Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
The London NYC isn't so named because it has a sister property near Buckingham Palace, though it does have a sister property in West Hollywood. The Union Jack flies out front, next to a flag bearing the hotel's name in a stylish sans serif, and Scottish celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has two restaurants here, but the hotel doesn't feel distinctly British -- at least not in the "God save the queen" and "tea time while reading Jane Austen" sense.
Rather, the hotel's name seems intended only to make it feel hip and international, or at least more unique than, say, the W Times Square, with whom it shares a bright, modern aesthetic. While it's managed by LXR Resorts & Hotels -- a large company with properties in the US, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean -- the London brand isn't a "chain" in the sense that the W or the Marriott is.
The hotel's guest rooms are all large, 500-square-foot suites, stylishly decorated by Irish designer David Collins with mod velvet couches and bathrooms shimmering with white mosaic tiles. Despite the hotel's massive size, it feels more like a boutique property thanks to all the stylish touches both in and outside of the guest rooms.
A number of celebrity guests have reportedly graced the hotel with their presence, including Halle Berry, Jennifer Hudson, and Usher. Non-celebrity guests typically include style-conscious business travelers during the week and style-conscious leisure travelers on the weekend.
The London's best characteristic these days, however, isn't style but value. As Puff Daddy would say, it's all about the Benjamins. When the hotel opened in late 2006 after extensively renovating the old RIHGA Royal Hotel building, the standard suites went for closer to $500 a night. But the hotel has since cut its rates significantly to keep occupancy up in the wake of the economic crisis.
Hotel staff is friendly, attentive, and ever-professional but not over-the-top. Expect 24-hour room service and turndowns.
The hotel is centrally located near many of the city's top attractions. Times Square is close, but not too close -- about a dozen blocks away. Better yet, Central Park is just five short blocks north. The Broadway theater district begins a block and a half to the west of the hotel and stretches south down Broadway.
An all-suite hotel, the London's standard suites are amazingly spacious and stylish for the price.
The 500-square-foot standard London suites -- twice the size of many New York hotel rooms --- are some of the biggest and best rooms for the buck in NYC, at least since the hotel dropped its rates by a couple of hundred dollars in early 2009.
With curved velvet sofas, mirrors and modern lamps aplenty, and a mix of carpet and oak floors, the decor asserts that London (both the hotel and the British capital) equals groovy. The feel is young and fun, upscale but not over-the-top luxurious.
Suites are spacious and easily fit rollaway beds, but the hotel does little to accommodate younger children.
Dogs, but not cats, under 20 pounds are allowed, provided you pay a $125 cleaning fee.
In addition to the cleaning fee, two-legged guests must sign a pet waiver saying they'll take financial responsibility for any damage caused by Fido. Cute pet amenities aren't part of the deal (try the Muse or the W for that), but the hotel can provide dog bowls if needed.
The first Gordon Ramsay restaurants in the US are on-site. They're consistently pricey, but great food and service are less certain. Guests should consider exploring the neighborhood's many other fine-dining options.
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is at the London ... sort of. His business ventures oversee all food operations at the hotel: the fine-dining restaurant Gordon Ramsay at the London, the slightly more casual Maze, the London Bar, and the hotel's 24-hour room service and catering.
But although Gordon Ramsay has made quite a name for himself with his restaurant empire and profanity-laden television show, Hell's Kitchen, the quality of the food under his name at the London varies. Since it opened, Gordon Ramsay at the London has garnered mixed reviews. Guests considering dropping $150 for the seven-course menu at the restaurant, or $110 for the three-course menu, might also want to consider dining at some of the city's other fine-dining restaurants. (Six blocks away from the hotel, The Shops at Columbus Circle contains some of the city's best, and most expensive, restaurants, like Thomas Keller's Per Se and Masayoshi Takayama's Masa, along with slightly more reasonable options like Porter House New York and Landmarc.)
The hotel website describes the other restaurant, Maze, as a "less formal and lively gathering spot." It may well be less formal than Gordon Ramsay at the London, but it's still pretty formal and not all that lively. The prix fixe menus are less expensive -- $60 for four courses or $75 for six -- but there's still an emphasis on long, laborious dinners. This isn't the place to simply grab an entree, as a companion and I tried to do late one night. We were made to feel a bit awkward for not ordering wine and multiple courses, and the food itself was disappointing. My Carnaroli risotto of lovage, broad beans, steamed mussels, and chives ($20) was topped with a messy mound of foam, a bit of a cliche in foodie circles, and the overriding taste was simply salty. A companion's roast breast of duck ($24) was better but not amazing. And while the place bills itself as a sharing-small-plates sort of place, our server urged us instead to order an appetizer and a main.
Maze also serves breakfast until 11 a.m., but the "breakfast bar" (i.e., continental buffet) is only available until 10:30 a.m. My eggs were tasty, but service was less than scrumptious: It took a while to get water and then to pay the bill. A team of two servers delivered my eggs on a silver platter, but I wish they would have split up and brought me water in a timely fashion instead. As at dinner, the restaurant has the pomp and circumstance, but it doesn't quite deliver the goods.
Room service is also a bit disappointing. I wanted a beverage one morning, and had originally planned on a green tea, figuring the Anglo influence and Mr. Ramsay would make for a nice cup. Instead I was told that the tea brand on offer was Harney and Sons, a less-than-thrilling brand sold at Trader Joe's. I ordered a cappuccino instead, which came quickly enough, but the presentation was utterly lacking: It was served in a regular coffee mug without a saucer, and no sugar was brought with it. Considering it cost me more than $10, I was expecting a more elegant caffeine presentation, and it didn't taste that great, either.
This stylish, all-suite hotel is one of the best luxury deals around -- incredibly large rooms, two on-site restaurants from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, a central location near Central Park and Times Square, and a great fitness center. All that's missing is an on-site spa.
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