Intercontinental New York Barclay
BACKGROUND First opened in 1926, and operated by Intercontinental since the 1970s, this was one of the original railroad hotels, built near Grand Central station. It closed for a US$180 million renovation in 2014, reopening 20 months later in April last year.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? The 16-floor building was originally designed in “neo-Federal, American Colonial” style by Cross and Cross, the architects behind Tiffany and Co’s Fifth Avenue store. The revamp, which involved the redesign of more than 39,000 sqm of space, boosted the room count from 685 to 702 by reducing the number of suites. An executive lounge, two large ballrooms and a splendid top-floor Penthouse suite were added.
The lobby is expansive and elegant, with plenty of marble, columns, floral displays and a new grand staircase leading to the meeting floor. There is lounge seating in the centre, with reception desks and a concierge room to the right, and the Gin Parlour to the left. It’s an impressive, bustling space.
WHERE IS IT? Well located for either business or leisure in Midtown, on East 48th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues.
ROOMS The 702 rooms, which include 33 suites, have been revamped to be “reminiscent of a classic Park Avenue home”, while adding modern touches. In a largely pale grey palette, many feature murals inspired by 19th-century Hudson River School landscapes, while others have fireplaces. They range from entrylevel Superior (from 24 sqm) to the 250 sqm Harold S Vanderbilt Penthouse, which also has a fabulous 120 sqm terrace looking on to the Chrysler Building.
Included as standard are comfy king or queen beds (I slept well and there was only a limited amount of noise from the outside world), 42-inch TVs, a table to work at, tea and coffee, ironing boards, safes, minibars and bottled water on arrival. Standard wifi costs US$15 (plus taxes) per day, or high-speed is US$20 (IHG Rewards members get free wifi). Bathrooms have a mixture of walk-in showers only, showers over baths, or separate tubs and showers. The shower power could have done with being a bit stronger. Suite guests receive toiletries by Caswell-Massey, which had its flagship store in the hotel for 84 years; otherwise it’s Intercontinental’s standard Agraria products.
The Club Intercontinental lounge is tucked away to the left of the lobby. Open 6.30am-8pm, it’s a large space and was quiet whenever I dropped in. It serves a buffet breakfast, refreshments, afternoon tea, evening cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Access costs US$100 for double occupancy or US$80 per single guest on top of the room rate (free for Royal Ambassadors; 20 per cent discount for Ambassadors); there is no specific Club room category.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS Considering the size of the property, there is only one, modestly sized bar and restaurant, the Gin Parlour – I imagine that is a reflection of the breadth of choice outside the hotel. Inspired by Dutch and English gin bars of the 1920s, it serves 88 gins and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
MEETING FACILITIES The property has 1,400 sqm of event space, including the impressive 460 sqm Grand Ballroom, which holds 450 people theatrestyle. A second ballroom holds 350 for a reception.
LEISURE FACILITIES On the third floor is a goodsized 24-hour gym with Technogym kit. Michelle Harbi
VERDICT The refurbishment has reinvigorated this historic hotel, adding contemporary touches while maintaining its classic feel. Comfortable and well equipped for business travellers, in a convenient Midtown location.
The revamp involved the redesign of more than 39,000 sqm of space, including the expansive, elegant lobby