In Depth

The Pierre review: a prime location that oozes luxury

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And so, in the continuing adventures of a travel writer returning to New York for the first time in too long, we leave The Lowell and venture to The Pierre. Admittedly “venture” makes it sound like some sort of heroic undertaking when actually it’s approximately five minutes’ walk. It was in the rain though, so that’s almost medal-worthy, surely? 

The Pierre and I have history. On my last visit to New York, I accompanied a restaurateur who was considering opening a site in the city. Part of the research involved eating in as many places as we could in five days. That the Saturday started with Papaya King for breakfast and Five Napkin Burger for – ahem – third lunch, should tell you all you need to know about Saturday. By the time we were confronted with plates of ribs at Blue Smoke, I was broken. 

The following day, we decided to go for a brisk morning walk, to build an appetite for the gospel fried chicken lunch at Sylvia’s – enormous fun, completely delicious and a must if you’re ever in the city for the weekend. After strolling around Central Park, we ducked into The Pierre for breakfast and, with the wealth of wonderful NYC breakfasting options available to me, I found rare reserves of will power and ordered mint tea and half a pink grapefruit. Even the waitress looked stunned. “Are you sure?” she asked, not entirely flatteringly. 

Anyway, that was then, this is now. That particular restaurant has been redesigned and renamed Perrine, but the hotel remains intact in its prime location in the heart of Manhattan. It looms over that East side of Central Park, and, with its gold flashes and black and white marble floors, oozes luxury. 

The Pierre is five-star service on a much larger scale than The Lowell and is, by definition, more formal than intimate which, perhaps, explains a couple of hiccups that occur – but also the speed of apology and attempts at reparation. Looking at the Pierre’s website, rooms come in positively-named categories such as Superior, Classic, Deluxe, City View and Park View. It doesn’t cross our mind then to book based on what we’ll see from the window, which is how we end up on the “other” side of the hotel, in a thoroughly lovely, well appointed, very comfortable room with a “view” of aircon units and what appears to be a neighbouring office building.

Given the amount of time you actually spend in the average hotel room, you don’t need a view of the Park or the City if you’re spending most of your day wandering through them. This is, of course, the very definition of “first world problems” but it’s probably worth specifying your preferences at the time of booking. Thanks to the imminent arrival of New York Fashion Week – The Pierre has long been connected to that world – the place is full, so we’re unable to move rooms. Instead, we receive apology by way of cakes, chocolates, cheese platters and wine. Given my obvious love of food, it’s a very satisfactory compromise. 

There’s also a degree of confusion about what kind of breakfast we’re entitled to, but that’s soon sorted, and when we drop by Perrine for dinner that evening – since you ask, a quite impeccable burger – we’re presented with glasses of champagne by way of apology. It’s an extremely slick, much appreciated gesture. 

The hotel itself is incredibly well appointed, with more meeting spaces and elegant ballrooms than I think I’ve ever seen in one space. Movie buffs may wish to know that the tango scene in Scent of a Woman was filmed in the Cotillion Room. The Pierre can also boast a remarkable history in terms of guests (Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, many, many others), former staff (Auguste Escoffier headed up the kitchen in 1932) and even owners: in 1938, John Paul Getty bought the place. It’s now owned by the TAJ Group.

© Donna Dotan Photography

Service, while perhaps lacking the intimacy the more boutique-scale Lowell can offer, is friendly, efficient and extremely plentiful: it sometimes seems there are uniforms visible about every ten paces. It’s also the kind of place where you return to your room to discover that your recharging lead has been removed from the USB socket and neatly rolled up and held in place by a Taj-branded elastic band. It’s a gloriously pointless bit of clean-up that I can’t help but admire. This devil is, after all, in the details. 

The Pierre is a very different experience from its neighbour The Lowell, and the contrast is an interesting example of how five star service can be delivered in myriad ways. Judging by the occupancy rate, there are clearly many people for whom The Pierre is exactly what the doctor ordered. 

The Pierre, 2 East 61st Street, at 5th Avenue. To book, go to www.thepierreny.com

To find out more and plan your next New York City adventure, visit www.nycgo.com 

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