Only in New York
The Ultimate Guide to the Finest Hotels, Shopping, Dining & Entertainment

By Ferne Kadish, Shelley Clark


Copyright © 1994 Ferne Kadish.All rights reserved.
ISBN: 0-8442-9606-6

Chapter Two


A home it is ... not!

You think a hotel should be "a home away from home"? Wrong! Unless your home has maid service twice a day, room service around the clock--for everything from a diet drink to caviar to a mushroom omelette--a valet service to press the suits and iron the dresses, a concierge to help get theater tickets and make all travel arrangements. You say your home has all that? Good, we'll come to visit you.

    Seriously, the choice of the hotel is the most important travel decision you will make. If you're not comfortable and happy in your space, it won't matter how bright the sun, how tuneful the show, how inexpensive the shopping. Hotel time is escape time, fantasy time, romance time. It should be free of the alarm clock, the constant interruptions of the normal day at home, a chance to smell the flowers, taste the wine, to be pampered and pleasured.

    "You'll find me at the Pierre" (or The Carlyle or The Mark, or the whatever) may be as much a social (or a business) statement as a way of reaching you when you're "in town." Each has a different look, a different feel, a different statement of who you are, where you're from, what you'll be doing, and what you're all about. You are, after all, where you visit. So, of course, you are where you stay.

    We know all about that even though we New Yorkers don't stay in the local hotels; we just visit them. We visit them to eat, to socialize, to show off our latest gowns and jewels, our latest coiffures and beaus. But that's why they've become so important. When we're "seen" in public, we want the background to be just right.

    Like everything else in New York, the choice is boggling. Hotels seem to be exempt from the harsh economic law that says, "This too shall pass." Unlike restaurants, boutiques, and many other commercial endeavors, hotels are rarely victims of trendiness, going from red-hot to stone cold dead in the market. The hotels remodel, their prices escalate, and sometimes they offer weekend bargains. And in recent years, a number of new hotels have joined the fray.

    To help you along, we've narrowed the field to our favorites. We're sure that your selection, whatever it may be, will make you very happy that a hotel is not a home.

The Carlyle--------------------------------------------------------------------Madison Avenue at 76th Street                         (212) 744-1600New York, NY 10021                                Fax (212) 717-4682

Often referred to as the "grande dame" of New York hotels, even by managers of rival properties, The Carlyle's 190 rooms make it neither the largest nor the smallest, nor do its sixty-two years make it the oldest. It may simply be the best--the only hotel in the city to rate Mobil's prestigious Five-Star Award, an honor it has held for a quarter of a century thanks to its quiet luxury underscored by a large, friendly staff.

    Tucked away in a peaceful residential neighborhood on upper Madison Avenue, The Carlyle caters to a faithful clientele, who've been staying here for decades and wouldn't dream of staying elsewhere. The absence of glitz in favor of an extraordinarily comfortable and very tasteful atmosphere appeals to their old-money sensibilities. There's the ring of truth about the oft-told tale of a wealthy frequent guest who called The Carlyle's front desk to announce, "I'm at the----(another famous New York hotel)." And then she pleaded, "Please get me out." In search of greener grass, she'd ventured outside the private preserve that The Carlyle is to its devoted clientele only to be bitterly disappointed by a more commercial establishment--one of those places that actually spends money on promoting its charms. The Carlyle eschews such self-serving practices in favor of expenditures on guest comforts (upwards of $100,000 a room) in the constant upgrading and renovation program orchestrated by internationally renowned decorator Mark Hampton. Then there are the salaries of some five hundred employees--The Carlyle has the highest guest-to-staff ratio in the city.

    Individually and as a whole, The Carlyle's staff has traditionally been its best asset--unfailingly discreet, sincerely accommodating, and perpetually polite. It's no coincidence that well-heeled New Yorkers seeking sanctuary from scandals of a matrimonial kind head for The Carlyle, where they know their privacy will be insured by the protective staff. But it goes both ways: the guests are equally protective and solicitous of the staff. Consequently, a position at The Carlyle is not just a job; it's a career. A number of employees have been here for more than thirty years, and there's a five-year waiting list to become a bellman!

    Managing Director Dan Camp enjoys telling the story of the young man who applied to The Carlyle for a position as a bellman. He was told, "Your mother had to have put you on the list at birth, and someone has to die." The poor chap wasn't destined to join the ranks of a staff dedicated to making the hotel worthy of the likes of Prince Philip.

    When he's in town, the prince opts for Suite 2701 with its sweeping views across Central Park to the West Side. We don't know if he plays, but a grand piano is at His Highness's disposal in the huge living room. The suite goes for $1,250 a night if just one bedroom is required; $1,500 includes a second bedroom.

    For less princely sums, there are the single or double rooms from $260 to $385 a night, each unique in its decor. But you can count on rich colors--Chinese red, burnt orange and green--world-class artwork, porcelain vases and lamps, chintz coverlets and antique satin boudoir chairs. All this old-world sophistication is complemented by contemporay high-tech amenities, such as VCRs, CD players, fax machines, mini-bars, and marble bathrooms decked out with hairdriers, makeup mirrors, and Jacuzzi tubs. Some even boast bidets. We are especially enamored of one of The Carlyle's little extras--the breakfast tray tucked away in the closet of every room. What a treat to cope with New York's Sunday morning ritual of poring through The Times while enjoying breakfast in bed.

    Room 305 is a particularly pleasant place to play the person of leisure. A warm and cheerful double overlooking Madison Avenue, it takes on a residential air with its nice-sized foyer and outlandish closet space. Yours for $335 a night.

    The Carlyle is very much an integral part of its tony environs. Indeed, the hotel is considered by many New Yorkers to be a civilized retreat from their manic city. A sense of serenity surrounds you upon entering the spacious marble lobby, glorious in its Aubusson carpets and Gobelin tapestries. Beyond, the Gallery has long been a neighborhood haunt for tea or late-night snacks. Once its muted grandeur was enlivened only by a high people-watching quotient. No longer. The Gallery has taken on a new, bold life in the form of a Turkish palace, thanks to a recent re-do by designer Renzo Mongiardino. Granted, the kaleidoscopic effect of the Italian handpainted wallpaper, colorful screens, couches covered in burgundy velvet appliqued with antique kilims, and a paisley carpet seems incongruous in the midst of The Carlyle's English country-house elegance. But management, as well as your knowledge of decorative trends, is quick to point out that the great European rural residences of the 18th and 19th centuries often included a fantasy space designated as the Turkish room.

