By Terry Trucco
Is the latest, must-have luxury hotel amenity a dishwasher?
I wondered after a recent tour of the new Hyatt 48Lex, a 116-room glass box with the moniker of a chain hotel and the heart – and size — of a boutique. The first thing you see as you enter is a butler’s pantry outfitted with gleaming versions of the expected (stainless steel sink, microwave, mini fridge). But voila, a pair of surprises. A clever cabinet swings open to display a superbly stocked, mirror-backed bar (full-size bottles instead of minis). And a Fisher-Paykel stainless steel dishwasher drawer nestles under a cupboard.
My idea of a vacation is not washing dishes, but you get the idea. The rooms at 48Lex exude a pied a terre vibe, from the parade of wines and glasses to the dishwasher.
As much as I love hotels converted from old buildings, the ultimate in smart recycling,
hotels created from the ground up are fascinating as blank canvases. Beyond the built-in size constraints, namely that of the budget and the lot, the developers can do whatever they like, with no worries about weird window shapes and landmark restrictions. Though their ranks are growing, Manhattan hotels built from the ground up are still something a rarity. What did 48Lex’s planners do with their blank slate?
My first thought upon seeing the compact ground-floor lobby – a good-looking but businesslike landing pad with a narrow bench and a table staffed by a greeter holding a laptop – was déjà vu. Hyatt’s Andaz chain is among the small but growing contingent of hotels to jettison the check-in desk for computer-wielding staffers, like at the Apple store. The idea here is personalized service, my guide said. After checking guests in, the staffer escorts them to the room. I didn’t picture the slender woman with the laptop hoisting heavy bags, but two large carts stood nearby.
If the ground floor is about passing through, the second floor Lexicon Lounge is about settling in. With floor-to-ceiling windows, a gas-jet fireplace and plenty of sleek sofas and swivel chairs, it’s an inviting lair. You can grab a free coffee or espresso from the brazenly state-of-the-art WMF Bistro coffeemaker and nibble whatever delight the pastry chef has deposited on the refectory table (mini lemon zest bars when we visited – lovely). Complimentary breakfast pastries are set out each morning.
Stacks of Assouline art books line side tables along with the daily papers, collected in whimsical holders labeled NEWS. A staffer hovers about helping with the coffeemaker and refilling the snack plate, a quiet reminder that the lounge is for guests, not drop ins.
The contemporary décor with its neutral/autumnal palette of cocoa, café au lait and cream wafts into the rooms, just six per floor and none smaller than 370 square feet. For a hotel in the heart of Manhattan’s business district, it was a pleasure to see how romantic the rooms looked, especially the corner suite where the squared off floor-to-ceiling windows look onto a cityscape that had me humming “Empire State of Mind.” Those big, clean windows make the room feel like it’s floating in a sea of glass and brick, a sweet sensation.
I liked the entry hallway, with floor tiles that look like wood and the dark wood butler’s
pantry to the side. A small, carpeted sitting room followed, contemporary-cozy with a sleek steel-colored sofa and a handsome desk with a pull-out writing table — sufficiently businesslike, in other words, for a meeting place.
The sleeping area’s centerpiece was a queen-size bed dressed in white and backed by a handsome, chocolate leather headboard enveloped by a larger rectangle in gray velvet that reminded us of men’s suit fabric. A brown wool throw was folded at the foot, and a flatpanel TV opposite the bed seemed to float in front of the window (okay, it was attached to the wall – I looked — but the effect was intriguing).
The white bathroom, hidden behind a sliding frosted glass door, felt spacious with a large, glass-fronted stall shower and generous washstand. And instead of classic white terry, a suave black bathrobe hung on the wall.
The standard room I saw was similar, sans sitting room and corner views. Like the suite, it featured a good-looking closet armoire, smaller than you’d expect in a luxury-minded hotel. But kudos to whoever decided to stash the extra pillows in black fabric bags. I’ve often wondered how many times spare pillows and blankets hit the floor before being tossed into a closet.
I didn’t get a chance to try Lexington Brass, the bustling ground floor brasserie operated by the owners of Abe & Arthur’s in the Meatpacking District. Another time. Like the hotel, it looks good. Hyatt 48Lex’s planners, it seems, chose well.
Hyatt 48Lex, 517 Lexington Avenue at 48th Street, 212 838-1234