Bed Check

A cookie-cut­ter ho­tel in New York.

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - BY JOE YO­NAN

Blame it on the W’s and the Kimp­tons of the world. Those chains’ as­cen­dancy has led to a ho­tel genre I call cookie-cut­ter bou­tique. Its trap­pings: orig­i­nal (but unin­spired) art­work, fresh (but unin­spired) flo­ral ar­range­ments, col­or­ful (but unin­spired) light­ing.

At the Ho­tel Chan­dler in mid­town Man­hat­tan, that trans­lates to pho­to­graphs of build­ings and stat­ues inmy room, lots of orange lilies in the lobby and blue-glass and brushed-steel sconces on the walls. It’s not moody and dark with lounge mu­sic play­ing and clerks wear­ing head­sets (like at a W), and there are no an­i­mal prints in sight (like at a Kimp­ton), but the look is cliched all the same.

It might not have the most unique decor, but the Chan­dler has some other qual­i­ties go­ing for it. For one thing, there’s the lo­ca­tion: onMur­rayHill, walk­ing dis­tance­fromPen­nS­ta­tion, Madi­son Square Park, Union Square and sur­rounds. For an­other, there’s the price: start­ing at un­der $200 for a 200-square-foot room. With that in mind, how­mu­cho­rig­i­nal­ity can you ex­pect?

Be­sides, things be­come cliches for a rea­son. Frette linens and robes and spa-like bath­rooms are de rigeur for these types of ho­tels, andIwas­morethan fine with that here. My room’s shower, clad in (cliche alert) white sub­way tiles on the walls and lit­tle blue square ones on the floor, fea­tured one of those (cliche alert) rain-type sprays that was more pow­er­ful than any­thing I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced out­side a real spa. And (cliche alert) Aveda­toi­letries smell pretty darn re­fresh­ing. The room was well equipped, with a desk built into a me­dia cen­ter, ar­moires on ei­ther side (pro­vid­ing more stor­age than most ho­tel rooms of this size I’ve been in) and a lit­tle sit­ting area of two scal­lop-backed vel­vet chairs around a teensy ta­ble. The WiFi was free (if tem­per­a­men­tal), and the iron ac­tu­ally worked, steam­ing my shirt to crisp­ness with­out that an­noy­ing drip/stain prob­lem all too com­mon in ho­tels. And the fit­ness cen­ter was re­spectable, if too small for more than a few peo­ple to work out at once.

Still, there was a feel­ing of just­good-enough when it came to the ser­vice, as I learned at check-in. It was a Fri­day in Novem­ber, and I was har­ried from a de­layed Bolt­Bus trip that had me rush­ing to drop bags and change clothes be­fore hit­ting Broad­way for “The Pee-Wee Her­man Show.” When I asked the per­fectly pleas­ant front-desk clerk about print­ing out my theater tick­ets, she said, “Ab­so­lutely. We have a com­puter in the li­brarycon­nected toaprinter. Feel free to use it. If it doesn’t work, check the paper. It runs out of paper all the time. Just let me know.”

Which of course is ex­actly what hap­pened. When I shuf­fled back and she handed me a mere 10 sheets to put in the printer, I knew I had cracked the code to this puz­zler. Why hadn’t she? It wasn’t a big deal by any means, but telling nonethe­less.

Like­wise, I ini­tially as­sumed that the fit­ness cen­ter’s “Fin­nish sauna”— fea­tured promi­nent­lyon theWeb site, by the way— was out of ser­vice be­cause the door was open and it was stone-cold. The next day, when I asked a jan­i­tor about it in be­tween my sets, he said that I could call the front desk 15 min­utes in ad­vance and they would turn it on.

With­out a sign say­ing that, though, I’ll bet that most peo­ple make the same as­sump­tion I did.

Break­fast was dis­ap­point­ing. The “con­ti­nen­tal” buf­fet wasn’t worth any­thing close to the ex­tra $16 the ho­tel charges for it. I passed over un­der­baked crois­sants, sad-look­ing wisps of pro­sciutto and firm-look­ing hon­ey­dew and can­taloupe chunks and was about to grab some boxes of ce­real and cups of yo­gurt, maybe a grape­fruit half, when I no­ticed that for an­other $4, I could or­der from the small menu of hot foods.

I asked for two eggs sunny side up with sausage and toast. What I got was pale, taste­less and over easy. I wasn’t caf­feinated, and I wasn’t happy. Don’t mess withmy eggs, man.

The ex­pe­ri­ence left­me­think­ing too much about not what the Chan­dler is, but what it could be. I ap­pre­ci­ated that ther­mal can­is­ters of hot wa­ter and cof­fee were avail­able all day, com­plete with real milk and half-and-half rather than those of­fen­sive lit­tle plas­tic shot things. So why not con­tinue that­ap­proachat break­fa­s­tand­put out bowls of gra­nola, some plain yo­gurt, a se­lec­tion of hon­eys and jams, truly sea­sonal fruit (per­haps fromtheUnion SquareGreen­mar­ket a mere half-mile away) — and none of it in lit­tle pack­ages?

It’s that kind of at­ten­tion that could help theChan­dler over­come its cliches and be­come, if not unique, then at least a lit­tle more sat­is­fy­ing.



Ho­tel Chan­dler 12 E. 31st St., New York 866-627-7847


115 rooms, start­ing at $160 on up­com­ing week­ends, plus suites.

The­Ho­tel Chan­dler’s best at­tributes are its lo­ca­tion and prices.

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