    The more familiar elements of English hunt prints, brass-studded leather armchairs, and banquettes sprinkled with pillows, in combination with excellent food, makes the Carlyle Restaurant so inviting that many area residents consider it an annex of their dining rooms. The bar (called Bemelman's after Ludwig Bemelman, the creator of the endearing Madeline books), whose delightful murals of New York vignettes adorn the walls, serves as a local pub. The drinks are generous, the service is attentive, and the lighting is just dim enough to lend a sense of intimacy; it's just bright enough to observe regulars like Senator Pat Moynihan holding court.

    The Cafe Carlyle offers some of the best entertainment in town with Karen Akers, Barbara Cook, Dixie Carter and, of course, Bobby Short who has called it home for nearly 26 years. The pied piper of cafe society never fails to charm with his witty renditions of popular songs, old and new. Bobby and his fellow performers do two shows a night, at 8:45 and 10:45. There's a $40 cover charge.Reservations are hard to come by (the room only seats 90), so plan ahead.

    Of course, if you're a guest at the hotel, the resourceful head concierge John Neary (a rookie by Carlyle standards with only 15 years in service here) will make sure you get a table at the Cafe or any other difficult-to-get-reservations spot in town. He knows all the tricks of his resourceful trade. In fact, John's the national president of Les Clefs d'Or, the international association of career concierges. Note the emphasis on "career." These men and women are the real pros because only 170 out of an estimated 500 concierges nationally meet the elite organization's stringent requirements. "Our raw material is information, our technology is service, and our product is a satisfied guest," explains John. And satisfy he does, no matter how outlandish the request. And you can bet with a clientele that includes Jack Nicholson, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone, end Johnny Carson, he's had some doozies!

    Debonair Executive Manager James Sherwin, who joined the staff several years ago from the Savoy Group in London, does a terrific job. It's always such a pleasure to catch sight of that twinkle in his eye.

    While committed to maintaining The Carlyle's unique brand of classic sophistication,James Sherwin has bowed to current trends in order to improve the hotel's services. A fitness center has recently been installed on the third floor. James calls the 1,500-square-foot facility complete with beautifully appointed locker rooms, sauna, steam room, gym, and massage room "a gem"--one that sparkles in its strikingly contemporary design. Predictably, it is small, understatedly elegant, hospitable, well equipped, and efficient--in a word, a microcosm of the hotel it serves.

The Doral Tuscany Hotel--------------------------------------------------------------------120 East 39th Street                                  (212) 686-1600         New York, NY 10016                                Fax (212) 779-7822

Clive Perrygore, Resident Manager of the Doral Tuscany, loves to remind people that his is a hotel at which, "neither the past nor the present is forgotten." He is referring to the fact that the dual themes of then and now are intertwined throughout this delightful property hidden away in a residential neighborhood, yet conveniently midtown. It flaunts all the modern amenities expected of a fine hotel, as well as the old-fashioned personalized service, so often forgotten by other luxury properties.

    The Doral Tuscany is located in the historic Murray Hill section of the East Side, nestled between brownstones, courtyards, and mews. It's small (136 rooms and 16 suites), but elegant and caters to an upscale corporate crowd, attracted by its proximity to the centers of New York's business, entertainment, and fashion worlds, which are all within just a few short blocks.

    The rooms tend to be large and sunny, with some having pushbutton drapes, exceptionally good lighting, and walk-in closets. They have refrigerators stocked with beverages. All have marble bathrooms with immense tubs suitable for good, long, relaxing soaks--just the ticket at the end of a pressure-filled day of high-powered negotiations. The bathrooms are also thoughtfully equipped with phones, scales, hairdriers, and magnifying mirrors.

    Exercise bikes are just a phone call away. And newspapers arrive at the doorstep every morning as a matter of course.

    Our favorite suite is 1501 with its welcoming foyer and large living room. A pleasing combination of overstuffed sofas and good reproductions makes it cozy and comfy, and the large desk makes it practical. It rents for $400 a night.

    Regular room rates run from $195 to $220 a night. The rates for one-bedroom suites range from $350 to $700, and there is a two-bedroom suite at $650.

    If you're a regular, your preferences in such things as flowers and room service will be solicited and duly noted, ready thereafter for your arrival. Should you become a special favorite of Clive's he might have some of his beloved chocolate popcorn delivered. That and a good book have kept us company through many an evening--delicious, but addictive.

    Clive's remark about things past and present comes to mind when you enter the Doral Tuscany's restaurant, Time & Again. Designed to evoke turn-of-the-century New York, it is extremely attractive. The antiques, chandeliers, etched glass, and beveled mirrors truly recapture the style and grace of a bygone era. However, while Time & Again may favor the decor of yesterday, the food is definitely that of today. As conceived and executed by Chef Christophe Barbier, the food has earned the Zagat guide's respect as one of the best hotel restaurants in the city.

    The sweet potato soup with bacon, scallions, and sour cream followed by pheasant breast stuffed with foie gras, truffles, and vegetables julienne wrapped in a cabbage leaf is representative of the kitchen's flair. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Time & Again can accurately be described as moderately expensive or just about what you would expect at a good hotel restaurant. Breakfast, including complimentary newspaper, pads with pens, and the use of tape recorders or portable telephones, starts at $7.50. Dinner is at least $90 for two, if you include a reasonably priced bottle of wine from the rather impressive list.

    For private parties, Time & Again sets up the hotel's uniquely spectacular two-level Renaissance Room on the second floor. The upper level is encased in glass, allowing the sun, moon, and stars to join the fun. And the view is terrific.

    Finally, you should know that the Doral Tuscany owns a fitness center right around the corner at 90 Park Avenue. The facility is available free to hotel guests and opens at 6:00 A.M. for early-rising fitness buffs.

    Whether you're more comfortable with the past or with the present, this sophisticated little enclave of civilized living enchants everyone.

Essex House--------------------------------------------------------------------Hotel Nikko New York                                  (212) 247-0300       160 Central Park South                            Fax (212) 315-1839       between Sixth and Seventh Avenues New York, NY 10019

When it opened in 1931 as New York's tallest hotel, much was made of all the Seville Towers' (as it was then known) rooms being equipped with radios. Today, after an $80 million renovation which went so far as to address the hotel's infrastructure, the Essex House's rooms still have radios. But they also boast all the amenities that befit a modern deluxe hotel: VCR players, with a 500-video-tape library; remote-control TVs; safes; mini-bars; individual controls for heat and the newly installed central air conditioning; and dual-line telephones with an emphasis on "phones." Each room has three: one on the desk, one at bedside (each of these has a data port for a PC or fax), and one in the bathroom. Furthermore, the rooms have been enlarged by reducing the hotel's 690 guest quarters to 593.

