24-Hour Room Service: The Library Hotel, New York

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The Independent Travel

The Library Hotel is a refuge of calm. Not just from hectic Manhattan sidewalks, but from the glut of other boutique hotels that think they're nightclubs.

The Library Hotel is a refuge of calm. Not just from hectic Manhattan sidewalks, but from the glut of other boutique hotels that think they're nightclubs. The last thing you need after an eight-hour flight or a surfeit of exchange-rate-mania shopping is a Stygian lobby with sour-faced attendrons, techno in the restaurant and parties in the corridor outside your room at three in the morning. (You know who you are.) No, you need low-key, unfussy, good old-fashioned comfort, and to curl up with a leather-bound edition of The Iliad - in Greek, of course.

And this is where the Library excels. There are bookcases everywhere: the hotel is arranged according to the principles of the Dewey decimal system and each of the rooms is furnished with books and art related to one of the system's categories. Subjects to keep your brain ticking over range from fairytales to oceanography to the occult. (The most popular room is, unsurprisingly, 800.001 - that's erotic literature to you non-librarians.) The slightly over-bright Reading Room is a good place to sit and browse while you enjoy the cheese and wine served every weekday evening. On the top floor, there's the cosy Writers' Den with its open fire, and the Poetry Garden, a greenhouse with wicker chairs and tables piled high with - what else? - more tomes, surrounded by a roof-top terrace.

LOCATION

299 Madison Avenue at 41st Street, New York, NY, 10017 (001 212 983 4500; www.libraryhotel.com). Bang in the heart of midtown Manhattan, you're surrounded by shops, restaurants, offices and theatres, although at weekends the immediate area becomes quiet to the point of desolated. You're one block from the fabulous Grand Central Station and a stone's throw from Bryant Park, where you can hang out and hope some glamour rubs off on you during New York fashion shows, which take place in a mega-marquee.

Time from international airports: cabs from JFK and Newark have a flat fare of $35 (£19), plus around $5 (£3) for tolls, and a tip of at least $7 (£4) on top of that. Allow an hour. If money is really tight after splashing out for a room, there's the subway from JFK or a bus from Newark to Grand Central Terminal, nearby.

COMFORTABLE?

The beautifully restored mansion-style building has 60 rooms. All the rooms are elegantly designed with mahogany trim, frosted glass and granite tops, and they come equipped with CD players and VCRs. Each has bath robes, mini bar and safe.

Freebies: loads - complimentary videos from the American Film Institute's top 100 movies available at the front desk; health club privileges; Natura toiletries; mineral water, complimentary continental breakfast and the complimentary wine and cheese reception each weekday evening; Belgian chocolates left on the pillow each night during the turndown service. There's also free serve-yourself refreshments throughout the day and the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal to keep you up to date on just how much you're saving with the weak dollar.

Keeping in touch: complimentary high-speed internet terminals in your room or wireless access in the Reading Room and Business centre.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Double rooms start at $360 (£225) per night for a "Petite", to $911 (£570), without breakfast.

I'm not paying that: until the end of March, the New York Weekend Retreat package at The Library offers a discounted rate of $274 (£171) for a double room including a bottle of sparkling wine and buffet breakfast.

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