Friday, January 6, 2012

Hotel Review: London Hotel New York

Location: Midtown Manhattan, New York City
Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Frequent travelers to New York City know a few things about hotels in Manhattan. The rooms are claustrophobic and dated. You won’t find a swimming pool, a gym or a spa. And worst of all, you have to tip the hotel staff every step of the way: the guy who takes your luggage to the room, the guy who flags you down a taxi and and the guy who puts your bags in the trunk.

The London on 54th Street, Manhattan

I go on a business trip to the Big Apple every year. This past November I decided to try something different and stayed at the London in Midtown Manhattan. Located on the corner of 54th Street and 8th Avenue, the boutique hotel is close to a number of major subway lines as well as tourist attractions like Rockefeller Center, Columbus Circle and Central Park.

The main draw at the London is that every room is a suite. A basic one-bedroom “London Suite” will set you back around US$350 (HK$2,700) a night, which is reasonable by New York standard considering the amount of space you get. The 500-square foot suite, complete with clean-lined furnishings, is designed to replicate the Manhattan residential experience. The only thing that separates the suite from a real home is the kitchen -- it doesn't have one. Like a typical New York apartment, the suite has absolutely no view, not unless you count the dusty office windows across the street. The hotel occupies the low floors of a pre-war building and is dwarfed by every structure around it. The bedroom gets so little natural light that it feels depressing and a bit creepy.

The spacious London Suite

As is the case for most hotels in New York, the service at the London leaves much to be desired. The front desk is under-staffed and the unfriendly doormen look like secret service agents who, instead of getting the door for you, seem to question your right to enter the premises. To those of us who have been spoiled rotten by the superior customer service in Asia, a stay at the London feels like flying Delta or United after getting so thoroughly used to Cathay Pacific.

The London boasts a two-Michelin-star restaurant created by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey. The restaurant itself is unimaginatively called “Gordon Ramsey at the London.” I didn't bother to try it because it is extremely over-priced and, after watching a couple of Hell’s Kitchen episodes on television, I don’t think I want to get anywhere near one of Ramsey’s restaurants.

Gordon Ramsey at the London


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