Room Service: Carlyle Hotel, New York City

The great thing about visiting Manhattan is that there is always something new to aspire to: the coolest bar; the chicest shop; the latest restaurant and so on. Then there are the hotels

The great thing about visiting Manhattan is that there is always something new to aspire to: the coolest bar; the chicest shop; the latest restaurant and so on. Then there are the hotels: the triumvirate of luxury, style and service is what guarantees New York's finest a permanent ranking among the best in the world. The Carlyle is a prime example, and if you want to invoke jaw-grinding envy among your friends and rivals, this is the place to stay.

The great thing about visiting Manhattan is that there is always something new to aspire to: the coolest bar; the chicest shop; the latest restaurant and so on. Then there are the hotels: the triumvirate of luxury, style and service is what guarantees New York's finest a permanent ranking among the best in the world. The Carlyle is a prime example, and if you want to invoke jaw-grinding envy among your friends and rivals, this is the place to stay.

The hotel was completed in 1931 and offers its well-heeled guests enviable views of Central Park and proximity to Madison Avenue boutiques for a stylish Christmas shopping spree. The intimate foyer, recently restored, gleams with understated art deco elegance. It's uptown in every sense: from the tiny elevators, permanently staffed by white-gloved bellhops, to the local dog-walker who escorts a guest's Burberry-scarved wolfhound to the park every morning.

Location, location, location

Carlyle Hotel, Madison Avenue at 76th Street, New York, NY 10021 (reservations 001 212 744 1600; www.thecarlyle.com).

Time to international airport: John F Kennedy airport is 45 minutes by taxi. A $35 (£22) flat fare for this journey applies to all yellow cabs: add on a $3 (£2) toll to cross the river plus tip (six or seven dollars).

Are You Lying Comfortably?

It's a rare hotel room that can compete with the charms of SoHo, the Met and Central Park, but I experienced a fleeting desire to double-lock the door and simply wallow in luxury for the weekend. Guests in the 180 rooms and suites sleep on snow-white Frette linen, surrounded by antique boudoir chairs and sofas. Fine rugs grace the parquet flooring; original Audubon prints adorn the walls. Some rooms have terraces and grand pianos. From the higher floors, guests enjoy glorious views. Deluxe rooms and suites have a separate kitchenette with fridge, icebox and electric hob. An umbrella, CD and video players, fax machine, hairdryer and bathroom scale are also supplied.

Bathrooms aren't huge but are well-appointed, with bathtub and power shower. Deluxe towels, robes and slippers are supplied along with Kiehl's bath products.

Freebies: Fruit, Evian water and macaroons sweeten your arrival. During November and December, all guests receive a $100 (£60) voucher to spend at Ralph Lauren – reception staff should hand you a personal voucher at check in.

The best freebies are of the musical kind, in the hotel's historic (and very fashionable) Bemelman's Bar, and the Café Carlyle, where Woody Allen plays with a New Orleans jazz band every Monday. Woody's sax playing isn't the best you'll ever hear, but hey, this is the man who gave us Manhattan...

Keeping in touch: Multi-line phones, dedicated fax line, stereo TV and radio, voice mail, data port.

The Bottom Line

Standard rooms from $495 (£315); standard suites from $850 (£540). Tower Suite from $2,700 (£1,700) to $3,200 (£2,000) per night.

I'm not paying that: the Holiday Inn at 440 West 57th Street, New York City, NY 10019, charges from $129 (£80) per night (001 212 581 8100; www.sixcontinentshotels.com).

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