- No spa
Rising 29 stories above the bright lights and theaters of Times Square, this Manhattan outpost of a French chain offers understated luxury, attentive service, and a quiet, classy location in Midtown West.
Quiet, classy, and with impeccable service, the Sofitel is the 398-room luxury outpost of the French hotel chain that also owns Novotel and the far less prestigious Motel 6. Because of its French origins, many of the signs are in English and French and many of the hotel staff speak both French and English. In addition, some of the concierges also speak Arabic, Russian, Spanish, or German. Thus the hotel is very well equipped to accommodate a broad range of international travelers.
The hotel's lobby is dark (the only windows are the glass doors at the entrance) but elegant, with velvet couches and five individual seating areas that have leather club chairs surrounding round varnished tables. Vases of fresh flowers can be seen throughout the hotel, and individual orchids are placed in each of the 398 guest rooms' bathrooms.
Prompt and very warm service in multiple languages, and a concierge who's a member of the prestigious concierge organization Les Clefs d'Or.
From the prompt front-desk clerks and multilingual concierges (available between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.) to the housekeepers responsible for the nightly turndown between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to the 24-hour room-service staff, the service at the Sofitel is superb. It's not doting or cloying like at the Four Seasons or the Ritz-Carlton, but it's very attentive, whether you're in a suit or a pair of jeans.
Many of the hotel's concierges are multilingual -- Russian and Arabic are among the languages spoken -- and one of the concierges, Vladimir Umansky, is a member of Les Clefs d'Or, the most prestigious concierge organization in the world. There are just 520 members in the United States, and just over 3,000 members worldwide.
Several of the concierges are also specially trained "Romance Concierges" by the Emily Post Institute, which basically means that they've been trained in the proper etiquette for setting up a room for one of the hotel's romance packages.
Compared to the crowded sidewalks, neon lights, and commercial storefronts that Midtown West is known for, the Sofitel's block is relatively calm. The hotel is situated on a stretch of West 44th Street known as Club Row because of its grouping of posh university clubs for Ivy League alumni. There's the Harvard Club, the Yale Club, the Penn Club, and the New York Yacht Club, along with historic hotels like the Algonquin. Between all the hotels and fancy clubs, there seem to be more flags flying on this block than at the United Nations.
With subway stations at Grand Central, Bryant Park, and Times Square all within walking distance, the hotel is ideally situated near every major train line -- it's just about the most connected location anywhere in the city.
Nearby are the Museum of Modern Art, the famous Fifth Avenue shopping district, and Bryant Park, which in the winter months is home to the city's only free ice-skating rink. Other attractions within short walking distance include Radio City Music Hall, site of the famed Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes (as well as numerous popular concerts throughout the year); Rockefeller Center, which houses NBC Studios and the Top of the Rock observation deck; and the Chrysler Building, one of the city's most beautiful skyscrapers.
Rooms at the Sofitel may not be the fanciest or the sleekest, but with soft white bedding, maroon accents, and marble bathrooms, they're tasteful, comfortable, and understated.
Standard rooms, called "Classic" rooms, fall in a comfortable range of 200 to 300 square feet. Each room comes with either a queen- or king-size bed, or two twin beds. My corner room with a queen bed was on the smaller side, but still felt comfortable and spacious with a desk, two nightstands, and a small table and chair. It also had an especially spacious marble bathroom for a room its size. Deluxe rooms, a notch above the Classic, are 350 square feet and come with a queen or two twins. Luxury rooms, approximately 400 square feet, come with king beds.
The 41-inch LG flat-screen TV broadcasts about 50 cable channels, about one-third of which are hi-def. Rooms also feature Bose Wave stereos that can connect to any MP3 player via a headphone jack that works with iPods. But, unlike other iPod docks, it won't charge them.
All bathrooms have a separate tub and shower -- a very rare luxury in New York. There wasn't a spot of mold or mildew anywhere on my marble vanity or in the shower, and the American Standard showerhead had perfect water pressure. The single orchid on the vanity ledge is a nice touch, as are the L'Occitane French toiletries in lemon verbena, befitting a French hotel. Bathroom towels are Frette, though the sheets are not.
The standard rooms are located on Floors 3 to 13, which means no open views. You have to get up to the 18th floor or higher for an open view, which means upgrading to a more expensive (and only slightly more spacious) room. Rooms at Le Parker Meridien on the 25th floor and higher also have views.
The hotel has a very well-equipped gym, but because it's on the ground floor it has no natural light. Cardio equipment is LifeFitness and includes four treadmills, two ellipticals, an upright bike, and a reclining bike, all with personal TV monitors. In addition, there are six weight machines, a full set of free weights, medicine balls, and enough mats to spread out and stretch on. The baskets of red and green apples near the watercooler are a nice touch.
The business center is inconspicuously located just off the lobby and consists of three PCs and a printer. It's available for use 24 hours and is free, whether you're printing or just using the computers to check your email.
There is free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel.
No fee or weight limit for pets.
Pets are welcome and there's no charge or weight limit, but you'll need to bring all of the necessary accoutrements. Unlike the Muse hotel, the Sofitel doesn't provide pets with special treats.
Free cribs and rollaways, and connecting rooms are available, but family packages are extra, and kids menus are only available on request.
The hotel has a far more sophisticated and upscale vibe than its decidedly more kid-friendly sister hotel, Novotel, which has good safety features in the rooms and free breakfast for kids ages 16 and under. But the Sofitel can certainly accommodate families.
Cribs and rollaway beds are available for a fee, but only for single-bed rooms.
So clean you can see vacuum marks in the hallways at all hours.
The hotel is immaculate, save for the stray, almost microscopic strand of hair I found in my shower. The fixtures in the bathroom gleamed, the grout between the marble tiles was bright white, and every square inch of the room itself was fresh and clean, even the ledge on the windowsill.
Room service is available 24 hours, and the French-inspired Gaby serves food a cut above most hotel restaurants, but DB Bistro Moderne, owned by renowned French chef Daniel Boulud is just a few doors down.
Many guests praise the entrees at Gaby, the restaurant located on the hotel's ground floor, which range from homemade zucchini to pepper and eggplant lasagna ($23) to seared sea scallops and soy salt ($30), but my monkfish with porcini mushrooms, beurre blanc, and roasted asparagus ($28) arrived basically incinerated.
Room service is available 24 hours by the hotel's in-house staff, with high-quality breakfast options like brioche French toast with Vermont maple syrup and fresh fruit for $20. I wasn't too keen on the caramel goo that hadn't been mentioned in the description, but it arrived piping hot and the fruit was fresh.
All told, the food is a small step up from most hotels in the area, like the Algonquin or any of the major chain hotels like the Marriott Marquis, the Hilton Times Square, or the Westin. But two doors down is DB Bistro Moderne, a slightly more expensive French-American restaurant helmed by one of New York's most renowned chefs, Daniel Boulud.
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