InterContinental New York Barclay
The Barclay Hotel, built in 1926, closed in 2014 for 20 months to undergo its largest renovation yet – an $180 million revamp in which all rooms and public spaces were completely redesigned. It reopened in May last year as the InterContinental New York Barclay.
At first glance it looks and feels no different to any other big-name luxury property, its beautifully restored lobby showcasing a modernised version of its original central skylight. Plush carpeting and furnishings welcome guests to sit and relax in the midst of a polished marble checkerboard floor, while a brand new arched staircase now connects the lobby to the Grand Ballroom and conference rooms on the second floor. The Barclay’s team of friendly staff have been recruited globally and speak a multitude of languages.
The stand-out feature is its dedication to sustainability. Initiatives to reduce wastage and improve the local community have been woven into the everyday fabric of the hotel’s operations since GM Herve Houdre took over in 2009, but his plan goes well beyond reducing laundry loads.
When I visited, the Barclay was donating unused and excess food from its kitchens to City Harvest, a large-scale ‘food rescue and distribution’ program; shucked oyster shells go to the Billion Oyster Project, an initiative to repopulate the Hudson River’s dwindling supply; and flowers from its decorative floral arrangements are given to Repeat Roses, which redistributes them to hospitals, elderly homes, and women’s and children’s shelters. Food refuse from restaurants and bars is placed into ‘food digesters’.
Occupying a prime spot at 48th between Lexington and Madison Avenue and straddling the financial and media districts of Midtown East. Grand Central Station, Fifth Avenue, Central Park, Times Square, Rockefeller Plaza and the Museum of Modern Art are a short walk away, as are some of Manhattan’s best bars and restaurants.
For the hotel’s most recent renovation, interior design firm HOK was tasked with making each of the Barclay’s guestrooms feel like a Park Avenue Apartment.
A total of 704 rooms and suites are spread across 13 floors. I stayed in an Executive King Room, which is in the mid-range of the hotel’s category of rooms and suites, starting at 300. The room is a comfortably spacious abode that boasts checkerboard tiles in the foyer and bathroom, leading to soft carpeting and a King-sized bed with hypoallergenic bedding. The room’s tasteful décor is an elegant and calming respite from the chaotic Midtown streets below. A 42-inch LCD TV sits on a cabinet in front of the custom wall mural, and a small work desk with two armchairs is set up next to the window. Each room is equipped with a Keurig coffeemaker. A one-bedroom Deluxe Suite is pictured.
The new Gin Parlour is a sleek oval-shaped bar that houses 88 different varieties. The lobby-level Barclay Bar & Grill serves a sustainable, organic menu of New American dishes made with seasonal ingredients from nearby suppliers. Endangered seafood and shellfish have been excluded from the menu and replaced with more sustainable options. The Club InterContinental Lounge serves an organic breakfast buffet, afternoon canapés, and a nightly pre-theatre selection of wine and cheese.
There is a new private business room with concierge service available to guests in the Club InterContinental Lounge, as well as a new 5,000sq ft Grand Ballroom and another 3,500 sq ft Ballroom, as well as five breakout rooms available for smaller meetings and events. A Business Centre has two computers and a copy machine.
Guests have access via their room key to the newly renovated 24-hour Fitness Centre with steam room and sauna on the third floor. Although there is no spa, in-room spa treatments can be arranged by the concierge through several nearby partner spas. Caitlin Cheadle
Its proximity to Grand Central Station and Midtown Manhattan make it ideally situated for business travellers. Post-renovation, it’s a relaxing haven from NYC’s hustle and bustle.