    Thoughtfully, while the hotel was gutted to bring it up to modern standards of luxury, none of its Art Deco splendor was diminished. The building's ornamented exterior once again glitters with gold leaf and the black marble colonnaded lobby is such a paradigm that Warren Beatty and Annette Bening declared it a perfect location for their remake of the classic An Affair To Remember. We wonder, however, if they also noticed the one jarring note in this bastion of good taste--two truly dreadful portraits of a Gatsby type and his significant other flank the corridor leading to elevators. Any distress caused by those unfortunate paintings is dispelled once you get to the elevators. Your sensibilities have been soothed by the fascinating black-and-white photographs of a prewar New York, and the elevators themselves are an unexpected dose of Deco luster. In fact, the intricately carved brass doors are the only remnant from the old Essex House. And once inside, you can't help but be captivated by the old-world touch of a single red rose perched in a corner-mounted bud vase.

    We also doubt that you can resist the charms of Journeys Bar just to the left of the elevators. It gets our vote as the city's best wintertime lounge with its blazing fireplace casting a warm glow over the dark wood paneling, Oriental carpets, decoratively plastered ceiling, and gilt-framed oil paintings.

    The paintings, by a collection of high-profile names not professionally associated with the art world, serve a similiar purpose at the hotel's showcase restaurant, Les Celebrites (detailed in the restaurant section of this book). One of the city's premiere dining venues, it can be difficult to get into even as an Essex House guest. Never mind. The decidedly more casual, but only slightly less ambitious Cafe Botanica is a more than acceptable alternative, benefiting as it does from Executive Chef Christian Delouvrier's kitchen. A large, airy space fronted by huge picture windows facing Central Park, and well-spaced tables surrounded by enveloping wicker armchairs make Cafe Botanica an exceedingly comfortable restaurant. Soothing too, thanks to the gurgling of a fountain in the plant-strewn faux solarium at the rear of the room.

    Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it is a special treat at lunch when the restaurant's surprisingly pleasing California health bar with Palladian decor is flooded with light streaming throughits windows. The menu is eclectic, including superlative Maryland crabcakes for $12, grilled breast of chicken on toasted brioche sandwich at $14.50, and a $27 grilled porterhouse steak served with mashed potatoes. You can also take advantage of New York's new love affair with value-loaded fixed-price lunches--$19.94 for three courses, such as Louisiana crabmeat and house-smoked salmon on a bed of frise, sauteed jumbo shrimp, radicchio risotto, and a choice of goodies from the dessert trolley; remember in 1995 the price adjusts accordingly.

    Upstairs, Cafe Botanica's handsome casualness gives way to the propriety of English and French antique reproductions. Even the elevator lobbies possess a stately demeanor, the result of specially commissioned hand-screened wall coverings depicting the monuments of Paris. The refined, "more Park Avenue co-op than hotel look" continues, with the recessed doorways dressed up in attractive wood detailing. Furthermore, each room is equipped with a doorbell and a marble threshold.

    For suites, we like The Delacorte (401), which can be either a one-bedroomer for $850, or a two-bedroomer at $1,050 a night. Either way, you get the treetop view over Central Park from the gracious living room with is decorous fireplace. The formality of the Louis XVI-style furniture is softened by the tranquilizing blend of gold, beige, and green. Lovely as it is, we could live in the breathtakingly pretty bedroom, so homey in the inspired mixing and matching of floral and striped wallpapers and fabrics. A black lacquered Chinese armoire lends drama to the bouquet of yellows and greens, while the huge mirrored closets make it possible to hole up for a very long stay indeed. Then there's the magnificent bathroom that's the size of many a New York efficiency apartment. The glass-enclosed shower stall and large tub make it practical; the dark green marble floor and vanity make it regal.

    Considerably more modest, but no less charming, are any of the Park Queen rooms like 514. Among the Essex House's smaller rooms (and cheaper at $275) they benefit from park views flattered by a cozy Chippendale-like blue-and-gray-hued decor. Other room prices range from $255 to $345, and suites start at $450 a night.

    All have access to the hotel's new spa, exclusively the redwood preserve of hotel guests. The respectably sized gym is outfitted with Cybex equipment and augmented by a number of special treatment rooms, including one designed for European footbaths. The very glamorous locker rooms sport steam and sauna rooms. And if you forgot your workout togs, the energetic staff will happily supply you with the basics.

    Once the home-away-from-home of Eleanor Roosevelt, the Essex House in its most recent incarnation is just beginning to develop a

following. No doubt its members will be just as colorful as the irrepressible Lily Pons who shared her suite here with a pet jaguar or the legendary recluse who never set foot outside his room during his thirty-year residency. Even his meals, always delivered by room service, were left outside the door. Only when he was sure the waiter had departed, would he open the door wide enough to roll the cart inside.

    There are some who maintain he was crazy. We're not so sure.

The Four Seasons Hotel--------------------------------------------------------------------57 East 57th Street                                    (212)758-5700   between Park and Madison Avenues                  Fax (212) 758-5711   New York, NY 10022

Common wisdom would dictate that the last thing Manhattan needed was another luxury hotel. The crippling 19.25 percent hotel tax on top of some of the nation's highest room rates in this era of general belt-tightening have been sending occupancies into a tailspin--especially at the top end of the market. These days, bosses are inclined to treat expense accounts with bills from Holiday Inn more benevolently than those with receipts from the Plazas, Pierres, and, yes, The Four Seasons of this world.

    So what, then, would possess the well-respected Four Seasons Hotels and Resort, by all accounts one of the most successful, well-run hospitality organizations in the world, to enter into the fray? Granted, they already had a pretty strong toehold in New York as the operators of The Pierre since 1981. Consequently, they had a more-than-fair idea of what they were getting into at the high end of the market. In all fairness, we should also point out that the Four Seasons didn't set out to build the most expensive New York hotel ever built (in current or any other dollars). The total cost is close to $400 million, well over $1 million for each of its 367 rooms. (To put this in perspective, consider the fact that the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Manhattan opened its 770 rooms in 1991 for about $300 million.)

    It was the Regent organization that set out to build an I. M. Pei-designed flagship hotel on the most powerful retail street in the world. When the Four Seasons bought the Regent--amid rumors that the cost overruns on the New York property were threatening to bankrupt its parent--the fifty-two-story building was part of the deal.

