Mary Gostelow visits old and new in New York

Girlahead explores The Peninsula New York and Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards

Winter is coming to New York, of course. But this year, for the first time, The Peninsula New York is going alpine. Head up to this luxury hotel’s rooftop for gluvein or Piper-Heidsieck, and hot snacks. This is definitely something, the gal predicts, that will draw the locale even more to a hotel that is already constantly full of surprises. GM Jonathan Crook is obviously a great believer in pop-ups and happenings.

Right now the hotel’s lobby sports a near-transparent green fabric house, over two metres high. This is called ‘Three Corridors’, and it is by Korean Do Ho Suh. Does it have any point? No, and it takes up a lot of the lobby, but it is a talking point. I think, too, of what art design has done for the hotel’s main restaurant space. This had in the past evolved at lightning speed from one concept, one designer, to another, and another. Now, as the Yabu Pushelberg-designed Clement, it really works. Several rooms lead into others. Each is complementary but unique. Regular customers, especially at weekday breakfasts, obviously know exactly which table suits them best.

There is so much choice today for those wanting a bed. What with increasing numbers of luxury hotels, and omnipresent competition from home stays, it is a buyers’ market. What keeps diners, and hotel guests, loyal to such a beautiful luxury hotel as this is the product, and the people. I swear most of the servers at my own breakfast had been working here at least since the end of the last century. (of the total 420 staff complement here at this 235-room property, at least 12 have been here over 30 years). Would I mind if he added some caviar to my eggs, asked one such professional, who knew exactly how to charm a young lady.

This is a highly addictive luxury hotel and I could easily have moved into #1703, the 235 square metre Fifth Avenue Suite that gives stunning views along Fifth Avenue. Designer Bill Rooney is apparently a favourite of Manhattan apartment owners, and perhaps this is why this space works so well. There are soft colours, great art and bric-a-brac pieces, and such intriguing books as Halston and The Big Book of The Hamptons. But I could not stay. I had to leave this well-established and immaculately oiled hotel machine for the new kid on the block, so to speak.

Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards

So much has already been written about the extraordinary new Equinox luxury hotel in New York’s Hudson Yards – sadly most media reports have concentrated on the more extreme of its wellness options but it is, really, a simply jolly good hotel for anyone, any age. Hudson Yards is a massive US$25 billion redevelopment of Manhattan’s west side, from 30th north to 41st Streets. Arrive at 34th Street and 11th Avenue and you see two amazing sculptures. One is Vessel, architect-designer Thomas Heatherwick’s unique 45-metre-tall open honeycomb, formed of 154 interconnecting flights of stairs, 2,500 steps and 80 landings, offering views of the city and the Hudson River. Next to it, among other PKF architectural sculptures, is 35 Hudson Yards, a 92-floor building that houses Equinox Hotel on floors 24-38.

I was greeted at the hotel by one of the exuberant team members, Nathan Loga, from Singapore, who in fact is already head of guest experience for what is quickly evolving from one hotel to a select group. At ground floor level we went past an undulating metal wall like fairground distorting mirrors to reach elevators to go up to 25th floor reception. From there, I took another elevator up to corner suite #3211, memorable for views that were even better than those atop the ‘honeycomb’. Among other highlights, I had, arguably, the world’s most comprehensive minibar. I could buy everything I might need, including diet supplements, probiotics, a box of pencils, men’s shorts, women’s leggings, facial puffs, and all-natural ‘pitted’ deodorants.

As I expected, the hotel’s fitness, in the form of the building’s multilevel Equinox Club, designed by Joyce Wang, is sensational. I wandered into one area of about 30 Woodway super-jogging machines. One, and only one, was free, so I got on it, quick, only to discover I had arrived in the lull spot of a running bootcamp. Within a few seconds all the other machines had automatically cranked back up to pre-set level, at least eight m.p.h. I felt like a sedate snail surrounded by gazelles. Later I felt like a champ, dining with Manhattan’s A-list at the hotel’s Electric Lemon.

“Why the name?” I asked Chris Norton, CEO of Equinox Hotels. No reason, it seems, but you do not forget it. There were three of us, perched on stools at a low table for two (Electric Lemon is leased out to Starr Group). I ate my cruditées with a dip of carrot juice and fermented soy sauce, and my 44 Farms’ prime ribeye and we drank Tyler 2017 Pinot Noir as we toasted mutual friends – and this really most agreeable luxury hotel.

Breakfast allowed me to see Electric Lemon by daylight, with no distraction from a nightclub like atmosphere that any popular New York venue seems to accrue once night falls. It’s a lovely space, and that is an adjective that equally applies to this new brand that Chris Norton is building.

A final wow is to take the helicopter shuttle service from West 31st St Heliport, almost just outside the hotel, direct to JFK for a one-way cost of US$195 (A$285) per person. The service us run by BLADE, a partner of American Airlines and thus, via Oneworld, with Qantas.

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