A further stay at Mandarin Oriental, Manhattan was the perfect way to end almost a month travelling.
As soon as I got into the 2022 Mandarin Oriental Mercedes, and started chatting to Eddie the driver, I knew this would be another special stay. So glad I was staying there when I learnt about HM the Queen's death.
Hotel Manager Jeroen, & Director of Guest Relations Andres, were waiting outside to welcome me. I was in my 53rd floor suite before I knew it.
The intoxicating smell of the chocolate teddy bear cake; views of Central Park to die for; a glass containing a glass teddy bear and a special whisky & honey cocktail; a bottle of Veuve Clicquot on ice etc almost overwhelmed me.
From my suite's Toto Japanese toilet, to the pool with breathtaking views, the bed turndown lady bringing me a second special panda etc, I cannot say enough good things about this iconic Manhattan hotel.
Getting to sit and chat to General Manager Robert was the icing on a very special cake.
I know the photos below will convince you this was a '7 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) stay. Witnessing sunrise over Central Park, from my 53rd floor suite, almost made me cry Tips: you MUST try their spicy wontons. If you visit The Lowell Hotel, have a cocktail but avoid the food in Majorelle at all costs. Yves Saint Laurent's memory should not be associate with this substandard product.
A Mandarin Oriental, Manhattan Mercedes, with Eddie the legendary driver, drove me to The Aman, Manhattan.
The Weekend Financial Times described this new hotel as the "most expensive in New York" (more than double the price of the existing best Manhattan hotels) and it currently has a policy that only Aman members and guests of the hotel can enter the hotel.
Simon (Director of Marketing for the hotel) made an exception for me and I was mesmerised by all the elegance of it all.
This 83 suite hotel is just off 5th Avenue by Bvlgari. Simon and enjoyed a glass of champagne on the outside terrace with its water features & fire pits. It was a joy to chat with this hotel professional and he then took me on a tour of the Japanese restaurant, spa, pool etc
I was astonished by the quiet calm of the place and quality of the Japanese wood in the restaurant etc. At times you feel you are in an Asian resort, rather than in bustling Manhattan. Roland Fasel (who I know from his time as General Manager of The Dorchester) is COO of Aman Group. He was staying in the hotel & can be justifiably be proud of what they have achieved in Manhattan. A '7 teddy' hotel for certain. I have a candle from the spa to remember all this.
My big trip to Panama, Bogota & New York started at Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park, drinking champagne from The Aubrey, London at breakfast. However, the taxi ride after, learning the driver had worked at The Bank of England in the 1990s, when I was also working there, made my day.
At Heathrow British Airways Club Class meant I breezed through with no problems.
Miss physical newspapers & magazines in the Galleries Club Lounges; the chairs & sofas in the lounges are starting to look a bit tired; and there should be charging points in all areas but it was fine. In fact the cold tuna pasta was excellent.
On the Boeing 777 the new Club Class suites look stylish and every detail has been improved (eg large better The White Company pillows) but I missed warm towels & at times the bulky new suites felt a little claustrophobic. However, with exceptional entertainment, and mouthwatering food, Club Class has returned to being a '6 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) product.
I am writing this post from my room at the Hilton New York JFK Airport, after a nightmare at JFK Terminal 4 this morning that meant I could not fly to Panama today. I want to thank Shanna here who could tell I had had too stressful a morning and gave me my room straight away. Cannot thank her enough. Now feel ready to meet my friends in Panama City tomorrow.
Sorry for my silence but I have been very busy with Banking Consultant related issues.
I have constructive feedback for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class re: the large inflexible dining table that is part of their new A350 configuration and the surrender of Four Seasons control to Wolfgang Puck over the CUT bar at Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown.
At the same time I must highlight the Grant Achatz truffle cocktail sent to my Central Park view 49th floor suite at Mandarin Oriental New York; the truffle cheeses, with grated fresh black & white truffles and Bresaola air-dried, salted beef from Uruguay to welcome me at my Hudson suite at Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown Town and chilled bottles of Veuve Clicquot champagne at both hotels.
Also need to thank Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park for the roast duck congee breakfast, being added to their menu the following week, to celebrate Chinese New Year in London.
Will upload photos re: all this when I have more time but feel free to ask me about all this, when you see me.
Four Seasons Midtown New York - a Manhattan Icon Returns to Its Glory Days - New York - September 2018
News of a US$120MN refurbishment, and a new Swiss/German GM who is very well known to a number of my hotel contacts, meant I had to give Four Seasons Midtown New York another chance. This Manhattan icon has such a special place in my heart I could not give up on it.
This hotel is back to cutting edge Four Seasons perfection with a reinvigorated staff and a new light & airy look in the 366 guest rooms/suites.
An awesome '7 teddy' stay and so good to leave the region with such incredible memories.
Four Seasons New York Downtown: A Martini with the New GM - Mr Sharp's Four Seasons Spirit is Truly Alive in New York - August 2018
Thomas, the Four Seasons New York Downtown Manager, was recently promoted to their GM. He was helping with The Ocean Club in Bahamas' change to a A Four Seasons Resort when I was in New York at New Year.
