Hotel Elysee Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Midtown East, Manhattan, New York City

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Pros

Cons

  • Older furniture
  • Outdated TVs
  • No gym on-site
  • Some guest complaints of street noise (though our room was quiet)

Bottom Line

More like a French B&B than a Midtown East hotel, the 103-room Elysee boutique comes with large, unique rooms, elegant decor, and a colorful history. Free breakfast, free wine, free coffee, free Wi-Fi, and free passes to the New York Sports Club make this low-key hotel a midtown favorite.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

To some elegant -- to others dated -- the Hotel Elysee's B&B-style decor is within the busy business district of Midtown East.

Marble-floored lobby
Marble-floored lobby

In the marble-floored lobby, there's a crystal chandelier, gold sparkling brocade wallpaper, and fresh-cut lilies by the entrance. In the rooms, Francophile fleur-de-lis emblems mark the bathrobes, the stationary, the bathroom wall, and even the toilet paper. But at just 103 rooms, the Elysee is still a small, personable property.

Outside the wedding crowds -- on a typical weekend in June, the joint packs in at least three or four brides -- most guests are here on business. Large companies headquartered in midtown, such as Morgan Keagan and Alco, have accounts with the hotel. Most guests return again and again, and hotel manager John Avina estimated that on any given week at least 65 percent of the residents are returning guests. What brings them back? The homey Club room, for starters, which serves breakfast every day, afternoon snacks of cookies with coffee and tea, and early evening wine and cheese -- all complimentary.

 History

The Elysee comes with a long, prestigious history -- roaring parties, a drunken Brando, and "the place to go where jokes die."

Antique telephone in the lobby
Antique telephone in the lobby

Built in 1926, and named for the finest French restaurant during the time, the Elysee became a long-term residence for movie stars, authors, and musicians. Marlon Brando had a suite, now named "Sayonara" after his role in "Teahouse of the August Moon." In 1983, writer Tennessee Williams died in the Sunset suite, after having written much of his late material while living in the hotel. World-renowned pianist Vladimir Horowitz moved a Steinway baby grand piano into the hotel when he took up temporary residence. Upon checkout, he famously shrugged at the hotel's manager and said, "Keep it." (The piano remains in the Presidential suite to this day.)

During the Great Depression, the Monkey Bar was the go-to place for A-list eccentrics. Even today, it features 70-year-old hand-painted murals depicting monkeys sitting by a Christmas tree, riding an elephant, mixing up banana daiquiris, and other non-simian behavior. Performers such as Johnny Payne and Mel Martin famously performed songs riddled with double entendres. Thus, the bar became known as "the place to go where jokes die" (and a booze-addled Brando got thrown out of the watering hole on more than one occasion). The glamorous Art Deco décor has also inspired numerous marriage proposals, silver anniversary celebrations, and a notable hook-up scene between Carrie and Mr. Big on "Sex and the City."

In the Club room, when Harry Truman won the hotly contested 1948 presidential election, actress Tallulah Bankhead held a five-day nonstop party to celebrate.

 Service

Prompt, friendly service from staffers who are dedicated to keeping guests happy.

Friendly front desk attendant
Friendly front desk attendant

Big smiles and swift service -- from extra towels, to a bucket of ice, to room-service orders -- across the board. As a special bonus, service is announced not with a knock on my door, but an actual ring of a doorbell (each unit has its own buzzer, a cute touch that felt very "Breakfast at Tiffany's.")

Couples married at the nearby St. Patrick's Cathedral or the soon-to-be-betrothed are frequent guests. One honeymooning TripAdvisor reviewer appreciated the card and box of chocolates left in her room. If hotel staff are made aware of guests' amorous status beforehand, a complimentary bottle of champagne will likely be waiting in the room. And, as one desk staff member explained, "There is often a frantic young man rushing in here. I try to get him a room with a balcony."

 Location

Eight blocks from the entrance to Central Park, the hotel's in Midtown East, a haven for shoppers and museum-goers alike.

Midtown East is a heavily trafficked work district with plenty of tall, cold buildings. Shops and restaurants in the direct vicinity of the hotel cater primarily to the business set. This may mean that some stores, like the deli on the corner, may not be open at midnight when a hotel guest is hankering for a bag of kettle chips. Just across the street from the hotel is Bill's Restaurant, an authentic Roaring '20s speakeasy and piano bar. A few blocks east -- at Lexington and Third Avenue -- guests will find a retail-heavy area (and the world-famous Bloomingdale's department store) with plenty of places to dine at later hours.

