The Baccarat New York opened its doors in March 2015 to much fanfare and celebration in town, where its arrival had been eagerly awaited for several years.
The hotel, with the same name and heritage as the French crystal manufacturer, is the brainchild of Barry Sternlicht, founder and previous head honcho at Starwood Hotels (St Regis, W Hotels, Luxury Collection) and now Chairman of Starwood Capital. With oceans of cash at his disposal, Mr Sternlicht really pushed the boat out with the Baccarat brand and the New York property (the first in the group) was a ‘no expense spared’ exercise in hotel development.
And ‘oh là là’, if you can manage to make it through the hotel’s heavy-handed marketing hype and actually book a room (excusez moi, une chambre) you will discover a hotel that is quite exquisite. The Baccarat will most certainly not be to everyone’s taste, but no one can deny the exceptional design and craftsmanship that has created a venue that is extravagantly glamorous and quite unique at the same time.
In contrast, the rooms are somewhat restrained and are effortlessly elegant and sophisticated. They are quite simply the smartest hotel rooms in New York City. And when combined with a sensational location on 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, you have a luxury hotel offering that’s very hard to beat.
But not everything is perfect in this crystal wonderland; there are some considerable service glitches which, in a hotel of this calibre and given what the Baccarat brand promises to deliver, fall way short of the mark. And whilst staff are pleasant and well meaning, they appear to be unsure of what they should be doing at times.
Nonetheless, this is a magnificent property and if the service shortcomings can be solved then I would venture to say the Baccarat brand is destined for greatness.
- Daily breakfast for two
- Continental breakfast served in the Grand Salon
- Room upgrade upon arrival
- Subject to availability
- Spa credit
- US$100 credit for treatments at the spa
- Early check-in / Late check-out
- Subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Exclusive benefits may vary by hotel or hotel group. Exclusive benefits apply when booking the Best Available Rate and are not combinable with any hotel offers or special packages unless stated.
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NYC traffic is never kind and so after navigating a number of closed-off streets, we finally arrived at what I thought was the entrance to the hotel. In fact, it was the entrance to the Baccarat Residences and clearly the doorman here did not consider assisting hotel guests to be part of his job description. However, with the help of my taxi driver, I made it to the hotel entrance and was then rescued by another doorman, the pleasant and helpful sort.
The entrance is sleek and highly discrete. So much so that you can easily miss it. Located on the second floor, the lobby is reached by elevator where I was greeted and shown to the reception area. Colourings are quite dark but are highlighted by the use of wonderful metallic panelling and, of course, Baccarat crystal chandeliers.
But the real design excitement is reserved for both the Petit and Grand Salons, showpieces of exceptional design skills: opulent and yet contemporary. They are showcases for every type of stunning Baccarat chandelier, pieces the likes of which you will not see outside a European or Middle Eastern palace.
But on a more human scale, there are beautiful vintage pieces of Baccarat crystal that the hotel owners acquired from around the world. And whilst all this may sound a little like a crystal-encrusted modern take on Paris’ Palace of Versailles, here at the Baccarat interior design that could have gone so terribly wrong in fact went so fabulously right.
Rooms and suites
I stayed in a Grand Classic Two Doubles room that is perfect for two friends travelling together or those needing a little more space. By New York City standards, these rooms are a very good size with plenty of space for suitcases and moving about. With a wall of floor-to-ceiling glass windows, the room is flooded with daylight that makes it literally sparkle.
There is no question, these are the most exquisite and glamorous rooms in the city. Unlike the public areas of the hotel, the guests rooms are a combination of white, silver, champagne and ivory with furniture such as the long desk and the TV mirror frame in beautiful, chocolate brown. Bedside tables are topped with white and grey marble and along with mirrors and the every present Baccarat crystal fittings, the rooms resemble a sleek, glittering jewel box.
Go exploring and you will unearth all sorts of treasures, especially the minibar. The standout is not the fact that is it is stocked with beverages galore and sweet treats from the likes of Laduree (although that is all very welcome), but rather the beautiful red-lacquered cabinet that holds the glassware; not surprisingly, all Baccarat. I must admit, I did find myself being overly careful every time I picked up a glass.
