Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

The Surrey

USA

Slick, polished, refined and designed with artistic flair

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The Surrey
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The Surrey

Location

Upper East Side, Central Park, Manhattan, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Travel Information

John F. Kennedy International Airport - 40 mins
Newark International Airport - 40 mins

Top Tips

Take one the hotel's Bobbin Bikes for a ride through Central Park and enjoy a picnic courtesy of Café Boulud

5-Star X-Factors

The faultless concierge service will help you make the absolute most out of your stay

The Surrey, New York

The Surrey Hotel has a style all of its own: a contemporary blend combining its exclusive locale, on 20 East 76th Street (between Madison and Fifth Avenue), with artistic Beaux-Arts roots. The result is both creative and inspiring while the glamorous Upper East Side neighbourhood is positively Carrie Bradshaw.

Having enjoyed a more boho-chic stay in New York, it was now Uptown-girl time. I should not have worried, at all, about my young daughter Bibi; she took to it like Posh in Prada, while the welcoming staff treated her like a princess. Families are extremely well catered for here.

The Surrey feels pleasantly more like an elegant luxury residential townhouse than a substantial five-star hotel. There are 189 'salons' and 30 outstandingly furnished one-bedroom suites, as well as a penthouse and a seriously staggering Presidential Suite, a divine spa and a fitness centre.

For us, however, a pristine salon on the 15th floor, with exhilarating views, complete with two queen-size DUX beds by Duxiana felt very spoiling, while our other agenda was to soak up the ambiance of one the most haute bourgeoisie districts the world over.

Checking in at The Surrey is a little surreal. The modern take on this immaculately restored 1920s building, which re-opened after an extensive 'recreation' led by renowned architectural and interior designer Lauren Rottet, is quite unlike any other hotel I have stayed in.

The lobby feels quite intimate, like a grand residence rather than a grand-luxe hotel, while the homage to great artwork strikes you head-on. The refined contemporary colour scheme of cream, silver, grey, toffee and black feels slick and assuring, while Rottet has added touches that take you out of your hotel-conditioned comfort zone.

Art for art's sake

The building itself is extraordinarily handsome, as with most in the area, and this, coupled with the internal design fixtures from coffered ceilings, limestone walls and floors of grey and white marble creates a framework of plush, high-end excellence.

However, rather than remaining entirely along this safe and luxurious vein, touches of risqué artistic flair have created something altogether more exciting; from the hand-tooled leather bar to the awesome oriental 'carpet' mosaic. The Surrey is situated only moments away from some of the city's finest cultural institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick Collection and has thus firmly aligned itself with world-class art.

Love it or hate it, you are immediately drawn to a wall-size tapestry of Kate Moss by photorealist Chuck Close. Superbly lit from recessed spotlights, the portrait of this usually red-lipped, kitten healed, striking siren, is disarmingly honest in its almost flagrant imagery. Whatever your reaction may be, this is a talking point and, as with all the eclectic artistic choices and alternative fittings, it's this heterogeneous sense of imagery that sets The Surrey aside from its counterparts.

Vital asset

It has to be mentioned that the concierge team here is quite exceptional. Chef concierge, Lorene Ringoot, did all in her power to make sure that we wasted no time in visiting anywhere inappropriate to the little one, and reserved us a great table for lunch at the wonderful Gramercy Tavern, as well as dinner in-house at the celebrated Café Boulud. It is the way in which your wishes are fulfilled, with professionalism and genuine care that makes your stay here feel secure, sorted and special.

Having left our final hours in their capable hands we now had our final agenda set out. Of course, you can always change arrangements last minute, but it's comforting to have a plan too.

Retail therapy

Madison Avenue is, and has been for many years, synonymous with fashion, especially between 57th and 85th Street. Jewellers from Bacarat to Bulgari display their priceless gems while fashion houses from Chanel to Christian Louboutin to DKNY have their flagship enterprises here.

However, in-between the fashion fame are some extraordinary boutiques indigenous, newly inspired or exotically foreign and it's these that caught our fancy. For example Reed Krakoff (the man behind the Coach label) has his flagship store here, at 831 Madison Avenue, where a shopping experience feels closer to that of a museum.

Shopping here is not just about what's on offer, it's about the adventure along with the exposure to Manhattan's beau monde. At 829 Madison Avenue, the super-fine linen shop, Pratesi, recharged my desire for hand embroidered cotton sheets.

After a quick sum check I swiftly crossed the road and placed my face in a cubicle or, 'smelling column', of expensively fragranced air at Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums. In a boutique more akin to an upmarket art gallery with leather Art Deco furniture, African woodcarvings, bookcases filled with first edition scents the air of haute scent was overwhelming. I found my smell after three squirts; a fourth would have been pushing my luck.

And so it continued, up and down this uber-fashionable parade until we dropped back into the comfort of The Surrey and settled for a cocktail in the cool Art Deco-inspired Bar Pleiades located on the lobby level. Much of the inspiration behind the design came from Coco Chanel, while its rather different name is derived from a beloved French restaurant, a haunt of the art elite in the 70s and 80s. The signature cocktails are not only a visual work of art, they are absolutely delicious.

All that jazz

Before our final supper in Café Boulud, I simply had to show the girls the notorious bar at The Carlyle, around the corner. Bemelmans Bar, at this New York institution, fulfils all your romantic and nostalgic notions of a how a timeless, moody, low-lit Manhattan bar should feel. On this night, the local favourite singer and pianist, Chris Gillespie, was tinkling the ivories and singing, in true cabaret-style, romantic jazz and songbook ballads including 'How About You' and 'They Cant Take That Away From Me'.

With the lights dimmed low, Bibi lost all inhibitions and danced along around the tables. I was worried she may be a nuisance, but, on the contrary, anything goes here and her moves were applauded along with the talented tunes from Mr Gillespie. Only in New York. Perhaps this tradition of the finest of cabaret bar enjoyment is the preserve of the Bemelmans Bar.

With hearts full, and heads swimming with Upper East Side specialities, we enjoyed a masterfully orchestrated classic French meal with a few experimental notes thrown in for a contemporary touch. Following on from here, our orthopedically designed Duxiana beds (engineered for perfect support) were plumped high in soft Sferra bedding.

After a long soak in our deep bath, cocooned in our Pratesi cotton robes, we opened out the doors of our custom-designed armoire at the foot of our beds in order to try, for the fifth night, to finish a film we had started since our arrival in Soho. No such luck.

The following morning after a glorious breakfast of homespun muesli, porridge, omelettes and berries, we strolled over to perhaps the most famous park in all the world as Bibi was desperate to ride in a horse and chariot: a simple pleasure that offers a truly beautiful perspective on this remarkable city.

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer

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