at the helm, The Carlyle is now, even more than before, a destination for pampering. At the signature Rosewood Sense Spa, you can spend all day below ground in your treatment suite (some do...). Yes, it's outrageously expensive - but if you're staying here, don't miss it. You can, of course, also get your hair done, and, of course, this destination salon is run by a celebrity hairdresser: Yves Durif. If all you want to do is to work on the treadmill, you can do this too, at the fitness centre - but I'd recommend taking a jog in the Park instead.
Perceived Value
It is not cheap. However, hotels of this calibre and with this kind of history can command higher rates than usual, mainly because they reach a kind of "magical sphere" where the locale, history and quality of the experience come together and "create magic". This is hotel magic.
Verdict
Quite possibly New York's most fabulous hotel, this is a destination hotel story everybody aspires to become part of at some point in their lives. The rooms and suites could do with a soft touch up, but there's no denying that, if you're after a truly grand, memorable New York experience, then you simply have to stay here.