I have known Thomas since his Four Seasons at Park Lane days and so had to meet his to congratulate him on this richly deserved appointment.
I was so glad I did. Thomas will be a '7 teddy' GM and has created a service culture at Four Seasons New York Downtown that exemplifies the essence of why Four Seasons is such a special brand. Our meeting further evidenced he will be one of the Four Seasons' legendary GMs.
Breakfast & Then Coffee with the MD & COO of Baccarat Hotel New York: Exquisite French Uber Luxury in Manhattan - New York - August 2018
Having had dinner in Cristal (sic) Room Baccarat in Paris, when I lived in Qatar, as part of a Four Seasons themed trip to Paris, New York & London, and having bought Baccarat glass when I lived in Bermuda & Qatar, I was fascinated to see Baccarat Hotel New York.
Dealings with 'We Are Shadow', a New York based third-party who the hotel outsources social media relations to, left this Social Media Influencer confused and angry. However, just before my New York trip a breakfast & meeting with the hotel MD & COO (a form of GM) was arranged and it was too good a chance to pass up.
I was so glad I went. Hermann, the MD & COO, is a polished New York hotel professional who is a joy to spend time with and the hotel has a luxury/monied/stylish feel that I adored.
I have watched the 1961 movie 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' more times than I can count, adore Audrey Hepburn & 'Moon River' and have wanted to have breakfast in The Blue Box Cafe in Tiffany & Co from the moment it opened in November 2017. This was another 'impossible reservation' that Mandarin Oriental, New York managed to secure for me.
The experience was far classier, well executed and the food better than I expected and 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' gained a 7 'teddy' rating.
A Mandarin Oriental Fan Has a MO Celebrity Fan Stay at Mandarin Oriental, New York in a Premier Central Park View Suite - New York - April 2018
This Mandarin Oriental 'Fan' has quite a history with this luxury hotel group. From spending the only Christmas I did not spend with my family at Elbow Beach in Bermuda, when it was managed by Mandarin Oriental, to unforgettable stays at the Oriental in Bangkok, when the legendary Amanda Hyndman was their GM, to stays at Mandarin Oriental San Francisco (when it still existed), to interviewing for my Qatar job at the Mandarin Oriental DC, to stays in Barcelona, Miami, Hyde Park etc and being shown Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong etc.
I first stayed at Mandarin Oriental, New York when I was living in Bermuda, shortly after it first opened in December 2003.
On my most recent stay Manager Israel made sure I was treated as a 'Celebrity Fan' with a beautiful suite overlooking Central Park, hotel cars and a reserved table in The Aviary, NYC. A 7 'teddies' stay without any doubt and such a contrast with The Ludlow Hotel, New York and Mr & Mrs Smith travel.
An Exquisite, & Fun, Sunday Lunch at Eleven Madison Park: Number One Restaurant in the World - New York - April 2018
I have wanted to eat in Swiss born Daniel Humm's Eleven Madison Park ("EMP") for some time. It is currently No 1 in The World's 50 Best Restaurants and Mandarin Oriental, New York managed to secure me one of their prized reservations.
This three Michelin starred restaurant is an elegant temple to fine dining that was recently 'reinvented' with fewer tables and a smaller number of courses (11 to 7). I have eaten 17 courses at Grant Achatz's 'Alinea' in Chicago, this was mind blowing but I still believe "less is more".
This whole experience blew my mind too. I have no doubt that this restaurant deserves to be called 'No 1 in the World', the service and food were sublime and it was a stylish & elaborate meal I will never forget.
After arriving late in New York because of an expired ESTA visa waiver, & being rerouted via Boston, my stay at The Ludlow Hotel on the Lower East Side was not a huge success.
Their staff were excellent but a neighborhood where emergency vehicle sirens seemed to be almost constant until 4am, and one of the only two elevators being out of service, leading to unacceptably long delays, meant this was not the right hotel for someone who is almost 50 coming from quiet Cayman Islands. However, breakfast in Dirty French the next morning was a different story.
I should also mentioned this was the first time I had made a booking via Mr & Mrs Smith, despite being unimpressed by a review they posted of Song Saa Private Island, it did not sound like the reviewer had actually visited the same place I had been to in Cambodia. However, I did not feel they improved my experience and so will not be using them again. I am sorry about this because my parents know Tamara Lohan's VIP relative (Sir Algernon Heber-Percy KCVO) in Shropshire.
Heavenly Burgers at Parker New York & Perfect Martinis at Four Seasons New York - New York - January 2018
For my last night in New York I decided to stay at Parker New York again. I last stayed there on the way back to Bermuda from a business trip to Singapore & Hong Kong.
I started with coffee with Marisa (Vice President of Marketing & Development) who explained that Le Parker Meridien was rebranding as Parker New York and they have big refurbishment plans. This sounded great, I have always thought their incredible location was underutilized. I have been to cutting edge Parker Palm Springs and had not even appreciated the two were linked.
The 'burger joint' at Parker New York is as outstanding as ever, and the queues are still as long! A place #travelblog www.sifrew.com highly recommends.
