Your New York dream and your New York reality are often two very distinct concepts. Your New York dream: a plush suite large enough to accommodate your many purchases from Barneys; close enough to the moneyed gloss of the Upper East Side, yet not too far from the din and excitement of midtown and beyond. Your New York reality: a box room in nondescript corner of Manhattan, in which three nights cost the equivalent of one month’s rent, and previously unmentioned six-legged roommates have their own key.
Now, a disclaimer: Loews Regency is not some miraculous hybrid of everything you ever wanted from a NYC hotel, at a low cost. Because it comes at a cost. The point is there is no better place in Manhattan to drop those dollars, because boy does it deliver. With a midtown vibe that is palpable throughout, the hotel successfully combines old and new, and the spirit of Loews’ past lingers animatedly amongst modern luxuries and state-of-the-art amenities. The result is property that offers the unthinkable in this manic city: accommodation where the prospect of staying in is actually more attractive than staying out.
One does not have to have visited Park Avenue to be familiar with its lore. From the Park Avenue princesses depicted by Gossip Girl and SATC’s Charlotte York, to the Kennedys, Rockefellers and Tischs (the family behind the Loews brand) that have lived here, this well-heeled boulevard has long been associated with the city’s wealthy, esteemed and glamorous. Much of this can actually be credited to Loews’ presence on the iconic street. A long time fixture, located at the avenue’s 61st street intersection, the vast 379-room hotel first opened its doors in 1963 and was an instant hit, drawing in a host of celebrities, socialites and dignitaries.
Fast-forward to 2016, two years after Loews reopened following a one-year, $100 million renovation. Modern design now meets classic style at the landmark hotel, whose upgrade includes the addition a new restaurant and a salon. The walls are still steeped in history, but they have been coated with a fresh layer of sophistication, and a crisp, fresh aesthetic courtesy of local design firms Rottet Studio, Meyer Davis Studio Inc, and Jonathan Nehmer + Associates.
And yet, despite the flattering overhaul, the property retains its allure and remains one of the few places in the city where seeing and being seen are still an active sport. Case in point? The hotel’s new Regency Bar & Grill, where the Wall Street, entertainment, media and politics regularly converge for the iconic Power Breakfast, a concept conceived here by co-CEO Bob Tisch in 1975. Deals are closed and new networks formed over smoked salmon benedicts, buttermilk pancakes and bagels from a menu that offers high-quality, well-prepared ingredients, minus the unnecessary flourishes.
Leather upholstered booths offer a sense of mystery, even at 11am on a Sunday, while mirrored walls bearing photographs of NYC landmarks in the Meyer Davis Studio-designed space only serve to enhance the fact that at The Regency Bar & Grill, you really are in the presence of the city’s crème de la crème. Sure, $20 for bowl of cereal is excessive, but that’s the point — think of it as your entrance fee to a very exclusive urban safari.
To locals, the hotel is known as the city’s go-to for the grand occasions — think charity galas and political conferences — that seem to take place every day on this small island. For others, the new swank flagship Julian Farel Restore Salon & Spa, a temple to wellness, grooming and relaxation, is now the property’s distinguishing feature. In a city where high-maintenance grooming habits are de riguer, 7am $250 blowouts aren’t just on the menu here, they’re in demand. A men’s salon, JF Men, is the pièce de résistance, offering shaves and grooming services in a state-of-the-art setting marked by pale wood parquetry, dark marble and theatrical lighting, all designed by Meyer Davis.
The drama doesn’t end there. Loews’ reimagined grand marble entrance now welcomes visitors with Brise de Printemps, a large lobby installation by local artist Nina Helms that features 438 hand-carved flowers floating across the wall. Above the dramatics of the ground floor lie 379 luxe rooms, bunker-like in their ability to lock out the noise of the city. There’s no doubting the guestrooms are sleek and modern, peppered with Carrara topped bedstands, contemporary art and toffee-coloured leather upholstery, all marked with splashes of mint and grey.
However the cutting-edge design is reserved for the hotel’s six Signature Suites. These accommodations, which debuted the same year the hotel reopened, had their interiors conceived by different designers, including the esteemed Nate Berkus and Haynes-Roberts. The result is a diverse range of spaces, which draw influence from everything from Marilyn Monroe to 1970s Milan and inject a shot of fun into this otherwise very business-like hotel.
It all sits a short distance from the iconic sights of Barneys, Central Park and Museum Mile in a beloved and unrivalled location where postcard snapshots of New York are a reality. With rooms starting at around $450 per night, Loews Regency will be a one-off experience for many, but it’s worth the effort for an insight to side New York that is very much alive, but that many — locals included — never get to catch a glimpse of.
Loews Regency, New York. 540 Park Avenue at 61st Street, 212-759-4100. A double room starts at $450 per night on a room only basis. For more information, visit www.loewshotels.com.