New York, New York. So good they named it twice. Coincidentally this was my second trip to the Big Apple, and I was teeming up work with a bit of pleasure. Well, it would have been rude not to.
Fortunately, this is a location which is easily accessed from much of the globe, including London, so after a pleasant flight with BA, I touched down at JFK. Sadly my pre-arranged taxi wasn’t there to meet me, but happily the queue for the iconic yellow cabs was moving quickly and it’s a flat fare from the airport to Manhattan. It being evening, passing into Manhattan meant that the New York skyline, so often a view from movies or TV shows, was spectacularly real for me. Skyscrapers and lights for as far as the eye could see. The rat run of one way streets however soon did nothing for my usually good sense of direction and I gave up trying to figure where we were on the island until my driver took a right turn and promptly pulled up in front of a relatively inconspicuous looking building. The Refinery and my home for the next 5 nights.
Staff were friendly and attentive, even to the point of offering me a glass of wine as I checked in. My body clock being a bit confused and thinking it was nearer 2am than 9pm saw me decline this and instead spend a couple of minutes taking in the high ceilings and modern art deco take on furnishings. The lady checking in next to me asked for a room similar to one she’d had before – on the 6th floor in a corner with two windows. They gave it to her, which at the time I thought was a lovely touch.
I’d booked a studio king – large enough for me, without feeling too small. Afterall, I was here for 5 nights and I planned to do some shopping! However, the hotel checked me into a studio double queen on the second which was an incredibly large room – decked out with high ceilings, wooden floors, large windows and custom furnishings. The bathroom too was exquisite – black and white tiled floor, large walk in shower and well considered amenities. Unfortunately, the room overlooked 38th Street, which, as the legend has it, like the rest of the city, never sleeps. And sadly nor did I.
With 197 rooms, I toyed with not making a fuss and staying where I was and putting the bad sleep down to jetlag. However, with work to be done, I took my chances and asked if there was any way I could move. Happily the staff the following morning were as fantastic as the previous evening and they moved me up a few floors and towards the back. A smaller room admittedly, but one which was much quieter and meant I could enjoy my time there.
Rooms at Refinery are great, but they don’t come pre-equipped with coffee or tea facilities. Coffee is available in the lobby for free every morning and also is available over breakfast in Parker & Quinn, the hotel restaurant. To get in room facilities, a call to reception is needed, although they will pop up and replenish stocks of coffee pods quickly when asked.
Refinery on 38th Street is close to Bryant Park. Which means it is also close to the Empire State Building, and the rooftop bar at Refinery is a prime spot for taking in the breath-taking views. I’d hate to admit that the rooftop bar was a key reason for me choosing this hotel over all others in New York, but when travelling solo, and for business, a good bar and bar clientele is crucial! Happily, although the bar at Refinery was perpetually busy and not really a place for a single traveller to feel overly comfortable, the inside area was practical whilst the tented outdoor space was charming. The food available was also great, and certainly soaked up many of the cocktails I consumed with colleagues. As with the rest of the hotel, the staff are great – friendly, knowledgeable and quirky, although at times the speed of service could do with a bit of a review.
The hotel also boasts a great lobby bar, which has live music every evening. Here the drinks list is great and the menu is taken from Parker & Quinn which means it is great. Service however does need a review – the one evening I chose to dine there, it was late and there were less than 10 people in the entire area. Unfortunately, staff were disinterested in looking after guests. Music is a great addition and of a high standard – this isn’t your average bloke with a guitar type place.
If you’re after a funky, friendly hotel in midtown Manhatten, close to the subway and a 15 minute walk from the Rockerfeller / Times Square areas, but close to the fashion district, then this is it. The staff are great, rooms are fabulous and the food and drink available are top notch. Pack a little patience for sometimes sub-standard service and you’ll have a ball.