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Review: The Plaza

This stately grand dame on Central Park South is as New York as it gets. 
Readers Choice Awards 2018
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Richard Mandelkorn

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Why book? Whether you’re visiting New York City or are a lifelong resident, it doesn’t take convincing to stay at The Plaza—this stately grand dame, sitting right on Central Park South, is as New York as it gets. 
Set the scene This hotel has been a New York City icon for over 100 years—everyone from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Marilyn Monroe to The Beatles have graced these halls, as have fictional characters like Eloise and Kevin McCaliister (Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, filmed here, draws a lion’s share of tourists to the gilded facade daily). The hotel is embedded in the social fabric of this part of the city: You’re just as likely to spot well-heeled visitors in the lobby, as you are to bump in to shopping bag–toting Upper East Side women stopping in for a drink in the Palm Court, or Tri-State locals arriving to tea en masse with their young daughters. 
The backstory Construction on the current iteration of The Plaza began in 1905— there was a predecessor by the same name completed in 1890, so there’s a long legacy here. The Plaza as we know it today has changed hands a few times in the century it’s been open, passing from the original operating company to owners like Conrad Hilton, Westin Hotels & Resorts, and, for a time, Donald Trump (as nodded to in Home Alone). Since 2005 it’s been managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, meaning the hotel’s reputation for great service has even more backing behind it. 
The rooms You’d be forgiven for expecting stuffy elegance when it comes to room decor, given the price point and old-money location in the city. What The Plaza does so well, though, is pair its historical building with freshly elegant interiors. In my two-level penthouse suite, for example, quietly floral wallpaper, gray-velvet sofas and armchairs, and patterned cream tiles with gold accents in the bathrooms made for a sophisticated, yet welcoming space. Coming from Brooklyn, it’s how I imagine a fair share of townhouses in this part of the city might be decorated. The two-level room also meant plenty of privacy—in the downstairs living space, I could take calls while the friend I was overnighting with unwound on the outdoor patio (which boasts mid-city views) or in the entertainment room. Retreating up to the second-floor bedroom after a couple martinis in the Champagne Room lobby was a nice change of pace from where we’d spent the first half of the evening.  Food and drink Afternoon tea at the Palm Court is the main draw here, and there are a few different sets of delectable finger sandwiches and desserts to choose from (expect a lengthy tea selection, caviar accents, and no shortage of macarons). Unsurprisingly, many young children joined by mothers in pressed shift dresses were ordering the Eloise at the Plaza riff on The Plaza’s tea (which comes with a dramatic puff of cotton candy on top). This is a popular birthday destination, particularly for mothers and their young daughters—but also for a number of adults. In the evenings, the live music and fantastic servers in the Champagne Bar make it easy to enjoy a drink in the hotel before stepping out the iconic revolving doors for a night out.  The spa The Guerlain Spa, tucked away on the fourth floor of the hotel, makes smart use of limited New York real estate and manages to create a blissfully quiet space that allows you to forget about the bustling traffic outside—at least, for as long as your treatment lasts. The Signature Massage, a seemingly predictable offering I would usually overlook based on name alone, completely surprised me: A set of choreographed hand movements, incorporating your choice of three Guerlain aromatic blends, is light-to-medium pressure (something I never, ever go for), yet my hour ended with me possibly the most relaxed I’ve felt after a massage. There isn’t too much to keep you after a treatment, but you’re in New York—you shouldn’t holed up in the spa. There are, naturally, a wide selection of Guerlain products to purchase; and what guests will really love is that the spa is complemented by a Warren Tricomi salon. The neighborhood/area You’re right on the park—it doesn’t get any better than this, no matter where you’re coming from.  The service Service is kind, and especially attentive. If you’re planning to spend some downtime in your room and don’t want to be disturbed, go ahead—put the do-not-disturb sign on.  Anything left to mention? Breakfast in the Palm Court, while less ceremonial than tea, promises a fantastic eggs Benedict, as well as dishes like shakshuka—don’t be shy to totter down, even if you’re in comfier wear like leggings. The vibe is low-key in the morning, and as great as the rooms are, room service can’t compete with that stunning space. There’s something special about sitting here for an early breakfast before the afternoon tea crowds rush in.

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