By Terry Trucco
Lots better than in 2012, when not a single Big Apple hotel landed on the Tripadvisor top 25 best US hotels list (New York has yet to crack the ranks of the 25 best hotels in the world). This year there are three – The Sherry-Netherland scored in the top 10, coming in at 8, followed by the plucky Casablanca Hotel Times Square (16) and stylish newcomer Refinery (20), a plum for a hotel open less than a year.
No other US city hit those heights, though the state of California landed three top 25 winners, and Oregon cleaned up with four.
What to make of Tripadvisor’s selections? It’s hard to think of three more different New York City hotels, whether in style, appearance or price. But each is proudly individual. Each is independent; no chain properties here. And all three are small enough for the staff to know you by the time you settle in. (Though the Sherry soars 38 stories over Central Park, it offers just 50 hotel rooms sprinkled amidst 165 silky apartments.)
Tripadvisor’s winners consistently surprise me. If I had to choose just three New York hotels for a national list I probably wouldn’t go with these, though the Sherry is a classic and the Refinery deserves a nod as a top newcomer. Still, each has plenty to recommend it. I paid all three a visit after the results came out. Here’s my take on Tripdavisor’s Big Three.
The Sherry is best appreciated as an experience. This is as close as you’ll get to feeling like a character in an Edith Wharton novel. Fresh flowers and Godiva chocolates await in each guest room, you’re ferried up and down by a white-gloved elevator operator, and the Central Park views are breathtaking, like their cost. Interior rooms, starting at $499, are less spectacular but can be surprisingly spacious.
But the 1927, marble-drenched Sherry isn’t for modernists. And since rooms are individually owned, décor veers from spiffy to (gently) worn. There’s also not much public space to plop with a book or chat with friends. But there’s no denying the Sherry’s innate style: in the midst of a restoration of its painted ceiling, the lobby looks like a sultan’s lair thanks the artfully draped ecru cotton covering the rehab work.
The Casablanca is small – just 45 rooms – but scores big every year with Tripadvisor reviewers (“charming without being pretentious,” writes a recent visitor from the UK). Opened in 1997, it’s been updated with fresh fittings but still retains the somewhat dated thematic touches typical of 1990s boutique hotels, in this case Moorish inflections like wainscoting and floors blanketed in tiny tiles and Moroccan-style wood shutters.
The building is unremarkable. But guests like the hotel’s homey vibe, noticeable as soon as you enter. The staff is friendly. And if you get a small room, there’s plenty of seating just for guests on the second floor. The Casablanca can also be an excellent deal. A generous breakfast buffet, all-day coffee and cookies and a wine and cheese hour come with the room. And the hotel is quiet. Considering its thick-of-things Times Square locale, that’s saying a lot.
The Refinery occupies a former hat factory in the boring, quasi-industrial Garment District just south of Times Square. But the 197-room hotel holds its own as an attraction with a clever design that incorporates fashion and millinery motifs and a spectacular roof bar open year round (a retractable glass ceiling keeps out summer heat and winter chill).
I like the cool details you can spend hours spotting, from guest room desks perched on iron legs inspired by the vintage Singer sewing machine to the witty millinery motifs on the lobby rugs. And though oddly shaped and not especially big, guest rooms feel contemporary with a hip, downtown feel that’s welcome in the wilds of southern midtown – and on a Tripadvisor list.