    So it fell to the Four Seasons to finish Mr. Pei's vision of a late 1900's grand hotel. As such, it is nothing short of monumental. Clad in the same honey-colored French limestone that Pei used for the interior of his expansion of the Louvre, it is the city's tallest hotel, and its guest rooms, at an average of 600 square feet, are the largest.

    If the lobby is not the largest, it certainly seems the highest, with its thirty-three-foot-high back-lighted onyx ceiling supported by massive limestone columns. Make no mistake; it's big enough to remind you of a train station, with its central elevated rotunda circled by pillars and terraced conversation areas. Pei wanted to create a "sense of theater and arrival." He certainly succeeded, although you may not be exactly sure where you've arrived. There's not a hotel trapping in sight: no registration desk, concierge station, bell-captain's-stand, or even an elevator. They're tucked away in all their Danish beech-paneled splendor in the core of the building, up the stairs at the rear of the front lobby.

    Beyond is the rest of the lobby, facing 58th Street with a sweeping staircase leading to the 5757 Restaurant and The Bar. While the restaurant is attractively done up in polished cherry floors and bronze chandeliers, it doesn't compete with some other luxury hotel dining rooms (notably those at The Mark, The Carlyle, and the Essex House) for culinary kudos. Nor was it meant to, because the Four Seasons folks made a deliberate decision not to enter the top-toque competition with a signature restaurant. That would have required a lot of time, energy, and money, which they thought were best spent elsewhere. So they put in what is best described as a contemporary American grill that does a perfectly pleasant job of serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in order to concentrate on making the guest quarters worth every penny of their $295 minimum.

    We've mentioned their size, but if you're like us, you haven't the foggiest idea of what six hundred square feet means. Let's put it this way: we know comfortable one-bedroom apartments that size. We were stunned when we walked into room 511. The foyer (distinguished by a handsome inset bar stocked with a complete set of glasses) would have done most houses proud. It empties into a chamber that, with its 10'3" coffered ceilings and huge wood-trimmed windows, dwarfs the king-size bed and the full-size sofa. Serene in caramel tones accented by peaches and creams, it features stunning limited edition artwork circa 1950; modernist custom-designed English sycamore furniture, including an oval partners desk; fax caddy with your own line; compact disc player; two softly upholstered leather chairs; and two two-line phones. (All rooms have these features.)

    What really overwhelmed us was the separate dressing room that was not a glorified closet. Paneled in the same richly textured English sycamore that is used to such great advantage throughout the hotel, it has a full-length mirrored walk-in closet, a leather-surfaced luggage bench, more built-in drawers than you can possibly use, and a safe. Then there's the bathroom in all its floor-to-wall-to-ceiling marble glory, complete with separate shower stall; a deep tub suitable for long, relaxing soaks; TV; telephone; and--most appreciated of all--a scale.

    After stepping on that scale, we were even more grateful for the regularly scheduled aerobics classes in the fitness center. In addition to all the usual workout equipment, it also has saunas, steam rooms, and whirlpools. A take-no-prisoners massage put an end to our plans for a night on the town. However, we appreciated the fact that a simple call to the desk secures a complimentary VCR and the opportunity to take advantage of the hotel's extensive video library.

    Just when we thought it couldn't get much better than that, we found out that twenty-three of The Four Seasons' rooms have terraces like the one off room 504, which goes for $390. A wall of sliding glass doors leads to a private balcony, the size of many a hotel room we have known. The view of the city is terrific and, typical of all the rooms, are push-button-controlled window treatments.

    Of course there are suites here, fifty-eight to be exact. They range in price from $525 to $3,000 (for the two-bedroom Presidential, which occupies the entire top floor of the hotel). However, when you can have a room with a view (and a terrace!) for considerably less, why bother?

The Hotel Millenium--------------------------------------------------------------------55 Church Street                                      (212) 693-2001      New York, NY 10007                                Fax (212) 571-2316

Before we get into a discussion of this new additionto the Lower Manhattan skyline, right across the streetfrom the World Trade Center, we want to make one thing veryclear--Millenium is not a typo. The name is deliberately misspelled for aesthetic reasons. The two "n's" following the two "I's" just didn't make it for a logo. So owner Peter Kalikow, who knows something about artistic license as the former owner/publisher of the New York Post, decided to forsake the Webster's spelling in favor of one with a better look.

    And look is what the Millenium is all about. It's a stunner--with its shiny black lines, resembling nothing so much as a domino minus spots--as the world's tallest, narrowest hotel. That's not to say that at fifty-eight stories and just short of six hundred feet high the Millenium is the world's tallest hotel. We're talking ratios here. It's the tallest in relation to its fifty-foot depth and 125-foot width. What that means to you is that there is a maximum of only twelve rooms on a floor, each blessed with sweeping river, harbor, and/or city views from oversized windows. There's even a picture-postcard-perfect view from each of the corridors. Windows are strategically placed just where you step out of the elevators, which in and of themselves are very much a part of the Millenium look.

    Their stripes of lustrous rosewood and rough pinkish granite, set off by chrome accents, appear to mirror the lofty lobby. In fact, it's the other way around--the elevator cabs were designed first. Both are visually successful, exuding a subtle warmth for all their polished functionality. The same goes for the guest quarters.

    Peter Kalikow asked his designers to come up with rooms that would appeal to hard-working executives because the hotel's financial district location dictated that they would be its client base. The result is that each of the Millenium's 561 rooms has a sleekly tranquil quality. Soft hues of taupe, peach, and platinum blend soothingly against the backdrop of contoured custom-made teak and curly maple furnishings. Thoughtful little touches lend a residential air to their almost too-masculine look: extra pillows in the ample closets; a built-in cabinet in which to stow the bedspread; an umbrella; slippers; and a bar setup that includes a full complement of glasses, ice bucket, bottle opener, and corkscrew.

    Naturally the target audience's business interests are also addressed by two-line fax and computer-ready telephones with speaker and conference capabilities (including one in the marble-trimmed bathroom). Voice mail message service (which can be activated prior to arrival), large work areas, and an expanded concept of room service are other features Not only does a single call access the full 24-hour menu, but it can order up daily necessities such as newspapers and client gifts. No telling how many transactions have been celebrated with the $60 Deal Maker, which features a book detailing the lively history of Wall Street; a crystal ice bucket; a choice of Absolut vodka, Tanqueray gin, or Johnnie Walker Black Label scotch; and a Tiffany perpetual calendar.

