I was the first journalist to stay at five-star Whitby Hotel and.... WOW
All you need to know: ROOMS WITH PRIVATE TERRACES.
I was honored to be the first journalist invited to stay at Whitby Hotel in New York City, and I was also floored. Whitby Hotel, part of Firmdale Hotel's portfolio of stunning hotels, truly exceeded expectations. In fact, I wrote about it for The Hollywood Reporter as one of the best NYC hotel openings in 2017.
Wow factor: Opened February 2017, Whitby Hotel is prime real estate. It's on 56th and Fifth Avenue, walking distance to Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Apple Store and MoMA. It's also in that hot pocket of five-star hotels like St. Regis New York, Peninsula New York and The Plaza, so you can only imagine what the hotel does to stand out. The Whitby has managed to quickly cultivate a following with stylish locals who hang out at the well designed lobby bar. It's definitely a hot spot now, and I don't see that fading any time soon.
Service and facilities: Most of the buttoned-up staff I interacted with were cool, eccentric and young New Yorkers. Some of the staff were often clueless, proving they had no previous five-star hotel experience, but I know this will be smoothed out in time (for instance, at one point, a young female staff member called me out when I was entering the elevator for a personal matter, which she announced in front of all the guests and three other desk staff. It was the equivalent of saying a guest's hotel room number aloud, which is a no-no). The hotel is destined to be a celebrity magnet with its state-of-the-art private theatre (intended to screen movie premieres), though this is not a shocker considering Firmdale's solid reputation for A-list hotel guests. There's a fitness center, busy restaurant and bar, unique drawing room with fireplace and engaging art, from paintings to sculptures, which essentially makes the lobby moonlight as an art gallery.
Room: Whitby Hotel has only 86 rooms, all of which are individually designed to feel whimsical, eccentric and intimate with high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, fabric-lined walls and truly commanding artwork. What really blew me away is that many rooms are equipped with outdoor terraces (like my One Bedroom Suite), which is a rarity in Midtown (finding a midtown hotel window that actually opens is a challenge in itself). The suite was posh and had an unmistakable English feel, so there was no lack of character. The covered terrace had outdoor furniture and views of the street below (and, unfortunately, direct views of the Trump Tower). Again, the privilege of a private terrace in this neck of the woods is *rare.* It's hard to put the words "elegant" and "bathroom" in the same sentence, but Whitby Hotel made this effortless with the marble bathroom with separate stand-alone bathtub and glass-encased rain shower. The pressure of the rain shower was full-on massage level. If you like long showers, then this may be a potential problem. It felt like a spa. I can't even imagine how much this rain shower would cost, and I definitely was not complaining.
Food and beverage: The restaurant and bar was always crowded every time I walked in and out of the lobby. Unfortunately, with my packed NYC schedule, I didn't have time to enjoy it but it's a reason for me to come back.
Drawbacks: Because Whitby Hotel is so new, they are ironing out the kinks—but there are few kinks to iron out. Staff will just get better from here.
Is this hotel right for you? Due to its Midtown location, Whitby Hotel targets mostly business travelers who have access to deep corporate pockets. With it's "urban resort" sensibility, it caters to leisure travelers as well. Midtown is going through a huge boom right now, so leisure travelers will feel comfortable here. It's very convenient to top landmarks, shopping and attractions, and it's not stuffy like other five-star hotels in the area. During my stay, I noticed a healthy mix of business travelers in suits, leisure travelers in designer clothing, gay travelers and not much else. Theoretically, families could shack up here but it's not exactly geared toward them.
Accolades: While it's very new, it hasn't yet racked up any awards or accolades, but I am confident it will make the circuit of "best new hotel" for plenty of critics and magazines like Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Forbes and more.
Rates: Rooms start at $695.
Final thoughts: The level of luxury at Whitby Hotel is over the top (from private terraces to world-class art in the lobby), and it's perfect for splurging guests who want to feel pampered. Just by staying at the Whitby, you become part of its flashy, celebrity lifestyle (Woody Harrelson and Morgan Freeman stayed when it opened, and Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez were in the lobby when I arrived). The hype is well deserved. The hotel goes the extra mile to offer a well rounded hotel experience with art, rooms styled to perfection and other fine amenities like its drawing room and theatre.