For designer shopping, Hotel Elysee is an ideal spot -- only a five- to 10-minute walk away from Madison Avenue boutiques like Jimmy Choo, Chanel, Prada, and Dolce and Gabbana, among others. Big-scale department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney's are also under 10 blocks away, as is the city's world-famous toy store, FAO Schwartz.

Museum Mile is an easy 10- to 15-minute cab ride, where the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Egyptian ruins and Pointilist details are just steps away from the three-eyed, four-nosed Picassos at the Guggenheim.

The commercial complex Rockefeller Center, which houses shops, restaurants, Radio City Music Hall (home of the Rockettes), and the fabled ice-skating rink, is only seven blocks downtown.

 Airport Transportation

About 30 to 90 minutes from three airports.

New York City has three nearby airports: JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark (in New Jersey). Getting to town from JFK or LaGuardia is usually more convenient than getting there from Newark, but travel times are heavily dependent on the time of day and traffic conditions. From JFK, a taxi to anywhere in Manhattan costs a flat rate of $45 and takes around an hour in average conditions. From LaGuardia, a metered cab ride to midtown Manhattan costs about $40 and can take 30 minutes if traffic is light, three times that if it's bad. Rides from Newark cost at least $40 (plus tolls) and can take more than 90 minutes. It's customary to tip your driver 15 to 25 percent.

Those looking to save some cash can use the privately run shuttle buses that are available at all three airports for about $14 per person. For more information on the shuttles, go to Super Shuttle or New York Airport Service. Public transit is also available for as little as $7 per person, but travel can take up to two hours and involve a lot of lugging bags up and down stairways.

For mass-transit directions right to the hotel, check out HopStop.com.

 Rooms

Large, mismatched, and with elegant charm. But the classic style comes with less fancy sheets and an old tube TV.

Bathroom in the Deluxe Room
Bathroom in the Deluxe Room

Each room at the Hotel Elysee is unique in its French country design. Up until the mid-'80s, the rooms went by individual names, rather than numbers. Most notable are the beds -- some are brass, some are wood, some have leather headboards. This, of course, means that you never know what you're going to sleep on. To some, the overall look is a bit dated. But to most guests, myself included, the classic look is unique and pretty, especially the light fixtures, which look like more humble versions of the lobby's chandelier.

Starting at about 300 square feet, the rooms are considerably larger than most New York boutiques. Rooms are divided into deluxe rooms, street side superior rooms, junior suites, suites, and premier suites.

I stayed in a deluxe room, which was quiet, even though it was right next to the elevator. The brass-framed queen bed includes an additional feather mattress -- on all the beds in the hotel -- which unfortunately moved around once I got under the covers. The sheets, though pristine, felt a little rough to the touch. The standard-screen 24-inch RCA TV set seemed small given its distance from the bed, and the screen was fuzzy on many of the channels. The remote control was missing the back placard that keeps the AA batteries in place, and in the morning I had to scramble around the floor to look for the batteries.

Though the beds might be hit or miss, the bathrooms are fairly consistent. In the deluxe room, the bath is nearly identical to the one in the one-bedroom Parlor suite. There is a full-size bathtub -- a rarity in New York -- and good shower pressure. Most notable, however, is the tub's lowness to the floor, which could be ideal for guests with mobility challenges, but is not ideal for a romantic soak. Bath products -- including a handy shoe shiner -- from London-based soap maker Gilchrist and Soames smell subtly of tea rose.

All rooms come with a pay-per-item stocked minibar, but also a little something complimentary -- two bottles of Crystal Geyser water and a very tasty Leonidas dark chocolate bar with cacao bits.

The Parlor suite, one of three premier suites at the hotel, has multiple rooms, unlike the standard units. It feels like a grand Park Avenue-style apartment belonging to an eccentric grandmother (incidentally, the suite was the permanent residence of the building's owner until she died about two years ago). The living and dining room feature a decorative, but non-working fireplace and flat-screen TV, a desk with a nautical-style wooden chair, and framed Chinese artwork. The bedroom is pretty, feminine -- without being too flowery -- and fairly expansive.

  • Deluxe rooms are 300 square feet and come with a king, a queen, or two double beds.
  • Street side superior rooms are located on the third and fourth floors. These rooms come at a discounted price because they can be noisier than others. They are essentially the same as deluxe rooms, but none offer double beds.
  • Junior suites are located on the higher floors of the hotel and measure approximately 500 square feet. Each junior suite has a non-working fireplace and a king or queen bed.
  • Suites are approximately 700 square feet and have a separate bedroom. These rooms come with either a king or queen bed.
  • Premier suites start at 900 square feet. Each comes with a non-working fireplace, multiple rooms, and a king bed. There are three premier suites in hotel, and each has a name: the Piano Suite, the Parlor Suite, and the Royal Suite.