    In fact, novel services for the business traveler are a Millenium specialty. The hotel stocks changes of Brooks Brothers clothes, underwear, and toiletries for those whose unexpected overnight or extended stays catch them without the "wearwithal" to appear corporately crisp the next day. These "All-Nighter" items, available twenty-four hours a day, are also sold at prices comparable to retail.

    Naturally, in such an executive-friendly hotel, there's a well-appointed business center offering a wide array of services. You can also rent equipment for use in the privacy of your room, including personal computers, fax machines, VCRs, and mobile telephones.

    But it's not all business at the Millenium. A fitness center features that rarest of New York hotel amenities: a pool--and a very glamorous one at that. Located on the fifth floor, it's glass-enclosed to take advantage of a beautiful view of historic St. Paul's Chapel. Across the hall, a gym is loaded with all the expected state-of-the-art workout machines. If you prefer your exercise outdoors, a jogging map of lower Manhattan is provided in each of the rooms.

    Having worked up a healthy appetite, you have several options: Taliesin and The Grille restaurants, the Connoisseur Bar, or room service. If you take our advice and book a corner Millenium roomlike 4702 for $325, you'll probably order by phone. Why bother going anywhere, when you can pull back the curtains and get lost in the staggering vista of New York Harbor? And the separate living space affords the luxury of in-suite dining without getting crumbs in your bedroom.

    Should you prefer to live or entertain quite literally higher on the hog, try the top-poor Governor's Suite at $2,000 per night. It benefits from a private reception area and exclusive concierge service, but the big news in this two-bedroom aerie is the bathrooms. The master is immense, the Taj Mahal of bathrooms in its marble magnificence, complete with Jacuzzi and a window framing another of the Millenium's hallmark views. Even more intriguing is the half-bath off the living/dining area, which appeals to voyeuristic urges with a telescope at its window.

    Fogged in? Turn to the built-in entertainment center that occupies one wall of the living room, or consider puttering in the kitchenette. Less commodious and entertaining accommodations start at $225. On the lower floors, the Millenium Rooms are $305 and the one-bedroom suites go for $395.

    For our dining dollars, when claustrophobia finally sets in, we head for Taliesin on the third floor. Named after a Welsh god who signified warm hospitality, the showcase restaurant delivers on the attributes of its namesake. Burnished wood and brass accents distinguish the gracious room, which in its Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired decor reminds us of a great ocean liner's dining room. It's impressive without being overwhelming, a description that is equally apt for the food. The diverse menu focuses on fresh local and regional ingredients prepared and presented in a simple yet artful manner by chef Albert De Angelis.

    While we've concentrated on the Millenium's appeal to the business traveler, we should tell you that the hotel doesn't discriminate against the leisure-oriented. It offers fascinating programs for those who want to experience the history, culture, shopping, and dining attractions of lower Manhattan.

    The Millenium is rapidly fulfilling its promise of becoming the preeminent hotel of the downtown community, a goal set by its managing director Susan Ricci. Herein the Millenium boasts an amenity even rarer than the pool--a woman at the helm!

Hotel Westbury--------------------------------------------------------------------69th Street at Madison Avenue                         (212) 535-2000New York, NY 10021                                Fax (212) 535-5058

If you have been wondering where celebrities, who are as skittish about the spotlight as Yves St. Laurent, hole up, wonder no longer. As often as not, it is at the Hotel Westbury, a small hostelry nestled in the midst of one of Manhattan's tonier neighborhoods, which offers a cocoonlike sense of privacy to its guests.

    The Westbury's cosseting tranquility is apparent the moment you step into the small lobby. No hustle and bustle here. Rather, it's a quiet, dignified place for conducting business with the staff, schooled in what General Manager Stefan Simkovics calls, "active hospitality. We specialize in fulfilling guests' wishes before they have to ask." It's a neat trick and to a great extent his multilingual crew delivers on anticipating guests' requests. But, if something pops into your mind that they haven't thought of, talk to Anthony Pike, the Westbury's resourceful concierge. In fact, as a matter of course it's a good idea to check in with Anthony at his lobby station because he always knows what's going on in town and how to organize your participation in it.

    Otherwise, this lobby is meant for passing through, which is not to say that it's not impressive. Quite the contrary. We liken it to the two-story-high great hall of a modestly sized castle, aglow in polished travertine and swathed in 18th-century Flemish tapestries. Massive columns support the domed ceiling and exquisite, handwoven rugs crafted exclusively for the Westbury cover the floors.

    Just as imposing is the wood-paneled elevator. It's large enough to move into, but why bother when the Westbury's rooms and suites await? Walking into any of them is more like entering one of the neighborhood's historic brownstones than a hotel room. Here you actually turn a doorknob, a vintage brass one at that, neatly inscribed with the hotel's address: 15E69. They are holdovers from the Westbury's 1920s roots as a residential hotel built by the family of a polo player. Hence the name, in honor of Westbury, Long Island's polo grounds.

    The residential ambience grows as you cross the threshold because there's no cookie-cutter commercial decor here. Each of the Westbury's 235 rooms retains its individuality in shape and design. No two are alike; each has its distinctive cachet. Yet the theme isthat of an English country manor as interpreted by wallcoverings and fabrics by Ralph Lauren or Laura Ashley.

    English chintz, comfy sofas, and a bright, cheery look make Suite 715 a favorite choice at $850 a night. No doubt its extra half bath and practical kitchenette are also part of its appeal, but we think the high four-poster bed accounts for most of its popularity.

    Despite the threat from the outside world posed by the two telephone lines that service each room, there is a charming serenity here. Maybe it's the traditional English prints and drawings that decorate every room or the coziness of the sitting areas defined by Oriental rugs. Then again, perhaps it's due to the vases of cut flowers that perfume the rooms. Whatever, it costs $245 to $295 a night for standard and deluxe rooms. Junior suites are available at $325, and one bedrooms start at $400. For $1,500 a night, you can get an entire one-bedroom apartment replete with fireplace (albeit cosmetic); formal dining room; kitchen; two bathrooms (one with Jacuzzi); and the ultimate in hotel gadgets, a fax/phone. Two-bedroom suites go for $850 to $1,500 for one with a sauna.

    Admittedly even we, who have always considered the Westbury close to perfection, had noticed that it had begun to take on the patina of a faded heirloom. So did the ownership, Forte, which operates a whole crown of similarly jewel-like properties throughout the world. They spent three years and untold millions polishing and even adding to the Westbury's many facets. As the result of this "stately facelift," the Westbury now sports a health club. Like the lobby, it's small but impressive, equipped with Cybex exercise machines, treadmills, StairMasters, free weights, and locker rooms.

