Many hotels claim to be the height of luxury. The Four Seasons in New York lives up to this claim. For a start, it is the city's tallest hotel, a modernist obelisk of honey-coloured limestone designed by I M Pei with obvious regard to the city's Art Deco heritage. It sits in the pampered heart of the Big Apple, surrounded by some of the world's most expensive shops, salons and galleries, and nearly all of the 368 guestrooms – among the biggest available in a town not renowned for generous-sized hotel rooms – have fantastic views of Central Park and the breathtaking New York skyline.
The hotel's exterior is impressive enough, but step inside, and the hustle of the city is replaced by a calm serenity. The modernist vision continues, with a three-storey foyer, limestone pillars, marble floors, Thirties-style furniture and an uplit onyx ceiling. There seem to be banks of black-clad receptionists and concierges, and unlike at so many top hotels, they actually provide great service. Tickets for the Yankees? No problem, sir. A table at the hottest new Mexican restaurant? Wait one minute...
Then there is the food. Given that the in-house restaurant is the East Coast outpost of Joël Robuchon, the French post-nouvelle cuisine chef, it is unsurprising that the meals are pretty good. The 20 seats at the pearwood counter are among the most desirable in the city, just the place to watch a parade of over-dressed models and over-stressed masters of the universe as they tuck into their free-range quail stuffed with foie gras.
There is just one, rather obvious drawback to all this luxury: it comes at a price. And what a price. On the first day, we had breakfast in the restaurant. It was, of course, sensational: ricotta-and-lemon pancakes with bacon and maple syrup for me; granola, yogurt and banana muffins for my wife; fried eggs, salmon and potatoes for my son, washed down with fresh juices and coffee. The bill was close to $200 (£100). A latte coffee in our room came in at $15 (£7.50), as did five minutes on the internet in the business centre.
Even with the strong pound, these prices take some swallowing (although the excellent tasting menu for lunch was surprisingly affordable at $55/£27.50 a head). The next day, we ended up eating at a lovely neighbourhood osteria ($86/£43 for three of us) and smuggling in coffee and muffins from a nearby café for breakfast. But if you happen to run a hedge fund, or have just won the lottery, this is the hotel for you.
Hard to beat, especially if you have just remortgaged your house. Its at 57 East 57th Street (001 212 758 5700; www.fourseasons.com), sandwiched between Park Avenue and Madison Avenue, and surrounded by some of New York's most prestigious art galleries and shops. Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Bloomingdale's, Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman are all just round the corner, as are the underground Apple shop and Central Park.
Time from international airport: about one hour by cab from either JFK or Newark airports, depending on traffic.
Most definitely. Our room was 600 sq ft (just under half the size of the average Manhattan apartment), soundproofed, and dominated by a huge bed with Frette linen and goose-down pillows. The decor is understated but modern, with a large oval desk, two armchairs and – best of all – giant windows on two walls to stare out at the wonders of NYC.
In the bathroom, there is a massive marble bath that fills in under a minute, plus separate power shower, outsized cotton towels and terry bathrobes. You press a button beside the bed to draw the curtains: a wonderful way to start the day.
Freebies: An array of Bulgari toiletries in the bathroom. Free coffee and mini-muffins, if you get up early enough, in the lobby. And a bucket of ice appears in the room at around 7pm, a rather nice touch.
Keeping in touch: Rooms have phones, giant wall-mounted Philips televisions and Bose radio/CD players (complete with supposed "deep sleep" CDs). There's a CD and DVD library downstairs. It does seem a bit miserly, however, for such an expensive hotel to charge for internet access.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Gulp. Standard rooms start at $695 (£347), suites at $1,950 (£975), and the presidential suites – completed by Pei last year, and with their own private lifts and, in one case, baby grand piano – are $15,000 (£7,500) a night.
I'm not paying that: Le Parker Meridien, at 118 West 57th Street (001 212 245 5000; www.leparkermeridien.com) has doubles starting at $417 (£208), room only.Reuse content