The Knickerbocker: New York Hotel Visit

The Knickerbocker Hotel

It may have been a long forgotten hotel, but once upon a time The Knickerbocker name was serious stuff.  Opened by John Jacob Astor on New York’s Times Square in 1906, the hotel quickly established itself as the hottest spot in town where the elite gathered to drink, eat, sleep and mingle.

The Knickerbocker Hotel Time Square
The Knickerbocker Hotel Beaux Arts Building

Luminaries like F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his short story Mr Icky in one of the bedrooms, and name checks the hotel bar in his novel, This Side of Paradise. The bar also had a reputation, colloquially known as the “Forty-Second Street Country Club.” This is where John D. Rockefeller ordered the first-ever Martini.

But before you think you are going to be entering old world splendour, a quick reality check: virtually nothing is left inside of the original Knickerbocker– it was shut after the onset of prohibition in 1920 and was an office building thereafter.

However, the good news is The Knickerbocker was reborn in February 2015 with a top-to-bottom gutting of the original building – so now it’s the best of  both worlds: a classic turn-of-the-century façade on the outside and a brand new, luxuriously modern five star hotel on the inside.

Luxurious Jr. Suite in the Knickerbocker Hotel on Times Square
The Knickerbocker Hotel Jr. Suite

The $240 million redevelopment of the Beaux Arts landmark was conceived by Irving, Texas-based owner FelCor Lodging Trust. Design firm Gabellini Sheppard Associates designed The #Knickerbocker using muted tones and sleek wood furnishings. With lovely, subtle silver accents the whole thing works magnificently, even if maybe it’s a bit too cool for school;  we had trouble figuring out how to close the blinds. Oops, they are operated electrically and the switch is at the entrance by the door, but maybe it’s also because we had smoked a suspicious looking cigarette before our arrival.

The Neighbourhood

Well, it’s Times Square which is now very much of a tourist trap but, hey, it’s convenient, buzzy and fun.  The Knickerbocker sits on the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway which next to the busiest subway station in the city serving four main lines so it’s easy to connect anywhere.

The room

Shifting to the present tense: I’m in a deluxe room king, and for New York, it’s huge. The original 1906 building housed 570 rooms, and just 300 bathrooms. The new Knickerbocker offers 430 rooms (ensuite, of course). Furnishings are tasteful, international modern luxury in soft, muted tones.  Our room creates the sense of literally being on top of Times Square and it feels like we can almost touch the lights which are a wonderful accoutrement to the ambiance.

The service

Burger at the Knickerbocker Hotel Times Square
Burger served at Charlie Palmer at the Knick

The attention to detail is inspiring – it’s nice to see staff taking their jobs this seriously. After a long day of sightseeing, there’s a surprise knock at the door and a delivery of a tray of chocolate-coated almonds, an apple, Voss water and a cocktail glass of jelly beans. A nice and unnecessary touch – water and soft drinks are free from the minibar.

The Knickerbocker Gym

The fourth floor hosts a useful work-out space – mostly a cardio gym. Next door is sleek specialist weight room, complete with a high-tech boxing machine to take out your aggressions (if necessary).

Up on The Roof

Perhaps most impressive is the 16th-floor terrace which offers obstructed views of the Times Square. Drinking, eating, smoking cigars, having a glass of wine and simply enjoying the view; that’s what it’s all about up here.

The food

Charlie Palmer – the American celeb chef whose Michelin-starred Aureole is just steps away from the hotel – oversees the hotel’s culinary programme. The signature restaurant, Charlie Palmer at The Knick, is casual/chic. Can’t decide what to have: get the burger, it’s fabulous.  Downstairs, there’s an agreeable coffee shop called Jake’s – a nod to the hotel’s founder, John Jacob Astor. ML

MAN LONDON stayed as a guest of the Knickerbocker Hotel.

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