    Fortunately, Forte demurred when it came to tampering with that outpost of civilized dining in the often too trendy Upper East Side, The Polo. Long a favorite spot for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for everyone from visiting Russian dignitaries to Natalie Cole, the Westbury's restaurant has always been just as chic and smart as it can be. Of course, the life-size portrait of Prince Charles in full polo regalia now borders on the politically incorrect, but the rest of the cushy men's club decor holds up well--prints of thoroughbreds and their jockeys, leather chairs, deep red carpeting, dark paisley-printed banquettes, mahogany paneling, and brass sconces.

    What the folks at Forte did do with The Polo is make it a contender in the hotel dining sweepstakes by installing Kerry Hefferman in the kitchen. A veteran of the wildly popular One Fifth Avenue, Kerry has developed his own following further uptown. Ted Danson enjoys his multicultural cooking, and Al Pacino dines at The Polo so often that he's gotten very chummy with manager Michel Pimienta. He's gotten so chummy that Michel has a new hobby--appearing in his buddy's movies. He played a waiter, which he admits wasn't much of a stretch, in The Scent of a Woman and has been recruited for Al's next picture.

    The possibility of being "discovered" aside, the Westbury's location in the heart of upper Madison's best stores and just south of "Museum Mile" makes The Polo an ideal respite from shopping or sightseeing. You can have a fast and light lunch with velvety potato and leek soup complemented by a salad of mixed field greens in a red wine vinaigrette, both $8, or with the $15 grilled club sandwich dressed up with artichoke crisps and a confiture of shallots. There's also a vegetable platter representing the market's freshest legumes at $16. For a more leisurely repast, you can't go wrong with the strudel-wrapped shrimp served on a bed of shaved fennel and mesclun greens for $12 followed by the $22 sirloin steak garnished with a tasty fricassee of wild mushrooms and Roquefort-stuffed ravioli.

    After one such meal, we enviously observed the departure of a very famous director who keeps a suite at the Westbury. We suspected he was going upstairs to take a nap--would that we could have done the same.

The Lowell--------------------------------------------------------------------28 East 63rd Street                                   (212) 838-1400     New York, NY 10021                                Fax (212) 319-4230 

The Lowell has been characterized as the sort of place that would "scream class, if class did that sort of thing." So what is Madonna doing hanging out here, especially given the fact she owns not one, but two, apartments just across town on Central Park West? It seems that before becoming a real estate mogul, she, like many other shining stars--David Bowie, Jeremy Irons, Debra Winger, and Danny DeVito are examples--appreciated the pampered privacy of this most discreet of hostelries. So, with her in mind, General Manager Martin A. Hale (who knows about coddling royalty of both the Hollywood and constitutional variety, thanks to his years at Claridge's) spent $150,000 to install a mirrored state-of-the-art gym in one bedroom of a two-bedroom suite.

    Madonna was the Gym Suite's first guest and, typical of most things the Material Girl touches, it turned to gold. And why not? For $680 a night, where else can you get an elegantly appointed one-gbedroom flat with fireplace, kitchen, terrace, and gym equipped with StairMaster, treadmill, exercise bench, stationary bicycle, ballet bar, and free weights, not to mention CD player, stereo cassette deck, and remote control television? It has become so popular, Martin considered installing another one. But then he decided to build a complete fitness center on the second floor to suit other clients' needs. And suit them it does daily from 6:30 A.M. to 10:00 P.M.

    Other than such high-tech touches, including fax and computer-ready two-line phones and VCRs in every room, former occupants of this gracious building (circa 1928), such as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, and Noel Coward would feel right at home today. The hotel, one of the smallest in New York with only 61 rooms and suites, maintains a residential air. And the boutique-sized lobby, where there is never any check-in or check-out line, echoes The Lowell's original Art Deco splendor, with a rare console signed by Edgar Brandt and the ornate doors connecting it to the Post House restaurant next door.

    The Fitzgeralds, among others, would be less familiar with the Empire style that now dominates the boutique-sized room. But we doubt they would object. Who can quibble with pale gray silk walls, faux marble wainscoting accented by gold-plated bronze moldings and a carpet inspired by one made for Empress Josephine's bedroom?

    Taking a cue from that carpet's origins, the staff makes you feel like royalty. A liveried doorman ushers you into the hotel with pomp and circumstance. The charming reception staff, outfitted in formal morning attire, greets you by name and escorts you to your quarters. You will quickly come to think of it as your very own pied-a-terra as does our pal British couturier Victor Edelstein.

    While each room and suite is unique, you can count on comfortable sophistication courtesy of a selective blend of period French and Oriental pieces, fine artworks, and rich fabrics in muted tones. Thirty-three of the forty-eight suites have wood-burning fireplaces, and ten of those glory in private terraces with stunning cityscape views. All have Italian marble baths, down comforters, sound-proof double-casement windows that you can actually open, and kitchens that lend new meaning to "fully equipped." Truly complete and meant to be used, they feature refrigerators stocked with food fit for entertaining; dishwashers; ovens; and, most impressively, high-quality cooking equipment; china; crystal; and silverware.

    Our buddy Victor is especially fond of The Lowell's suites, the hotel's two largest one-bedroom numbers. They are stacked one on top of the other on the 12th and 13th floors; he has a slight preference for 12B at $680 because of its cunning little balcony. We like it because of the entertaining possibilities in the formal dining area; Victor likes it because sans dining table and chairs it becomes an ideal showcase for breathtaking haute couture creations.

    For us though, we adore the Fleur Cowles Garden Suite. Indeed it is a very special one-bedroom suite on the 14th floor. You'll be delighted with the living room and its antique bird cage, along with a private library filled with books on garden topics as well as Fleur Cowles's latest book The life ant Times of a Rose. The bedroom is glorious with its hand-painted, stenciled ceiling, lace pillows, and vanity table. This glorious Garden Suite was inspired by the two terraces, one a sitting area with a fountain; the other, a cozy dining area. Each terrace has manicured flower beds. What a special way to live in New York for a day, a week, or a season at a time.

    For such a small hotel, the rate schedule is convoluted. There are singles and doubles from $280 to $340 a night. A junior suite is $440, while full-blown one-bedroomers go for $540. Then there are the Lowells, as well as the Garden Suite sporting two terraces. One is decked out as an English garden complete with fountain at $680. And you can get a two-bedroom suite for $840. The marvelous three-bedroom penthouse rents for $1,500 a night.

