New York’s Jumeirah Essex House Hotel Reaches Out to the Gay Traveler
Reposted from TripOutGayTravel.com
by John Polly
Looking to stay swanky in NYC? The Essex House on Central Park South is welcoming LGBT travelers with stylish, open arms!
The afternoon glow of Central Park and the historic Essex House rising above the trees.
You know you’re going to enjoy a hotel stay when on a gorgeously sunny fall day, after stepping inside from the storied and shiny bustle of Central Park South, being met by the concierge in the richly yet tastefully styled lobby (mind that huge towering flower arrangement in the center of the room) and sailing up 38 floors in a handsome wood-paneled elevator, you find yourself being greeted by name at the door of your suite by your own besuited butler.
“Welcome to the Essex House, Mr. Polly. My name is Annette, and I’ll be your personal butler during your stay.”
I like this already.
Annette is a smart-looking woman in a tuxedo who ushers me into room 3810, which is a large suite bigger than most New York City 1 or 2 bedroom apartments. Gently, yet expediently Annette gives me a thorough tour of the suite… There’s a spacious and warm living room area, a dining area, and on offer there’s complimentary fruit, a bottle of wine, mineral water, and a fun and crafty plate of gourmet chocolates with the hotel’s signature rooftop “Essex House” sign constructed in miniature–in chocolate. Then come the two bathrooms–one half-bath off the living room, and the master bath which is along the long hallway which leads to the big corner bedroom with windows facing south and west, delivering staggeringly fabulous views of midtown Manhattan, the West Side, the Hudson River and yes, a sizeable portion of the southwest corner of Central Park.
The view from my corner suite looked a bit like this. Hello, New York!
“Thanks Annette, I’ll be fine…” I say calmly, while inside I’m like “Wooooooooohooo! Swankiest NYC hotel room everrrr!”
Of course, before graciously taking her leave, Annette had clued me in to the whereabouts of the hotel’s fitness center and the spa (both on the 3rd floor), the in-house dining options, the business center and basically laid out the ground rules that if I were to need anything at all, she could make it happen.
Left alone in my suite, I snap some pics, text them to a friend or two with messages gasping “Check out this amazing room and view!!!” and other gushing missives. I’m very glad to be someone who covers travel right now. A night in one of New York City’s finest historic hotels situated grandly on Central Park South? Yes, please. I mean, I live in New York (Williamsburg, Brooklyn to be precise) and this experience is already renewing my excitement about how thrilling and indulgent a “visit” to Manhattan can me.
Being the only Jumeirah property in the United States (though more are expected to become part of this world-renowned luxury collection of hotels based in Dubai) the Essex House is smartly eager to welcome LGBT visitors, and I’m here to sample a bit of what they have to offer. And so far I’m impressed. As my overnight visit progresses, so does my appreciation.
After dropping my overnight bag and swanning about the four or five rooms which will be my home for the next 24-hour visit, I head down to the lobby for a glass of champagne and official welcome from the hotel’s general manager, the head of marketing and social media, and one of the concierge/front desk staffers who whisk me and a few other guests on a tour of the lobby, a breezy stroll through the spacious and handsome lobby (Afternoon tea is being served; there are ornate fashion and shopping-themed pastries and sweets on offer!) and around the hotel’s park-front restaurant, South Gate where we’ll be dining tonight. The room is a mix of bright white furnishings, handsome wood tables, a dazzlingly cool geometric mirror-block sculptural wall and just a stylish and airy upbeat vibe.
Along the tour, the Essex House’s in-house art curator Katherine Gass joins us to introduce us to the hotel’s unique collection of art in its public spaces. Turns out the Essex House has a thriving art program and relationship with New York City’s art community, interacting with the city’s museums and galleries, sponsoring major events like the Armory Show (a huge annual showcase of contemporary art) and even boasting its own artist-in-residence series where prominent contemporary artists come and spend time in the hotel, and are given housing and space to create new works–some of which in turn, end up gracing the public spaces of the hotel.
A bit of the Essex House lobby with Mark Innerst’s gorgeous painting of Columbus Circle in the background.
Notable results of this fruitful and smart art program are hanging prominently in the Essex House lobby. I was enthralled by Mark Innerst’s stately and evocative painting of Columbus Circle in the lobby lounge, as well as Atta Kim’s rich and lush pair of very large long-exposure photographs of Central Park presiding over the central lobby area. Both renowned artists now have thriving, ongoing relationships with the hotel which lures their patrons and artful colleagues to the hotel as guests. Savvy, eh?
After getting a quick tour of the fascinating and fun archival photographs of Central Park and New York City which line the hallway leading to the main elevator bay, our tour ascends upstairs to get a glimpse at several of the rooms. No surprises. They’re handsome, well-appointed, very spacious by New York hotel standards, and the park-facing rooms and suites boast staggeringly gorgeous views of Central Park that are the stuff that romantic comedies and swoony New York-based Cinderella stories are made of.