 Features

A stately all-purpose Club room, free passess to a gym (five blocks away), free Wi-Fi, free wine and cheese, and free daily breakfasts.

Guests enjoying breakfast in the Club Room
Guests enjoying breakfast in the Club Room

The elegant Club room on the second floor looks out on 54th Street and is available to all guests of the hotel. It features plenty of couches, well-stocked book shelves, plush velvet chairs, and eccentric antiques to make the room a welcoming place to take a rest any time of the day. Hotel guests enthusiastically partake in the complimentary continental breakfast served daily, the afternoon's fresh coffee and cookies, and the free weeknight wine and cheese reception from 5-8 p.m., at which the hotel serves free wine and prosecco, along with an impressive selection of cheeses, crackers, olives, and fresh crudites.

Also housed within the Club room is the business center, which made me chuckle -- a wooden writer's desk with desktop computer and printer. Not ideal for getting business done, but at least there is free wireless throughout the hotel and rooms have Ethernet cables.

Elysee does not have a gym, but does offer free passes to the New York Sports Club. The closest branch of this full-service gym -- which has tons of equipment and classes -- is about five blocks away at 59th Street and Park Avenue.

 Family

Complimentary snacks throughout the day, but this hotel is not the most ideal for kids.

Afternoon snacks in the Club Room
Afternoon snacks in the Club Room

Hotel Elysee is not an ideal place for kids, though little ones will certainly marvel at the hotel's decor -- its glittering chandelier and whimsical murals.

The complimentary breakfast, plentiful afternoon snacks, and early evening cocktail spread served in the Club room will keep hungry kids well sated throughout the day (and for free, to the delight of parents).

The hotel has cribs and rollaway beds available at no extra charge. However, there are only one or two rollaway beds available in the entire hotel, so they can't guarantee availability prior to check-in. There are a limited number of connecting rooms in the hotel, which join rooms with a king bed to those with two doubles, a more than suitable arrangement for a family.

 Cleanliness

Management means business when it comes to keeping this hotel neat. This property is seriously spotless.

Spotless carpets in the Club Room
Spotless carpets in the Club Room

The lobby's marble floor is as shiny as a bald head, while the carpets in the Club room and guest rooms could be an advertisement for Hoover vacuums.

Elysee owner and prominent hotelier Henry Kallan (who owns three additional New York City properties -- the Hotel Giraffe, Casablanca Hotel, and Library Hotel) -- often stops by the Hotel Elysee to check for dust bunnies. Kallan has also been known to head into a random guest room, open a window, and run his finger along the sill to check for soot.

 Food

Free breakfasts, and a famed bar and restaurant on-site.

The historic Monkey Bar
The historic Monkey Bar

The Elysee has a free continental breakfast from 7-10:30 a.m. I was thrilled with the fresh bagels from the nearby bakery Valent and Cook, the cranberry-orange scones, the wide selection of dry cereals, the hard-boiled eggs, and the perfect fruit salad, all of which were plentiful from until 10:30 a.m. (Breakfast is available until 11 a.m. on the weekends). For a $5 surcharge, the spread can also be delivered to your room.

Also, the historic, and freshly re-opened hotel bar and restaurant is back on the scene. The Monkey Bar -- now owned by Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair magazine -- has been generating a great deal of buzz. For more, check out this review from New York magazine.

 Bottom Line

More like a French B&B than a Midtown East hotel, the 103-room Elysee boutique comes with large, unique rooms, elegant decor, and a colorful history. Free breakfast, free wine, free coffee, free Wi-Fi, and free passes to the New York Sports Club make this low-key hotel a midtown favorite.

Things You Should Know About Hotel Elysee

Address

  • 60 E. 54th Street, New York, NY 10022

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Elysee Hotel New York
  • Elysee Hotel New York City
  • Elysee New York City

Room Types

  • Deluxe Double Room
  • Deluxe Room
  • Junior Suite
  • Parlor Suite
  • Piano Suite
  • Premier Suite
  • Royal Suite
  • Street Side Superior Room
  • Suite

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 103
Internet Access: Yes
Cribs: Yes
Jacuzzi (in room): Some
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Hotel Information

Location: Midtown East, Manhattan
Address: 60 E. 54th Street, New York, NY 10022
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