Although the week’s trip didn’t allow for an overnight at the Hotel Casablanca on West 43rd Street, this member of the Library Collection was close enough to Shubert Alley for a quick peek. It’s a charmer, exotic with reminiscences of the Humphrey Bogart film, Casablanca. What could be more appropriate than Rick’s Cafe as the hotel’s 24-hour refreshment and relaxation lounge? Amenities abound similarly to its sister properties, ranking it the #1 boutique hotel in New York City by members of TripAdvisor for many consecutive years. Its pedigree reaches back to the prior Hotel Metropole in the late 1800s (the first hotel in Manhattan that had running water in every room). Subsequently, for nearly a century, it was Hotel Rosoff, housing Rosoff’s Restaurant, a Times Square landmark. Henry Kallan and interior designer Jorge Portero opened the Casablanca in 1996, a not-to-be-missed romantic hideaway only steps from Broadway.
With one hotel still awaiting my arrival, I couldn’t wait to check into Hotel Giraffe on Park Avenue South and 26th Street. It is truly an urban oasis with a casual sophistication, where guests from around the globe can feel comfortable. As the hotel is poised unpretentiously in NoMad (an ideal location situated between midtown Manhattan and downtown), it’s totally realistic to plan for a memorable day’s walking adventure to a myriad of famous destinations: Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden, Macy’s, Jacob Javitz Center — even the United Nations. And for fit runners, it’s only minutes to Wall Street, South Street Seaport and the World Trade Center.
Choosing a balcony suite that was elegant and spacious enough for moving full-time into the City, the views of Park Avenue reminded me of why I love Manhattan. It’s not just musical lyrics that continued to ring in my heart during the week, like the 1925 Rodgers & Hart song Manhattan or 42nd Street, with a long chorus line of tappers. Learning about the four hotels’ history fascinated me. Hotel Giraffe is a reflection of the timeless gentle grace and beauty found in one of nature’s beautiful animals. The NoMad neighborhood was inspired by the Art Moderne period during the 1920s and ’30s, perfectly enlivened by attentive caring staff.
A late night dinner? Of course it’s easy in the City. Walking through Giraffe’s lobby and into Bread & Tulips restaurant, my daughter Sue and I were escorted downstairs into what seemed to be a private wine cellar. The atmosphere was warm and jubilant New York with a subtlety of rustic Italian. The name is what fascinates; Bread represents providing guests with a satisfying meal and Tulips, the warm inviting atmosphere. Together it’s owner Riccardo Dardha’s concept of modern hospitality. The wine and dinner didn’t disappoint for a moment.
The menu deserved attention. Even as seasoned foodies, we stumbled upon dishes that at first seemed too avant garde or too mundane, but they all made sense, especially as we raved about Roasted Farm Chicken that was named in the Top 10 dishes in Time Out Magazine. A light Baby Beet Salad with grapefruit, goat cheese and pistachio drizzled with pomegranate vinaigrette was a stunning ending. Once again the hotel’s pairing with dining was executed with composure and ease.
Did I dare to leave my city in the morning? There is often a bittersweet sadness about good times coming to an end. Sleepily, I answered a personal voice calling my room for a wakeup announcement that prevails in all four collection hotels, a reassuring feeling that I would come back soon. Could I possibly be like Woody Allen in his 1979 movie, Manhattan? He adored New York City, and to him, no matter what the season was, it pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin. He romanticized it all out of proportion.
Perhaps so do I. Of course I’m smitten. And the Hotel Casablanca will be my first indulgence when I return to fall in love all over again.
Bobby Van’s Steakhouse
Its 54th Street location is known for exquisite aged prime steaks, chops and seafood. Serving traditional American grill fare, the service is exceptional and the menu harkens back to power lunches and festive dinners. In a building once frequented by Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, there is a quintessential vibe of outstanding food and wine and only two blocks from the Hotel Elysée.
Don’t miss this dazzling reincarnation of New York’s original 1959 Brasserie, an unexpected taste of classic French fare and ultramodern beauty. The cosmopolitan setting has been an iconic fixture in the Seagram building on East 53rd Street since 1959, a short and highly recommended stroll from the Hotel Elysée for exquisite late night desserts, Steak Frites and the Brasserie Burger. I always listen when Zagat points you in the direction of an “essential NYC experience.”
Irish Repertory Theater
For 25 years, this acclaimed little theatre on West 22nd Street is the only year-round theater company in New York City devoted exclusively to bringing Irish and Irish-American works to the stage. Founded by Ciaran O’Reilly and Charlotte Moore in 1988, it opened its doors with Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars on its Main Stage. Finding a permanent home in Chelsea on three renovated floors of a former warehouse, it’s a place where theater-goers can truly enjoy an intimate and outstanding production of award-winning drama and comedy. The smaller studio space with approximately 50 seats is the intimate W. Scott McLucas Studio. Here you can enjoy the company’s engaging perspectives on the Irish and their contributions to the world of theater.