What’s quickly becoming clear as we tour along is that while the vibe and quality of accommodations and services at Essex House are top-notch, five-star luxury caliber, the value is pretty impressive. The most basic rooms here begin in the $400-range, which is pretty much standard for rooms at lesser places in Manhattan. Here, you’re pretty much on par with the quality of a Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton, but for notably less.
A room with a view.
And arf! Dogs are welcome, too. In fact, in the past few months, Essex House has rolled out the canine-sized red carpet with its festive and innovative Pet Program, which lets dogs check in alongside their masters, and get royal in-room treatment that includes perks such as a “Canine Turndown Service” which includes their own customized bedding, food, and water bowls (all provided by the hip Greenwich Village pooch emporium, Wagwear), gourmet homemade treats, and more all at no extra charge. Pups and their owners can all live the good life on Central Park South.
Our tour wraps, I return to my suite. I get cozy in my big king bed, snag a rare afternoon nap, and still have time for a stroll through the park and the shops at Time Warner Center just barely over a block away, and then it’s time for cocktails and drinks at South Gate. The hotel also offers MP3 Central Park Walking Tours of the art and architecture in the park; you just download them and go. Bike rentals, car service, recommendations of shopping or sights to see… Obviously, they’ve got it covered.
The evening begins with cocktails at long tall communal bar table in the regally lit, lively yet not deafening bar area of the restaurant. I try a Strawberry Fields Caipirinha (a nod to what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday this year), while my colleague Justin downed a tasty Dark & Orangey (similar to a Dark & Stormy but fruitier). All were fantastically crafted, delicious, and flavorfully fabulous.
We spend a few minutes perusing South Gates’ clever and fun-to-play-with iPad wine list (They nailed this first. Well done, guys.), a fun techie toy that’s somehow glamorous, playful, savvy, and informative all at once. Of course, when we sit down to dinner, we just let handsome sommelier Olivier Dufeu guide us.
The star chef presiding over the kitchen at South Gate is Kerry Heffernan, who has credits such as Restaurant Bouley and Eleven Madison Park under his belt. The menu at South Gate changes offers seasonally-inspired Modern American fare, and Heffernan partners with local organic farms, fishermen and shellfish harvesters to keep it fresh daily. Our menu was a bright and fantastic litany of tastes, starting with hamachi served with apples, apple cider, lovage, tarragon, and a fine celeryroot remoulade. Then came a uniquely savory but light and creamy lobster flan with grilled shrimp, followed by amazing short ribs, which weren’t large but packed a rich flavor—flanked by “allspiced” squash, “mustardy” mustard greens and côte de boeuf. It all ended with a chocolate pot de crème and almond nougat glace double whammy.
And really, the room was a swank mix of well-appointed guests, New Yorkers splashing out, good-looking thirtysomethings joining for drinks and bar bites, all complemented by the warmth and stylish vibe of the sexy upscale atmosphere. Maybe it was the perfect selection of wines tainting my view, but as the courses progressed, I was having one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in New York in the past year.
Just a small sliver of the wine offerings at South Gate.
After dinner, our group hit the town. Or the bars of Hell’s Kitchen at least. And if you’re a gay traveler familiar with New York, you know that the nearby midtown/Hell’s Kitchen nightlife scene is thriving. Over the course of the night we hit the lively, bubbly, 20- and 30-something packed Bartini, where cute lads bounced around to Katy Perry and Lady Gaga; Club 57 at Providence, more of a multi-leveled velvet rope dance-palace full of boys in their best designer tees (and which frequently boasts visits from pop stars like Kelis or Kelly Rowland); and then the jovial and jam-packed neighborhood bar Posh, with gays of all stripes slurping down cheap drinks and making new friends. There are other hotspots all within prancing distance: Therapy, The Ritz, Barrage, the cheerily divey Ninth Avenue Saloon and to soon-to-open Industry offer up socializing and sass nightly. (Check out the local scene bible Next Magazine for the latest.)
A late night turned into great sleep back in the suite (Best bed and linens ever.) and with morning came a quick peek into the Essex House’s grand Presidential Suite on the 26th floor — also with unreal Central Park views, huge stunningly stylish bathrooms with vast tubs and state-of-the-art shower situations, big beds and every luxe amenity imaginable.
And just when it all should have been too much and our gang was prepping for check out, I managed to prolong my decadence a couple of hours more by scheduling a late check-out and visits to The Spa at Essex House. A 90-minute massage and a 75-minute Sodashi Man facial treatment, I emerged a glowing, relaxed, blissed-out, new-and-improved me.
Yes, the Essex House staffers were making sure that my experience there went off without a hitch. The service was attentive and on-point, but never egregious, and with numerous staffers in-house who are gay and making executive decisions, they’re more than equipped across the board to welcome gay travelers to their upscale slice of New York City in a way that’s savvy, smart, luxe, and stylish but not at all stuffy.
Really. I think you’d rather like it here.
Jumeirah Essex House Hotel, 160 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019
To book your stay at the fabulous and gay-friendly Jumeirah Essex House Hotel, give us a call at Get Gay Travel, 1-800-711-6029