Luxury and opulence, delivered: The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel in New York City
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New York is not dead, and my experience at The Carlyle Hotel, a Rosewood Hotel on the Upper East Side proves just that.
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It’s been a tough year for the travel industry. While many hotels have shut down throughout the pandemic, The Carlyle lives on. It’s a timeless gem that encapsulates the history of New York City — a city that has been through it all.
Ever since The Carlyle opened in 1930, it’s been a beloved choice for many. Every American president since Harry Truman has stayed here, along with members of the British royal family.
While the Carlyle is more than 90 years old, everything feels seamlessly up to date, all without losing the natural integrity of the hotel. Aside from its perfect location just a block away from Central Park, The Carlyle is also near the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim.
Here’s what it was like to stay in this iconic five-star hotel.
The Carlyle isn’t part of any major points hotel chain, but it’s one of the 25-plus luxury properties in the Rosewood Hotel family. This means you’ll likely pay cash for your stay here, but there are still ways to maximise value on your reservation.
I booked my stay with TPG’s luxury travel agent, who handled this one-night reservation the day before. For my Tuesday night stay in May, I paid roughly $955 (about £692). However, booking through the agent got me a whole suite of perks including a room upgrade, $100 on-property credit, complimentary breakfast for two, free overnight parking and more.
Typically, the $100 credit is intended for the spa, but it, unfortunately, was closed during my visit because of the pandemic. I appreciated the flexibility of still being able to use this credit for any other charges, including my room rate. I ended up using the credit at Bemelmans Bar for drinks.
If you do want to book a stay at The Carlyle, I highly recommend that you check out several premium programmes in which this hotel participates. You can find The Carlyle on American Express’ Fine Hotels and Resorts. Booking through this service will get you pretty much the same additional amenities I received upon check-in, so this is a great way to stretch your dollars when booking such an expensive hotel.
New York City offers an experience for every type of traveller. Although I currently live in Manhattan (on the Lower East Side), I love that I can visit different neighbourhoods and be transported into a completely different world.
For those looking for New York glam (without too much flashiness), the Upper East Side is where you’ll want to stay.
You’ll find The Carlyle on the corner of Madison Avenue and 76th Street. As you’re driving up Madison Avenue to reach this hotel, you’ll pass by posh galleries and designer boutiques. While there’s still lots of action in this area, it’s certainly much more manageable than the tourist traps in Midtown. Again, you’re within a short walk of Central Park. Overall, I was more than impressed with The Carlyle’s location.
As soon as you get dropped off at The Carlyle, you have multiple butlers waiting to help unload your luggage and escort you into the hotel. Through the revolving doors, you’ll find a gorgeous lobby where the art deco influences really start to shine through.
The hotel is decorated with black and gold, with a hint of silver to offer true elegance. My favourite part, though, is the gorgeous chandelier in the middle of the lobby.
Check-in is at 3 p.m., and although I arrived around 30 minutes after, my room wasn’t quite ready yet. However, the receptionist was so kind and profusely apologetic. Although I only had to wait 10 more minutes before my room was ready, I was graciously comped with two free drinks at Bemelmans Bar.
Again, by booking through the travel agent, I got upgraded to the deluxe king suite. Overlooking Madison Avenue, there’s a king bed in the 375-square-foot room — spacious by New York City standards.
Once my room was ready, I was once again escorted by a friendly butler who showed me the way. He informed me that these rooms had just recently been renovated, so I was excited to see how the modern fixtures meshed with the art deco aesthetic.
My room, 708, was at the end of a hallway tucked away from the rest of the floor. I appreciated this extra level of privacy. There are 190 rooms total spanning 35 floors at The Carlyle, and you can find deluxe king rooms on floors 3 to 18. These rooms offer incredible city views of either Madison Avenue or 76th Street.
When I first walked in, I was blown away. I immediately noticed the high ceilings that made the room feel even more spacious. On your immediate left, you’ll find a gorgeous bathroom equipped with products from Kiehl’s and Diptyque.
While somewhat small, this bathroom was exceptionally clean and offered various light settings that made the space feel airy and bright. My favourite part of the bathroom was the rainfall showerhead (not to mention, the excellent water pressure). Additionally, the floor-to-ceiling shower walls ensured there was no fogging up of the entire bathroom.
The desk and green accent chair were gorgeous, although the desk felt slightly too large for the room. Still, I appreciated all the accents in this room — from the designer books on the shelves to the murals of Central Park in both the summer and winter.
