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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Top-Notch Gramercy Park Hotel: Genuine New York City Oasis

A spectacular recent stay at the Gramercy Park Hotel (GPH) in Manhattan has inspired writing about that terrific treat in the same manner that a visit to the aptly named Edgewater Inn in Maine roughly one year ago inspired a "very special" Thanksgiving 2013 diversion from writing about DVD releases.

This Gotham adventure began with my highly significant other booking a room at the GPH to make "a sort of a homecoming" with college friends special for me. Picking this boutique hotel in a surprisingly quiet corner of New York near Union Square and a couple of stones' throws from Soho reflected my love of B & Bs and not so strong affection for the smelly, noisy, and crowded elements that detract from the 1,000s of wonderful things in New York City.

Both being a boutique hotel and not being part of an even upscale hotel chain results in the GPH providing special hospitality and extra touches that make B & Bs so desirable and that corporate-owned properties seem incapable of providing. 

As alluded to above, this makes GPH a very welcoming spot for folks who have a bit more sophistication than the initially naive New York newcomer Gaylord Esterbrook that Jimmy Stewart plays in the Unreal TV reviewed 1940 classic film "No time for comedy" but prefer fresher air and fewer crowds than exist in most parts of New York.

These qualities make the GPH the hotel-of-choice for A-to-Z List celebrities, who also enjoy haunting the Rose Bar in the lobby. Learning of Lindsay Lohan and Selena Gomez separately visiting there inspired joking about whether Hillary Duff has ever been a guest. (Alas, thoughts of visiting Waverly Place came too late to include that destination on the trip.)

The GPH experience commences with one of the "nice young men" who are stationed out front warmly greeting you and bringing your luggage to the very welcoming lobby.

The limited outside noises and smells of the upscale neighborhood completely disappear in this space with enough dark wood, stones (including a large fireplace), and dark velvet upholstered furniture to evoke thoughts of a perfectly preserved castle. There is also quiet background music and a nice spa-quality scent.

The greeting that Joe provided at the well-staffed front desk was so warm that learning that our room was not ready was not at all annoying. Immediately being asked for a cell number to call when the room was ready and having a bellman standing by to store our luggage in the interim further validated this choice of hotel.

The awesome hospitality continued with a "double upgrade" from the reserved Gramercy Queen Room to the indescribably wonderful 750 square-foot Park View Premier Suite, which is twice the size of many New York City apartments. This upgrade definitely is worth the additional cost.

The nearly sound-proof quality of the suite competed with the elegant furnishings, art from the famous Warhol-centric collection of the GPH, and oodles of extras for status of favorite feature. A very comfy spa robe/slipper set, an extraordinary secondary shower head that came to be known as the "bidet nozzle," and fabled Aesop brand amenities contributed a nice spa-like sensibility to the lodgings.

The heavy velvet curtains and French doors with thick glass that separated the bedroom and living room areas of the suite allowed watching DVD episodes of the reviewed "Doctor Who" spin-off "K9" without disturbing the nap of said significant other. (On a related note, three seems to be the tolerance level regarding responding to inquiries with the "K9" catchphrase "affirmative" in a robotic dog voice.)

This suite offered the additional benefit of a perfect view of the very serene Gramercy Park itself, use of which is limited to residents of the neighborhood and guests of GPH.

An unexpected "wacky sitcom" style treat regarding the park came early in the visit. On going to the front desk to ask a question, I overheard a woman and Joe discussing the availability of a higher-level room in the "four" tier of the hotel.

On hearing Joe state that all those rooms were occupied, I joined the conversation by stating that I was staying in 1104 and would help if I could. Joe then introduced the woman as "the mayor of Gramercy Park."

The name of the woman was Arlene Harrison, and she was the president of the amazingly active and effective Gramercy Park Block Association. She told me that her objective was getting good photos of the park in bloom.

Harrison was gracious and appreciative when I offered to let her in the room to take the photos. (Attempted humor in stating "yeah, right" when Harrison commented that I must be a New Yorker because I was so friendly fell flat.)

The aforementioned "wacky" events prevented Harrison from coming up for the photos. I subsequently learned that weather conditions turned out to be less than optimal for the photos anyway.

Returning to the room on Saturday night to find turn-down service that included refreshed supplies of the aforementioned uber-awesome Aesop amenities and a softly burning candle added to the enjoyment of the stay.

This terrific weekend further included a tasty Italian dinner at Maialino in the hotel lobby. The decor was quite nice, but background music and more subtle lighting would have been nice touches.

Our respective entrees of cod and pasta with pesto were well-prepared and flavorful. Further, we appreciated that our server advised us when ordering that the pasta required a little extra time.

The chocolate croissant bread pudding with hazelnut gelato was slightly disappointing. The bread pudding was less rich than the traditional form of that treat, and the gelato had the almost certainly related flaws of being more creamy and lacking as strong a flavor as true gelato. The fact that the flavor became a little sharper after several minutes suggested as well that the gelato was not being stored at an ideal temperature.

The GPH passed a couple of checkout-related tests on Monday morning. The clerk politely resolved a billing dispute in our favor, and we learned on contacting the hotel regarding a forgotten personal item that the hotel already mailed it to us.

All of this boils down to the GPH being the perfect choice for NYC visitors who want a conveniently located ideal oasis after enduring the smells, noise, and crowds of that metropolis to enjoy the scads o' well-known and lesser-known treats that more than offset those unpleasant experiences.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding the GPH or the Gramercy Park neighborhood is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.