Sleepover: The Mark, New York
Sunday 19 September 2004
In Manhattan's swanky Upper East Side neighbourhood, prime Woody Allen territory. You're on East 77th Street, a neat little thoroughfare that connects Fifth Avenue to Madison Avenue. This is a part of New York that boasts spotless pavements, grand, gleaming stonework and canopied entrances braced by topiary and attended by uniformed doormen. Two more of Manhattan's swankiest hotels can be found in this neighbourhood - The Carlyle and The Pierre - so if you're looking for a room with high social status you can't go wrong around here.
The Mark claims to have modelled its interior styling on Sir John Soane's Museum in London (a townhouse stuffed to the neo-classical gills with a truly eclectic assortment of furniture, decorative pieces and architectural salvage). Apart from the framed Piranesi prints and marble floors, the only visible nod to Sir John Soane's influence was a Palladian-style television cabinet. Hmm.
The Mark's real selling point is peace and quiet in the city that never sleeps. Muffled by wealth, this is a relatively calm neighbourhood at night. I switched off the air-conditioning and slept with the window open, which you wouldn't do downtown.
The comfort factor
High. Ideal for jet-lagged businesspeople and exhausted sightseers who want plenty of soft furnishings to kick back on at the end of the day. My suite had the obligatory huge bed, piled with pillows, bolsters and cushions, as well as a squidgy sofa in front of the TV, with lots of magazines on a side table and complimentary petits fours.
There's space - lots of it, so that two people could comfortably shower, bathe, shave, put on make-up, dress or dry their hair without having to elbow the other one out of the way. There is a generous supply of smart toiletries and two sets of cuddly robes and slippers.
The food and drink
Mark's Restaurant is extremely smart and service is as sharp as the fold in a starched napkin. Being wary of the traditionally gargantuan New York breakfast (hard to eat when you're groggy from jet-lag), I asked for bacon and a poached egg - no toast, no tomatoes, no hash browns, no sausage. My egg arrived first inside a giant coffee cup, looking as forlorn as a kitten down a well, followed minutes later by a side plate piled high with crispy bacon. Delicious, but why not serve it all together? Afternoon tea is inspired by the British tradition but given an oriental twist by teamaster Ringo Lo. Brasserie-style food and tasty hors d'oeuvres are available in Mark's Bar. At dinner, sample fine American dishes such as Hudson Valley foie gras and Maine lobster.
Business travellers flying solo, smart and serious-looking Ralph Lauren-clad couples, a few mother-and-daughter shopping combos.
Turn right out of the front door for Museum Mile, or left for Madison Avenue's designer shops (Carolina Herrera, Vera Wang, Issey Miyake). The Met is practically on your doorstep: its $12 (£8) suggested entrance fee is a true bargain, as you can easily spend a full day admiring its 2 million artworks and artefacts, ranging from ancient Greek to modern-day pieces.
Full access for wheelchair users and people with disabilities.
Until 30 September b&b for one or two people in a "superior" (cheapest) double room costs $339 (£200) per night at weekends. Check the website for seasonal offers, which are often available.
The Mark, 25 East 77th Street, New York 10021 (001 212 744 4300; www.mandarinoriental.com).
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