On my last visit there, after very dry Grey Goose martinis chatting to Four Seasons star Olga at Four Seasons New York, people asked for photos with www.sifrew.com. I am now a 'celebrity' in New York!
Think it is unfair to 'teddy rate' the Parker New York at this stage of its development.
A Cold But Awesome Further Stay at Four Seasons New York Downtown, in an Executive Suite, for New Year - New York - December 2017 - January 2018
For my 16th New Year stay with Four Seasons in New York, I booked the Four Seasons New York Downtown again.
This was my third stay at this hotel and I was so pleased I did. They gave me a beautiful suite with train set, Veuve Clicquot champagne on ice, a cashmere Four Seasons hat to keep me warm and even left hot chocolate for Issy.
When I arrived Steven (Director of Rooms) greeted me before I even said my name and I immediately knew this was going to be an epic New Year stay.
My stay at Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park was overshadowed by a medical emergency on my plane from Cayman Islands. However, the breakfast the next day more than made up for this.
I was the first person at breakfast on the Saturday (getting there before 7am) and Ricardo was my cheerful & friendly server.
It seemed odd to be given an iPad to view the menu but then not be able to use it to place the order. Guess I am too used to Four Seasons technology.
However, the Eggs Benedict with crushed black truffles in the salsa was remarkable. I ate this reading the Weekend Financial Times and chatting to sweet Flora, a server from China.
In the Financial Times there were details of the first Bitcoin related kidnapping in the Ukraine. This had me thinking about my time working on a bank in Cyprus last year and emailing various regulatory contacts about all this.
🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻(6 out of 5 ‘teddies’) - definitely a '6 teddy' breakfast.
The mother of my godson was going to be in New York and so I had to meet her there.
She ended up flying in on a private jet from London and we had a Wolfgang Puck dinner in Four Seasons New York Downtown with my incredible New York real estate friend. During that dinner infectiously cheerful Sommelier Sally made us laugh and General Manager Louis and his staff could not have treated us better.
I also found time to visit the original Four Seasons in New York where Olga on the bar welcomed me by name and looked after me so well. I made some fantastic new friends from LA there.
We finally managed to visit the 9/11 Memorial, an experience I will never forget; the North Cove Marina; Thomas the Manager at Four Seasons New York Downtown made sure I had an incredible stay again; and I bought an iPhone 8.
All done with only ONE FULL DAY in New York! I hope the photos below give a flavour of the fun I packed in there. New York is a '7 teddy city' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) and my friends are the best.
2016 New Year Stay At The New Four Seasons Downtown 'The Friendliest Hotel in New York' - New York, USA - December 2016 to January 2017
A fall on the ice in the The Barbican in London after Christmas left me with badly bruised ribs, & my best friend in New York recovering from cancer related surgery, meant I was considering abandoning my usual New York for New Year plans. However, I ended up booking my British Airways flight the afternoon before I was due to travel.
I was so pleased I went to New York in the end. The new Four Seasons Downtown is an exceptional property with some of the friendliest & most engaged Four Seasons staff I have encountered; seeing my New York friend was incredible and I also got to spend an evening with my brilliant Uruguay friend who let me stay at his Punta del Este place for two months after I ended by 9 1/2 years in Qatar.
When you hear a hotel has a penthouse suite that costs US$75,000 a night, you have to visit the hotel. This is the largest suite in America and the most expensive in the world.
I was also interested to see The Mark again, having stayed there a number of years ago. I was so glad I did this on my last day in New York, it is such a special hotel.
I had to start my last evening in New York somewhere special and had read lots about the Campbell Apartment in Grand Central and a number of friends had recommended it.
I always love eating in Grand Central but some poor dining experiences in Michael Jordan's meant I had to find an alternative venue.
Friends have been recommending the Oyster Bar & Restaurant for years. I tried to go there on a Sunday night but they were closed. However, I had more luck at lunchtime the next day.
The Peninsula, New York is not a hotel I usually think about but having had such an incredible time with Carrie at the Hong Kong Peninsula I decided I must take my special Hong Kong teddy bear Peter there and I was glad that I did.
The Plaza hotel is a New York icon and I decided I must have a Sunday breakfast there. There is something very special when you walk though that hotel's doors.
New York screams New Year and so, despite all my travel in the last few months, I booked Four Seasons New York to see in the New Year in perfect style.
I stayed at the Mandarin Oriental New York shortly after it opened in 2003 and decided to try their breakfast again. It is worth going there for the views alone.
With Issy all ready for New Year, thanks to Four Seasons New York, and after posting Christmas photos from London, I decided to post some 'New York at New Year' photos.
Hope you enjoy them and all my readers have a healthy and prosperous 2016.
Si Frew has lived in the UK, Bermuda, Qatar, Cyprus & the Cayman Islands. During this time he met Whoopi Goldberg (in Claridge's), Mike Tyson (in the Concorde Lounge at JFK) , Gordon Ramsay (in the Doha Four Seasons), Chris Eubanks (in The Dorchester), Cherie Blair (in Bermuda & again in the Doha Four Seasons) etc. There are funny stories attached to all these interactions, feel free to ask Si about them when you meet him.