    Until recently, the Post House, one of New York's most celebrated chop houses, served as a convenient appendage next door, but it was the smart Pembroke Room on the second floor that was the hotel's culinary gem. The Lowell's purchase of the Post House changed all that, relegating the Pembroke Room to what always best categorized its decor: a traditional English tea salon. Tucked away on the second floor, this exquisite little room of needlepointcarpets' yellow chintzes, crystal wall sconces, and chairs upholstered in a "nice English stripe" only seats thirty-two for breakfast and tea. But tea's only served as the season warrants--in other words don't look for it in August--and at private parties, of course, as are cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.

    That leaves the Post House as the real culinary story here, one that began in September 1980 when it opened as an independent operation, part of Alan Stillman's New York Restaurant Company empire (Cite, Manhattan Ocean Club, Park Avenue Cafe, and Smith & Wollensky). Stillman and company still run the Post House; it remains what The New York Times described as a "paragon of a New York steakhouse." As such, it's better looking than most of its brethren because the tan and burnt sienna tiles topping the polished wooden wainscoting are particularly attractive. And the strategically placed massive floral arrangements are a dramatic, unexpected touch in a place heavily populated by conservative looking "suits" comfortably ensconced in leather arm chairs and chowing down on gargantuan portions of steak and seafood.

    True to New York steakhouse tradition, the Post House is pricey; for example, classics like the prime rib and sirloin steak are $29.75 at dinner, $26.50 at lunch. Other than the prices, there's no difference in the menu. So if you're counting pennies, go for lunch and split an appetizer or an a la carte vegetable. You won't go away hungry, and you might feel better about taking advantage of the Post House's excellent cellar, winner of The Wine Spectator's Best Award for Excellence. Extensive and hardly budget conscious, it's drawing some of the city's most sophisticated wine drinkers, many of whom are especially intrigued by The California Cache--a group of California wines from small vineyards that are sold exclusively in New York at the Post House.

    The restaurant is a most agreeable all-American counterpoint to the very European hotel, but don't expect any Madonna sightings, even if she stops by to visit "her" suite. She's a vegetarian.

The Mark--------------------------------------------------------------------Madison Avenue at 77th                                (212) 744-4300       Street New York, NY 10021                         Fax (212) 744-2749 

The first time we romped through The Mark, a newcomer invading the Upper East Side territory long dominated by The Carlyleand The Stanhope, we predicted it would give them a run for their money and we were right. Five years after a much heralded $35 million renovation of the old Madison Hotel, The Mark is firmly ensconced as one of New Yorkers' favorite small hotels.

    The entrance, on a lovely tree-lined street between Madison and Fifth, is distinguished by the building's landmark tower and four brass flagpoles, all of which are lit at night to emit a welcoming beacon. A striking retro entry, accented with brass and elegant black vitroglass, hangs over the doorway, opening onto the neoclassical lobby. The decor was inspired by the rich style favored by the 18th-century English architect Sir John Soane, comprising Italian marble and 18th-century Piranesi prints and floral motifs, all of which lend a delicate refinement to the English-Italian elegance.

    Beyond the marble entrance and reception area with its cozy and wildly popular Mark's Bar (we don't know of another watering hole where reservations are suggested) is the three-tiered Mark's Restaurant. Reminiscent of London's chic dining clubs, Mark's is graced with gentle hues of burgundy, rose, and teal enhanced by brass-topped, wrought-iron balustrades, marble columns, ebony and gold-leafed moldings. The look is unabashedly romantic and the food lives up to the setting. Executive Chef Philippe Boulot, an alumnus of such Parisian landmarks as Jamin and Maxim's, is a rising culinary star. His self-described "cuisine Bourgeoise--with an international perspective" reflects Philippe's Normandy roots and his classical training. Unpretentious, yet refined and lighthearted, just like their creator, signature dishes include kitchen-smoked salmon with crisp potato layers, barbequed striped bass with creamed savoy cabbage, and roasted breast of pheasant complemented by a celery root puree. All serve as perfect foils to a delightful dessert finale, courtesy of Pastry Chef Susan Boulot--Philippe's wife.

    Like her husband, whom she met when they both worked at L'Archestrate in Paris, Susan doesn't believe in ostentatious food. She notes there's a temptation among pastry chefs to overdo with elaborate presentations. "I keep my desserts fairly uncomplicated, and I concentrate on the flavor and freshness." Her efforts are uniformly delicious.

    Susan's philosophy of simple things presenting the greatest satisfaction in practicing one's profession is amplified by HeadConcierge Giorgio Finocchario. "Too many people think the secret of being a good concierge is the ability to accomplish the impossible for a guest. But that is not really true.... The secret of a good concierge is to anticipate and provide for a guest's small needs; to ensure the simple requests a guest makes are handled with speed, discretion, and good taste." Which is not to say that Giorgio doesn't relish the challenge of performing miracles. His war stories rank with the best of those offered by his fellow members of Les Clefs d'Or, the worldwide organization of concierges. He was once called upon to organize for the transport of perishable medicine from the Mayo Clinic to South America where it was needed for a delicate operation. Then there was the time when a couple, frequenters of The Mark, were stranded in Europe, unable to escort their child home from summer camp. Alerted to the situation, Giorgio came up with the perfect solution. He arranged for the child to stay with him and his family until the parents could return.

    No wonder General Manager Raymond Bickson stole Giorgio away from The Pierre. It's been his goal since the hotel opened to achieve a level of personalized service that allows guests to feel genuinely at home. "I want to ensure that The Mark establishes a reputation as the kind of hotel one keeps returning to." That The Mark has become a haunt of a crowd normally partial to splashier digs, like the Hollywood contingent led by Michael Eisner, Harrison Ford, and Bette Midler, along with Alexander Haig and General Norman Schwarzkopf, is testimony to the fulfillment of Raymond's ambitions for the hotel.

    As good as the food and the service are here, though, we suspect the real draw, particularly for the show biz set, is the bathrooms. They're large and luxurious; gorgeous in gleaming black and white tile or earth-tone marble; practical in separate glass-enclosed showers and tubs, heated towel racks, scales, hairdriers, thick terry robes, and an abundance of toiletries from Molton Brown in London. Running a close second to the appeal of the bathrooms is that of the sleek black kitchens attached to most of The Mark's rooms, complete with microwaves, refrigerators, dishwashers, and cooking equipment. Granted, they seldom get more of a workout than producing a cup of coffee, but the kitchens are a nice homey touch, as are the bowls of potpourri that scent every room.