There are two full-length mirrors in this room (one as you walk by the bathroom and the other by the coat closet). There’s an incredible king-sized bed with a Carlyle-monogrammed bedspread and a comfortable chaise with a marble coffee table. Tucked away in the back corner, you’ll find the fully stocked minibar, snacks, a Nespresso machine and plenty of libations to choose from.
Last but not least, the room offers two oversize windows with a city view and a flat-screen television centred in front of the bed. Luxury meets functionality in this deluxe king room.
As mentioned earlier, I booked through TPG’s luxury travel agent, which got me a whole list of extra amenities. Although I didn’t need parking as a New Yorker, the free parking benefit can definitely come in handy for those coming from out of town.
The internet was easy to connect to and quite speedy, allowing me to get my work done with no problems. Other amenities include twice-daily housekeeping, plush slippers and robes, an individually controlled thermostat and 24-hour valet laundry available.
While there is a fitness centre that’s open, it was reservation-based and the times didn’t work with my schedule. The spa remains closed since the start of the pandemic. Again, I was able to apply my $100 on-property credit to other charges, such as at the bar and in-room breakfast.
As an added touch, there was a free disposable mask, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitiser — all Rosewood-branded.
Food and beverage
What also makes The Carlyle so iconic is the dining on-site. In normal times, you have multiple options: The Carlyle Restaurant, Cafe Carlyle and Bemelmans Bar. Unfortunately, these have remained closed throughout the pandemic.
Luckily for me, I arrived on the reopening night of Bemelmans Bar — 11 May. In the hotel lobby, there was much buzz and excitement about this bar, and the front desk even informed me that tickets were sold out for opening night.
Although the bar was fully booked for the evening, I was able to put myself on a waitlist and explore the Upper East Side for dinner options while I waited. I settled on a delightful Italian restaurant called Sandro’s, where I had a delicious burrata and spaghetti con vongole.
I hadn’t received a text or any sort of update on my place on the waitlist, but when I returned to the hotel around 10 p.m., I checked the bar one more time to see if I could get in.
To my surprise, there were plenty of tables open, and I was seated immediately! Apparently, there was live music earlier in the evening. Although I missed the pianist, I was happy to check out what the buzz was all about.
This is a legendary bar with murals from the famous artist Ludwig Bemelmans (you might recognize his work from the “Madeline” children’s books). Fun fact: Instead of being paid to paint these murals, he accepted 1.5 years of accommodations at The Carlyle for him and his family.
Just like most bars and restaurants nowadays, you’ll scan a QR code to reveal the menu. I’ll admit, I definitely had a bit of sticker shock — on average, cocktails were around $30 each, but thankfully I had the $100 on-property credit and two free drinks on my account (so I paid virtually nothing).
I ordered the Rhinelander 4-1600 for Two — a cocktail that comes with Don Julio 1942, La Copa sherry vermouth, Campari and Massenez Fraises De Bois. While it comes with an outrageous price of $120, the waiter noted that it comes in a large decanter and pours almost six drinks in total. While the kitchen closed soon after and I couldn’t order food, I’m eager to come back and try out their small bites in the future.
In the morning, I called the in-room dining line to order the complimentary breakfast. In addition, I ordered the fruit plate, fresh-squeezed juice and an iced latte. Check out this spread.
While there was no hot food included in the complimentary breakfast, I thoroughly enjoyed the yogurt, granola, freshly baked pastries and assortment of jam.
For a hotel of this calibre (and price point) guests expect superb service — and that’s exactly what you’ll find at The Carlyle. The experience began before check-in, with numerous members of staff welcoming me to the property as I arrived. Throughout my stay, I saw that the staff at this hotel caters to every whim of their guests, with a smile.
I appreciated having a butler assigned to my stay, too. He delivered my breakfast promptly, set everything up for me and then happily brought me extra croissants when I asked for them. When I was finished with my breakfast, he was back within minutes to take my cart away.
This may surprise you, but this was actually my first time staying in a five-star hotel. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this experience gave me a taste of luxury. I felt like I was having a “Home Alone” moment while ordering breakfast in bed and having the (attentive) room service at my fingertips.
The Carlyle is truly a special hotel that pays extra attention to detail. Summer in New York is my absolute favourite, so now’s a great time to plan your first post-vaccination trip to the city. While you’re here, consider staying at The Carlyle — you won’t regret it.
Featured photo by Stella Shon for The Points Guy.
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