Hotel Insider Rosemary Behan checks into the new Gansevoort Park Avenue hotel in New York and finds large rooms and a great location, but patchy service.
Gansevoort Park Avenue offers value in the middle of Manhattan
Stylish, athletic-looking doormen dressed in fitted yet understated blacks and greys were on hand to help me unload my taxi and get me checked in. That process was straightforward and I liked the demure feel of the high-ceilinged, chandeliered lobby with its designer fireplace roaring in the middle of summer.
The hotel, a newly opened new-build, is on Park Avenue South and 29th street, in an area known as NoMad (north of Madison Square Park). Park Avenue South is parallel to and between Madison Avenue and Lexington Avenue, and within easy walking distance of Union Square, Madison Square and Gramercy Parks, the Theatre District, the Empire State Building and Grand Central Station. It took just half an hour to reach the hotel from La Guardia airport by taxi, and when I arrived at 9pm the multicultural area was buzzing.
Despite being newer than its sister hotel, the Gansevoort Meatpacking District, the scene here is more sophisticated and less hedonistic. It is popular with weekending New Yorkers and holidaymakers from Russia, South America and Europe, and there's a pleasantly mixed feel to the crowd at the rooftop bars during the week - roughly half corporate and half leisure travellers. At the weekend there was a crowd queuing outside to get onto the rooftop but luckily they doesn't use the hotel's lobby or the elevators that access the rooms. On Saturday morning I saw a male guest without a shirt in one of the elevators, which was slightly off-putting.
Patchy. All staff were pleasant but I waited more than half an hour for my bags to be delivered to my room on arrival before calling the front desk to ask where they were. A few times, my calls to housekeeping were not answered.
My room was very pleasant and comfortable, with floor-to-ceiling windows, and was large by Manhattan standards (the hotel's 249 rooms average 44 sq m each). On the seventh floor, it had a decent street view which let you feel like you were in central Manhattan while isolating you just about enough from the noise (blaring fire engines and car horns were going until around 1am). The bed and bathroom were lovely but I would have liked some tea-making facilities.
The hotel's main restaurant is an Italian called Aselina, on the ground floor. It's cavernous, and manages to be both slick and homely, but I wasn't overly charmed by the breakfast service or the food, though what put me off the most was the price. A salmon and cream cheese bagel cost an eye-watering US$17 (Dh62) before the "20 per cent gratuity added to all checks", so I went for the more mundane "continental breakfast" of pastries, juice, coffee and yoghurt for a still-pricey $20 (Dh73). I had to ask for jam and extra butter for my toast, and it was difficult trying to get my surly waitress' attention. Better, I think, to head to a cafe outside for breakfast. I invite a New Yorker friend to join me for dinner, but she isn't impressed by the noisy atmosphere. "It's a little chavvy," she says of the Saturday night clientele: most look as if they are heading out for a hard night's partying straight from dinner. "The food is way too salty," she also complains. We've ordered carpaccio al tartufo nero (beef carpaccio with black truffle [$24; Dh88]), papparadelle pasta with mushrooms ($25; Dh91), spinach ravioli ($20; Dh73) field greens ($12; Dh44) and truffle fries ($9; Dh33). I like salt, and loved the truffle fries - the rest of the food was average for the price. I liked the busy atmosphere and the convenience of the restaurant, but wouldn't have wanted to eat there a second night.
The views from the Rooftop bar and lounge, the fabulously designed selection of bars, from the double-height main bar to the snug lounges surrounding it, and the outdoor terrace which hangs high above the street. The free Porsche Panamera that can shuttle you to the Gansevoort's other property in the Meatpacking District. The size of the rooms and the relative peace and quiet compared to the noise outside.
There was no free bottled water in the room and the mini-bar water was pricey. The swimming pool was closed for maintenance at 11am on a Monday, having been closed for a pool party the day before. On the Monday morning the sun deck was also closed for "monthly maintenance", which was annoying because I hadn't used either and was checking out that day.
A good choice of hotel in a great location, the Gansevoort is worth the money despite a few small deficiencies.
The bottom line
Double rooms cost from $475 (Dh1,744) per night, including taxes and excluding breakfast. The Gansevoort Park Avenue NYC, 420 Park Avenue South, New York (www.gansevoortpark.com; 001 877 830 9889).