    And speaking of home, we've been tempted to move into the Presidential Suite, which is nothing short of spectacular, with its marble circular foyer dominated by graceful columns. The corner living room overlooking both Madison Avenue and East 77th Street is sumptuously decorated in beige and blue. It boasts a wet bar, antique prints, and access to a terrific terrace. The library is perfect for curling up with a good book (preferably this one), while the master bedroom and bath are larger than many a Manhattan studio apartment. Three televisions, in the living room, bedroom, and den, keep you in touch with the outside world. A VCR and CD player, stocked by the hotel's extensive video and CD library, assure endless entertainment. Call it home for $2,200 a night.

    If you arrive in the winter and think you can forego the terrace, the layouts of the Tower Suites 1510 and 1610 are otherwise identical to that of the Presidential. With one bedroom and one and a half baths (the library has a powder room), they rent for $1,900. A second bedroom can be added for $325.

    Number 1405 is called the Terrace Suite. Its large living room in shades of doe and forest green flows out to a glorious terrace outfitted with pretty patio furniture and flower boxes. The bedroom on the other side of the graceful double set of French doors features a king-size bed and window seats. The enormous bathroom is divided into three sections: one for the double-linked vanity, one for the tub, and one for the shower. Tough to beat even at $1,600 a night.

    Actually, any of The Mark's 180 accommodations are on the special side. A warm, residential feeling prevails throughout. The oversized "regular" rooms, ranging from $275 to $525 a night, feature a table and chairs placed by the window for in-room dining, as well as a writing desk and a comfy, richly upholstered sofa.

    No doubt about it, The Mark has hit its mark at the high end of New York's hotel hierarchy.

Mayfair Hotel Baglioni--------------------------------------------------------------------610 Park Avenue                                       (212) 288-0800   at 65th Street                                    Fax (212) 737-0538   New York, NY 10021

A number of New York's current crop of deluxe hotels can lay claim to long histories, but only the Mayfair Hotel Baglioni's Dario Mariotti contends his is a "hotel with soul." As general manager and resident since 1978, he should know. In fact, we maintain he isthe very embodiment of that soul. As proof, we offer the fact that he engineered a remarkable feat: keeping his job in the face of new ownership.

    Of course, any buyer would have been foolish to turn Dario loose. To many, he and his wife, Gabriella, are the Mayfair. Certainly, they have imbued it with their effervescent personalities and exquisite taste. Who else would have thought of operating a pillow bank? Just exactly what the name suggests, it is a repository for all manner of pillows filled with down, foam, or water, ranging from "snore stopper" to "reading wedge." Each is described and pictured in a brochure placed in every room. To secure the pillow of your dreams, just call housekeeping and order it by name or number.

    Such novel albeit endearing touches notwithstanding,, Dario has imbued the Mayfair Hotel Baglioni with the elegantly intimate aura of a posh European hotel--the sort of place that used to be the seat of a noble family before inheritance taxes. There is something about the exquisite lobby that is reminiscent of an Italian palazzo. Perhaps it's the lush tones of sienna, ochre, and terra cotta that manage to harmonize what might otherwise be considered a compilation of fifty years worth of decorating trends, including Tudor beamed ceilings and a baronial fireplace alongside Moorish arches. It's very grand, yet warm and inviting. It begs to be sat in and, in fact, is one of the few hotel lobbies truly conducive to meeting and greeting.

    Like any palazzo worth its salt, the Mayfair plays host to several varieties of royalty. There's the regular garden variety like the King of Spain. Then there's the Hollywood strain as embodied by Sophia Loren and Barbra Streisand. The Mayfair's special brand of luxury is also appealing to representatives of fashion royalty, Gianni Versace and members of the Missoni family, although rumor has it there have been some defections to the St. Regis among the designing contingent.

    If we know Dario, he'll get them back, even if it means installing an atelier for them. After all, he created the only golf course on Park Avenue. There's a full-fledged putting green fashioned after those of Casa de Campo's world-famous courses in the hotel's fitness center. Located on the 12th floor, the center has a terrific view, so you can practice sinking those long putts while getting a taste of the great outdoors. Need more evidence of Dario's dash? Take the gray umbrella tucked away in every one of the 201 rooms and suites. Feel free to take it--Dario expects it--and delights in telling tales of Mayfair regulars saluting each other with their umbrellas on rainy streets all over the world.

    The level of service that Dario affords his guests is another element of the palacelike quality of the hotel. It's as if you have been assigned your own personal staff during your stay, which is standard operating procedure in any palace. You have your affable doormen capable of cab-hailing miracles in even the foulest weather. Likewise, the gloved elevator attendants seem exclusively at your service. Surely that puller of strings par excellence, Concierge Tito Fornari, must be part of your personal entourage. And then there's Mel, for whom everyone clamors. Mel oversees the hotel's laundry. He has such a way with shirts that many guests make it a regular practice to send them to the Mayfair for Mel's tender loving care from wherever they happen to be, even from their homes!

    With so much to offer, it's little wonder the hotel is often full. Particularly in September, October, April, and May, you should be sure to book well in advance.

    When you call, you might want to reserve Suite 1015, if you're in the market for one bedroom at $410 per night. Tones of green abound. The living room has a plush yet homey feel to it, with its mirrored bar all ready for entertaining. Another favorite in the one-bedroom category is 206, complete with wood-burning fireplace and dining area for $800 a night.

    If you prefer a two-bedroom suite, try 803, which runs $1,700 a night. It, too, has a fireplace, not to mention Jacuzzi, enormous closets (a Mayfair trademark), and delightful views of Park Avenue. Less spectacular, but equally elegant single and double rooms can be had from $275 to $295.

    No discussion of the Mayfair Hotel Baglioni would be complete without mention of the legendary Le Cirque, which serves as the hotel's restaurant, but that is all we're going to do here. Still the city's most chic eatery after all these years, the house that Sirio Marcionni built rates a separate account in our restaurant overview.

    We would be equally remiss if we failed to note the hotel's afternoon tea, a New York institution. Admittedly, almost every luxury hotel in the city now engages in the custom. But, whenDario started it as one of the European traditions he brought to the Mayfair, afternoon tea was considered novel. It remains the best one in town, attracting a glamorous crowd of natives. They happily nibble away at the delicate finger sandwiches and sinful pastries, while comparing notes on the day's news as reported by society chroniclers Liz Smith, Billy Norwich, Richard Johnson, Cindy Adams, Jeanette Walls, and Deborah Mitchell. Dario relishes their presence. He knows a little gossip is good for the soul and particularly good for his cherished Mayfair Hotel Baglioni.