I don’t visit New York very often, but when I do I find myself frustrated by high prices for hotels that are often disappointing. They may have some pros, but there are too many cons considering what I’m paying. For example, the Grand Hyatt New York has an excellent Grand Club and good location, but the bathroom was so small it reminded me of an airplane lavatory. I expect better for $300+ per night.
So I switched gears to try the Hyatt 48Lex on my most recent trip, which all the other travel bloggers have raved about. (But perhaps only because at one time it was a Category 4 property eligible for a free night with the Hyatt Visa. I try to evaluate properties independent of their award rates, and for those who care, it is now a Category 5 hotel at 20,000 points per night.)
Although it’s a clean, modern building, my first impression was that the lobby is very, very small. There’s nothing to wow you until you get upstairs, so don’t plan on telling friends to meet you here before heading out.
At least the staff were friendly and expecting me, so I was given a key and an envelope with details on the benefits for Gold Passport Diamond members, including a couple $25 vouchers for each of my two nights to use at the adjacent Lexington Brass restaurant. Each room has a slightly different layout, and mine was one of the more squarish rooms with a view of Lexington Avenue about halfway up the building.
Fortunately, the bathroom was much larger than my former experience at the Grand Hyatt, though the room was smaller to compensate. Fine. I would rather have a sink to lean over than a sofa by the window. The sink was still inexplicably shallow (cool things are always so impractical), but otherwise I thought the bathroom was very spacious and well designed.
Near the entryway was a small cabinet, refrigerator, wet bar, and several wines and spirits if I felt I needed a drink. I almost never take anything from the minibar in a hotel room but appreciated that there was so much variety.
On the same wall were a medium-sized desk, television, and armoire. The TV had been turned on automatically and greeted me by name, but otherwise I don’t see much to comment on here beyond the furniture being of reasonably high quality and in good condition.
Opposite the desk was the bed, including multiple outlets, reading lamps, and a bedside radio. So far, so good, but I really did not like the radio.
Most Hyatt properties have an iHome radio and alarm clock with a built in charging station at the top for the iPhone 4S and earlier models. That worked out great for me, as I still had a 4S at the time and never needed to bring a charger. This one also had a 4S charging station, but it rotated out of sight when the radio was turned off. I could never find a way to turn on the radio just to charge my phone without also playing music.
The 48Lex does not have a dedicated club for Diamond members, but it does have a lounge for all hotel guests. There you can find some coffee, water, and a small bar. It wasn’t huge but was still spacious enough given somewhat limited use by other hotel guests (I never saw it more than half full). One evening I sat there reading a book and watched the guy across from me go through over a dozen old newspapers, ripping them in half as he finished each one and munching on two-pound bag of M&Ms. And people say I’m weird.
I did not use the gym, which was in the basement and — like the lounge — moderate in size without being especially busy. I got the distinct impression this hotel is more for sleeping than hanging out. Even the restaurant next door was quiet when I used my vouchers for dinner my first night and breakfast on the next two mornings. Note that you must bring your vouchers with you to eat, and I suggest handing them to the server before you order because mine always seemed a bit confused as to how to reduce the charge after bringing my bill. Lexington Brass is operated by a separate company, so it is not nearly as simple as I’m used to at other Hyatt properties, where even tax and tip can disappear from the room charges with a flick of the wrist.
The food was actually quite good. My duck was crispy and the hollandaise on my eggs was perfect. But it was weird to be in such an empty restaurant. During dinner at 7:30 and Sunday brunch at 10:30, mine was one of only a half dozen tables with people eating. I’ve been told New Yorkers like to eat late, but I wasn’t exactly early. If the restaurant was busier after I left, I didn’t notice since I was out doing other things.
So have I found my ideal New York hotel? Not yet. It was far too quiet during my stay. The lounge, the lobby, the gym, the restaurant — all of these places were fairly empty or, if busy, were so small that I couldn’t wait to leave. I actually found myself looking forward to going back to the Grand Hyatt at some future point (but I would use a suite upgrade).
I have yet to try the Andaz Fifth Avenue, which I’ve been saving for a trip with Megan. It’s also expensive but is reputed to be the best of the Hyatt properties in Manhattan. Until then, I’m still looking.