Thursday, 23 August 2012 8:06 AM
Those who subscribe to the theory that it doesn't really matter which New York hotel you stay in during a visit to the Big Apple, as you are duty-bound to be out and about all the time, have obviously never been to The Jumeirah Essex House.
There are many things which are good for the soul; in my book one of them is self-indulgence and there is no doubt you are treating yourself when you check in at this classy establishment which stands proudly like a guardsman over Central Park south.
First opened in 1931 – the tallest building in New York at that time – the elegance and attention to detail which characterised it in the early days has stood the test of time.
Boasting 509 rooms and suites, The Jumeirah Essex House is one of those hotels that once you are ensconced in its luxury, you don't want to leave.
This, of course, could present a problem in some ways when you are in one of the most exciting cities in the world and a short walk from Broadway, the entertainment epicentre of metropolis.
The hotel website almost beams with delight when it confirms that it won "not one but two highly prestigious awards at the World Travel Awards 2011 - voted for by over 213,000 industry professionals." In fact, the list of awards and honours are almost too lengthy to mention; but little wonder.
The hotel's style and elegance embraces you as you walk into the lobby and check-in was quick, efficient and courteous. We were allocated one of the Central Park Rooms which are located on the 59th street side of the hotel.
In years of travelling on business and for pleasure, I know that 'a room with a view' can mean many things, from The Eiffel Tower to Blackpool beach to an Andalucian supermarket.
However, when you look out your window and see Central Park spread before you, and you struggle with the sheer scale of the greenery which flows into the distance, you search for words like thrilling and dramatic to describe what you are witnessing and still feel you are not doing it justice.
Sitting at the window with a glass of wine whilst drinking in the magnificence of one of New York's defining landmarks will live long in the memory; as will the rain-storm (which, within 20 minutes of it soaking everyone and everything) had left no trace due to the residual heat of a 90-degree afternoon.
Awesome, as the Americans might say.
Hard as it was to tear ourselves away from the view and splendour of our room which had all the mod-cons, we changed and made our way downstairs for dinner.
The South Gate restaurant was opened in 2008 and designed by top New York designer Tony Chi. The quite splendid bar area, airy, bright and clean, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, allowed us the chance to people-watch as we relaxed with a glass of wine from one of the 650 different bottles on offer.
We were then shown inside to our table, where, we were told, Hilary Clinton had once dined. We perused the menu which is advertised as "featuring modern American cuisine... distinctive and seasonally-inspired..." Maybe it was helped by the company, the wine, the ambience, the setting, my first experience of New York and the view from our hotel room, but the meal was simply magnificent.
The waiters were obviously highly-trained, attentive without being overbearing and they would appear from nowhere, it seemed, to top up our glasses and to make sure everything was to our satisfaction.
The food? Let me break with convention and go straight to the sweet. The Chocolate pot de crème – a ridiculously tasty combination of chocolate and cream – was so good it made me laugh out loud, perhaps a strange response to a chocolate experience but there you go, that's what happened.
Back to the beginning. We shared some wonderful scallops for starters and the main course was a meat feast par excellence. My partner had a Dry aged sirloin while I chose filet mignon, both cooked differently but to perfection and my beef was served with creamed spinach and potato purée. It was one of those dishes where you sit there shaking your head, enjoying your good fortune at its complete excellence. While I chortled with my chocolate my partner enjoyed a selection of cookies before a couple of coffees rounded the meal off quite splendidly.
But for every ‘ying’, there has to be a ‘yang’. In the midst of a fitness regime on arriving in the USA, I was determined not to let it all slip, fantastic food or not, so in the morning I nipped down to the hotel's fitness centre.
The gym is part of the hotel's Spa, described as an "oasis of relaxation and tranquility" which includes men's and women's relaxation lounges, steam rooms, saunas and personal soaking tubs.
All the relevant equipment was available but my favourite was the Cross Trainers which had television screens on them which helped alleviate the pain of an hour's exercise.
However, I will forever associate The Jumeirah Essex House with pleasure. It isn't cheap but for a special occasion it is value for money. I will go back and I can't wait.
By Ronnie Esplin
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