The Lowell Hotel, New York review: an address book secret
According to the song, New York, New York is so good they named it twice. In similar numerical vein, I’m declaring it so good, I’m writing about it three times. Well, sort of.
A return to New York was long overdue. In the early days of our marriage, my wife and I averaged a visit about every 18 months or so because, well, we could and, like so many of you, we love the place. It’s one of those cities that always lives up to the hype, the hyperbole, the clichés but, however many times you’ve been, there’s always something new to discover. You can rush around and play tourist, you can tick off all the landmarks and movie locations – it is, after all, the biggest film set in the world – or you can just hang out, drink coffee, eat overfilled sandwiches, and pretend you’re a local for a little while. It’s everything to everyone.
Any opportunity to return would have been grabbed with both hands. When it included a chance to return to The Lowell… we’re talking speed-grabbing. We’re talking faster-than-the-naked-eye, David Blaine-sleight of hand grabbing. We’re talking Flash levels of speed-grabbing.
As someone who kind of travels for a living, it’s probably unprofessional to declare any hotel as my favourite in the world so I’m going to cheat and declare The Lowell as my wife’s favourite hotel in the world, and I’ll discretely place it in my Top Ten. But, you know, cough, quite high in my top ten…
It’s partly the location, an Upper East Side, er, side street, that’s enough off the main drag to make The Lowell feel like a local secret, the sort of location that, in your New York daydreams, is where you’ll buy the apartment post-lottery win. It’s a wonderful neighbourhood: in strollable distance of just about everything, a few minutes from Central Park, slap bang between Madison and Park, for all your designer label needs and where your next closest neighbourhood eatery – aside from the Lowell’s own excellent Majorelle – is Daniel Boulud’s titular, two Michelin-starred restaurant.
The Lowell lets you buy into that fantasy with ease, even down to the neighbourhood vibe. It’s one of those hotels where everybody knows your name, seemingly from before you check in. For various reasons, we arrive separately, my wife dropping her bag and heading to a local yoga class. I arrive an hour or so later and, before I’ve reached the desk, I’ve been greeted as Mr Davey, been relieved of my suitcase, received profuse apologies that our room isn’t quite ready, and been escorted to the bar to catch up on email and enjoy – what else? – a Manhattan. My wife returns, there’s a second drink and a jolly nice man appears to show us to our room.
Now, there’s an etiquette to this moment I’m sure we all follow. The door swings open and, whether the room is the most luxurious suite in Christendom or the most basic, functional Travel Lodge-esque room imaginable, it’s greeted with a polite nod and perhaps a non-committal grunt of some description. Yeah, that didn’t happen this time. The door opened and I made noises only dogs could hear.
The last time we stayed at The Lowell, we had a very lovely and very simple room but, as a visiting journalist, I’d also been shown around so had received a glimpse of their more spectacular accommodation. One room has stuck in my mind since that day… and yes, here we were. Those were our bags by the wardrobe. Those were our two balconies. That was our lounge. That was our mahoosive bathroom. That was our bed that’s so padded you need a brief run up to get on it. So, yeah, stuff decorum and etiquette.
The man showing us the room took it all in his stride – I suspect even jaded Hollywood stars and billionaire industrialists squeal a little at that room – and his colleagues show similar levels of grace and efficiency in every interaction during our all-too-brief stay. The name thing remains charming, rather than obsequious, and feels like an effortlessly genuine thing rather than the trick or obligation it can feel in other five-star hotels. It’s a hell of an achievement.
Since our previous visit, The Lowell has undergone substantial refurbishment and a clever expansion. Before it was charming but rather compact and dark. Now, the ground floor – or first floor, if you’re American – is bright and open, from doorway to the terrace of the aforementioned Majorelle, where chef Emmanuel Niess’s menu of French classics and Mediterranean influences ticks many, many exquisite boxes.
The other most noticeable change is probably at The Pembroke, the second floor restaurant that serves as the breakfast room, for those days where you don’t want to just hide in your room and order an omelette. A few years ago, the Pembroke’s USP was a collection of jams from around the world, put together by an eager member of staff.
These days, the jams have gone in favour of a menu that reflects 21st century dietary requirements – “Fitness and Proteins”, the acai-heavy Brazilian Breakfast, sides of steamed spinach and roasted cauliflower – although the more calorific joys of pancakes, waffles and the Lowell’s signature Benedict are still present, correct and superbly executed. There’s also Eggs Isabella, eggs scrambled with truffle, served in their shells with caviar because, well, why wouldn’t there be?
There are more modern hotels. There are more luxuriously appointed hotels. There are hotels with more facilities and spas and pools. And, you know, they’re all glorious. But there’s something about The Lowell that just resonates with me, with my wife and, once you start talking about it in certain circles, a handful of others who’ve experienced its many charms. It feels like an “address book secret”, or a very exclusive private club. It’s just a very exclusive club with a relaxed, friendly, utterly exquisite clubhouse.
For reservations, visit www.lowellhotel.com.
To find out more and plan your next New York City adventure, visit www.nycgo.com