A 21-hour, two-stop flight on Kuwait Airways has me dropping from exhaustion by the time my cab pulls up to the hotel – an airport transfer in one of the hotel-appointed cars starts from a rather hefty US$245 (Dh899). However, the doorman is super-speedy, and has my bags and me deposited outside the lifts in no time. The main reception is on the 35th floor, and check-in involves the usual exchange of passports, credit cards and small talk – sans the welcome drinks that are now part of many a hotel arrival – before I take a second set of lifts to my room on the 49th floor.
The hotel is located across from Columbus Circle, at the intersection of Eighth Avenue and Broadway. The southwest corner of Central Park is but 20 steps away, while Times Square is a 15-minute walk, which makes it easy to access, and yet is free from the area’s barrage of light, sound and people. High-street and luxury brands, as well as pharmacies and grocery stores dot the circle, and Manhattan’s famous dive bars are just a few minutes away. People-watching, one of my favourite pastimes in New York, is compulsory here.
The reception itself is abuzz with activity as non-guests pour in by the dozen to have a meal at the always-full Asiate restaurant or a drink at The Aviary lobby lounge overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park. Upbeat music from the lounge lends the space a vibrant vibe, even as a jewellery boutique in one corner beckons. I don’t think I saw the two concierges alone for a single minute of my stay here. It’s a good place to spend some time if you want to indulge in the aforementioned activity of people-watching, but sitting down.
My corner room has glass-to-ceiling views of both Central Park and the Hudson. Spacious enough for two by Manhattan standards, at 420 square feet, the room is fitted with straightforward lights and air conditioning controls, a work desk, sinkable chaise lounge and plush carpeting. The well-appointed bathroom has a separate toilet area, bath tub and rain-shower-fitted cubicle, and toiletries by Atelier Cologne.
In a word, surreptitious. Greetings are polite, but kept brief, almost muted. At Asiate, the staff are super-knowledgeable, and it’s worth engaging them in conversation about all things New York. There is not, as indeed you would expect from a hotel of this calibre, any hanging about for tips, which is so common in most other parts of the city.
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The chef’s sample paired menu at Asiate is an absolute must-try. For Dh550, you can try six delectable dishes, which change every season. On offer at present is a Maine lobster with carrot aioli and heart of palm; hedgehog mushrooms with apples; sweet potato with cranberry, walnut and goat milk; foie gras with an unmissable strawberry butter; Wagyu beef; and a strawberry shortcake with lime and creme fraiche ice cream. Breakfast can be had at the restaurant or ordered up to the room, and includes a choice of Continental, American, Mandarin, Japanese and healthy options, with plenty of eggs, breads, vegetables and sausages, plus the smoothie shot of the day, from $32 (Dh117).
That breakfast can be ordered straight to bed.
The short duration of my stay in New York meant I was hard-pressed to miss the never-ending shopping and sightseeing delights, and reserve time for the Mandarin’s award-winning spa (the new Rawceuticals facial from emerginC and Digital Wellness Escape treatment come highly recommended).
A perfectly located, luxurious oasis in the heart of the city.
The bottom line
Rates at the Mandarin Oriental, New York (www.mandarinoriental.com) start from US$1,031 (Dh3,786) per night, including taxes and fees.