Sofitel, a French brand, has taken quiet but sure steps to elevate itself from business stopover to luxury standby over the past few years, and it’s worked. Once upon a time it may have been the European businessman’s home-away-from-home, but over time it’s become a true luxury bastion, and in no property is that more apparent than the heart of Manhattan.
Whether because of the multi-lingual concierges, one-of-a-kind fine-art exhibitions, or intelligently composed light-cuisine menus, Sofitel New York has emerged as a first-choice lodging for those with the means to choose. Well-dressed international clientele in the elevators, free coffee in the mornings in the lounge, a large wraparound public lobby space with check-in/concierge booths tucked neatly away on the sides, and a posh Deco-inspired bar just one flight of stairs from the main lobby.
This is a business hotel as well as a tourist favorite, and it truly seems designed for meetings and functions. No matter where you enter, there’s no massive central foyer to be found. Instead, a circuit of elegant but warm rooms leads you to the interior hotel, from which point you go up or down to your destination. It’s a great continental touch that so many of the lobby staff, including the concierges, have French as their first language.
The main restaurant/lounge, Gaby, is a paint-by-the-numbers upscale Parisian bistro, while the cocktail menu is modern big-city American-curated, top-shelf and heavily into dark spirits. You might get a laugh at the fact that someone split “His” and “Hers” into two sections, but at the same time you’re decrying sexism in mixology, the guy across from you will probably be ordering a Brazilian Hemingway or a Dark & Stormy from the “His” selection (But not a Lemon Drop. That is very much for the ladies).
What’s to Love
The fine art and fashion photography exhibitions, which currently make a circuit around flagship big-city Sofitels in the U.S., truly are gallery-quality, and well worth seeing, whether you’re staying in the hotel or not. The current Manhattan exhibition of Gilles Bensimon’s Elle covers (running through April, then moving to Sofitel Washington DC, Lafayette Square) is a wonderful retrospective of fashion/celebrity photography. The oversized black-and-white programmes available in the lobby allow you to really scrutinize each reprinted work, and devour quotes from Bensimon about many of his famous subjects.
The new De-Light by Sofitel menu is like the fine dining version of Lean Cuisine—or, if you prefer, spa cuisine brought into a Midtown bistro. Special menus, designed by Thalasso and coming in at under 500 calories, are offered at breakfast, lunch and dinner. We particularly approve of the 30-minute lunch menu, which offers three courses plus dessert at a quick enough turnaround to please even the most overscheduled Manhattan power luncher.
What We’d Change
It’s nice that the hotel offers free coffee and tea in the mornings, however, with restaurant renovations impeding the normal flow, there’s only one or two tables to sit at with your beverage. Everyone else who comes for their morning cup has to immediately walk out with it or mill around uncertainly in the bright, meeting room light.
The private dining room is under renovations and is projected to reopen at the beginning of May. This is the only thing on the calendar for summer 2013 renovations, but toward the end of the year, the hotel will be undergoing more extensive remodeling (details TBA).