In-room technology is state-of-the-art with a single touch pad control that manages all room functions such as lighting, curtains and the TV. You can also use it to summon pretty much anything else you might need. Whilst I accept we live in a technology-driven world, I do wonder how older guests (or those somewhat un-techy) might cope with all the poking and prodding of a small screen that this technology demands.
The television, a large 46” HD TV, is set into a wall mirror so you can be excused for at first wondering where the television is! However, once found it provides an array of entertainment options.
Internet speeds within both guest rooms and public areas are fast and access is complimentary.
Bathrooms, whilst not huge, are nothing short of sumptuous; all white marble featuring a central single basin vanity with a huge walk-in ‘wet area’ housing the shower and tub. A separate WC is located opposite the shower and bathtub.
Given the location of the bathtub, I do wonder how practical it is for older or less mobile guests, as one would literally have to step into what is a rather deep tub from the end. Beautiful as all this is, it is rather a case of form over function and, frankly, not suitable for one and all.
Toiletries are especially created for the hotel by the French apothecary, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, in Paris.
My schedule was jam-packed during my stay at The Baccarat and because I had previously planned engagements, I knew I would not have the chance to experience the hotel’s signature Chevalier restaurant, which, without a doubt, is a ‘must dine’ on my next visit to New York.
So I happily settled for a quick lunch in the Grand Salon which I thoroughly enjoyed. A good range of lighter dishes were on offer and I went for a roast chicken Caesar salad. It was perfect and service was extremely pleasant and very efficient. It was clear that a number of guests were on tight schedules that day but at no time did the service feel rushed or impersonal.
The same, however, could not be said for the service later on in the evening when I hosted friends to cocktails in the Grand Salon. Clearly the hotel is one of the hot-spots for the ‘in the know’ crowd and was thus a-bustle. The problem lay in that there were simply not enough staff members on hand and whilst the service was delightful when it came, it was embarrassingly slow. I did feel for the staff, however, as clearly staffing levels was a major management oversight and, frankly, was unacceptable in a hotel of this stature.
Spa and wellness
The Baccarat features the world’s first Spa de la Mer, featuring the famous and extravagant Crème de la Mer range of products. Be warned though, prices here are probably some of the highest in New York City, which takes some doing I must say.
Pool and beach
A hotel pool in central Manhattan is an extravagance afforded the very few. The hotel’s luxurious indoor pool is surrounded by the same white marble found in the guest room bathrooms and features beautiful tile-work on the pool floor. Discrete pool cabanas and lounge chairs are dotted around the pool and give the place a rather ‘South of France’ feel.
Of concern however were the chemical levels in the jacuzzi. Obviously, there was an issue as my swimming trunks were devoid of most of their colour upon getting out of the Jacuzzi and I later suffered a rather nasty skin rash: there’s a problem here.
Staff and service
For the most part service is, as you would expect, very good but there were surprising lapses. For instance, the somewhat aloof doormen who were a little slow off the mark with assistance on occasion. And the security staff, overseeing entry into the hotel’s very popular bar were what I deemed a little aggressive. It’s a luxury hotel boys, not Studio 54, and so a little less attitude might be appropriate…
I felt at times that service was a little hesitant; not bad but just unsure. The hotel had been open for nine months when I visited, so it should have settled into its groove. The Baccarat is positioning itself at the very top of the New York luxury hotel pile so there is little room for error. Guests expect (and are paying for) perfection.
Primarily very well-heeled Americans, Brits and a few Europeans, all of whom appeared to have just stepped out of the boutiques of 5th Avenue; elegant in the extreme; a rather ‘new money’ crowd.
A memorable departure but perhaps for the wrong reasons. I hark back to my comments in regard to hesitant service. The staff member handling my checkout was pleasant enough but didn’t appear confident. Worse still, not a single staff member asked if I had enjoyed my stay or bid me farewell. Again, unacceptable in a hotel of this stature.
How to get here
50 minutes by road from JFK Airport
114 Rooms & Suites