With a 42nd-floor indoor pool, a name-brand independent gym, a prime location just south of Central Park, and three excellent restaurants, the Meridien offers more amenities than most of its competitors. Good thing, too, because its low-tech, no-frills rooms don't quite match up.
An upper-mid-size, upper-mid-price high-rise in upper Midtown West, Le Meridien -- despite its name -- is more quirky than pretentious.
Call it the Parker. Call it the Meridien. Just don't call it Le Meridien. Despite the name, there is nothing French about Le -- sorry, the -- Meridien. Originally founded in 1972 by Air France, the Le Meridien brand was bought in 2005 by Starwood -- the same corporation that includes the Westin, W, and Sheraton hotels, among others -- and is now simply one of its luxury chains (thus, you can use or accumulate Starwood Preferred Guest points by staying here).
With 727 rooms, the Meridien is large, but because those rooms are spread out over 42 floors and the lobby is so spacious, the hotel rarely feels crowded or overwhelming. Besides, when its guests -- a healthy mix of tourists and business travelers -- do happen to be on-site, they're scattered among the Meridien's many features: its 42nd-floor pool, enormous fitness center, and three restaurants. (One of those, Knave, is really more of a cafe, but it's an excellent place to relax with a cocktail or a coffee after a hard day of sightseeing or deal-making.)
Despite its amenities -- and its name -- the Meridien carries with it refreshingly little pretense. The website, for instance, gives the impression of a zany, even off-color, place. "Bar/Bat Mitzvah? We'll make a Mensch of you yet," it says on the page devoted to parties. "Bris? Less painful here." Classic cartoons (Tom and Jerry, anyone?) and black-and-white films play on the TV screens in the elevators. The "Do Not Disturb" signs in the rooms say FUHGETTABOUDIT. Yet the imposing lobby -- with its marble floors and neoclassical columns and arches -- creates a different, more serious, complexion. Not to mention the upmarket restaurants and chic contemporary art.
All together, it's an odd amalgam of quirk and class -- one that didn't quite work for me but could very well appeal to others. If it does, count the Meridien among the best of Midtown's second-tier properties (the Ritz Central Park, Plaza, Four Seasons, Peninsula and Mandarin Oriental representing the elite). It's right up there with the Sofitel, Jumeirah Essex House, and the Royalton -- especially if you love to swim and eat (just be sure to wait an hour in between).
The Meridien boasts services that are both expected for the price range (large bell staff, concierge, room service) and above-the-bar ("SmartAleck" cyber-concierge, free transport downtown). The trademark service is "SmartAleck," a cyber-concierge of sorts. "Just make a reservation and tell our NewYorkSmartAleck that you're headed to town," it says on the website, "and we'll get some 'must see' events back to you in a New York minute."
Complimentary transportation to Wall Street in the morning. You have to arrange it the night before, and it leaves at specified times each morning. There's no return service... but hey, it's a free ride downtown. (The Michelangelo, the Kitano, and the W hotels also do this.)
Personal-training sessions included with a gym entrance fee
In the center of Manhattan, two blocks from Central Park and Fifth Avenue shopping, and close to five subway lines
The Meridien is right smack in the middle of Manhattan, near the eastern border of what we are calling Midtown West. It's a busy area during the day because it forms a nexus of sorts: corporate skyscrapers coexist with a number of prominent hotels (the Ritz Central Park, among them), and Fifth Avenue shopping and Central Park (simply "the park," to locals) are both within two blocks. At night, however, the area quiets down a bit. (It's still quite safe, though.) Upper Midtown's vibe is (appropriate, perhaps) fairly uppity. Instead of intimate bistros and trendy lounges and night clubs (head downtown for all that), you have swanky happy-hour taverns like De La Concha cigar bar and legendary restaurants like Per Se.
Half-mile from Times Square -- five to 15 minutes ($5 to $10) by cab
Immediately nearby: Carnegie Hall (next door) and the Steinway Hall piano store and museum
If you're in town primarily to catch a few Broadway shows, you might prefer a hotel closer to the heart of Midtown West's Theater District, like the Muse or the W Times Square.
Within four blocks of five subway lines
No parking available on the premises, but QuikPark at 235 West 56th Street offers a discounted rate for guests, per 24 hours -- a good deal for Manhattan. For other parking options, check out Best Parking.
Clean and comfortable, but modest size for a hotel in this price range
Despite the Meridien's splendid lobby, high-profile restaurants, and a rooftop pool, its rooms are relatively ordinary, with basic high-tech amenities. The rooms are fine, certainly clean, quiet, functional -- but at a similar price, you'll find more style and modernity at the Royalton or Sofitel, and more space at the New York Palace.
Two basic room types: standard rooms (called "Superior" or "Deluxe") and suites. Superior Rooms, the most basic type, are about 300 square feet -- bigger than your average boutique hotel room, but about average for a large franchise hotel in NYC. Deluxe rooms are about 430 square feet; Junior Suites (the most basic suite type), about 475 square feet.
Upgrading all the way to the most expensive suites (Central Park Suite, Diplomatic Suite, etc.) adds a kitchen to the mix.
Beds' mattresses -- Royal Suite Monitor 266s -- are firm, but the super-soft down mattress pads add a lot of comfort.
Not a problem; rooms partially renovated in early 2009
My room was a little rough around the edges, and there were a few visible stains on the furniture. But nothing major -- everything was functional and hygienic. The property is very well-maintained overall.
The food is reason enough to visit the Meridien. The conversation begins with Norma's, the iconic brunch spot right off the lobby.
Iconic brunch at Norma's serves breakfast and lunch everyday.
For lunch, it's pretty much mandatory to grab a patty at the famous Burger Joint off the lobby, which some have named the best in New York; expect to wait in line 15 to 30 minutes. The name -- or rather, the lack thereof -- tells you everything you need to know about the unpretentious vibe.
Petit Blue Dog Cafe is a healthy cafe located in The Underground space, next to the fitness center. It serves wholesome food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as juices, smoothies and detoxifying grass shots.
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