There are some places where just the mention of their name will prompt a strong and passionate response. These are the places that are iconic, have beaten the path, blazed the trail and remained relevant and engaged with an audience for the entirety of their existence. As I drive the streets of New York, home to these destinations I so love, I realize the parallels of my immediate surrounding with the ones I am musing over. The new Mercedes Maybach, whose name is iconic, whose design is both classic and contemporary and whose power and class is incomparable; and the places I love, that offer timelessness whilst continuing to evolve with the times. Put simply, these qualities are special.
New York is fortunate enough to be home to a number of these places but for me, one that stands apart and embodies all of the virtues mentioned above is The Carlyle. Sat resplendently on East 76th Street and the corner of Madison Avenue it is the hotel that captivated me as a child and still does to this day.
People talk about buildings having a presence, a soul, a strong personality if you like. For me, The Carlyle is a great example of this. As you approach and see the beautifully attired, attentive doormen and the discrete sign that fronts the building you can feel the history rushing towards you ready to make you part of it. The list of people who have and continue to make this venue their home is the stuff of legend and undoubtedly provides multiple entries for many people’s dream dinner party guests. From Presidents to artists and pioneers to provocateurs the walls of The Carlyle have witnessed a cavalcade of some of the greatest influencers our world has seen since it first opened its doors and continues to do so to this day.
What makes the place connect with me is that whilst recognizing its place in the pantheon of New York greats, it doesn’t try too hard. It has a confidence in the quality of its service, a level of passion from the people that work there and a respect for what it means to stay in or drink and dine there from its customers that mean it doesn’t have to. To spend time in The Carlyle whether overnight or simply enjoying time at venues such as Bemelmans and Café Carlyle is to know you are entering into a relationship with a property that you will treasure and continue to enjoy for the rest of your life.
For me the experience of passing through the revolving door and feeling like you are gliding down the steps into the marbled lobby always lifts me. Whether it’s escaping in there from winter’s snow covered streets to find warming solace at Bemelmans or strolling in on a hot New York summer evening to relax in its elegance, cool from the heat and enjoy precious time off from the frantic pace of the city, stepping into The Carlyle always brings promise. Promise of memories, promise of appreciation, promise of leaving happier, relaxed, engaged.
Alongside the Carlyle Restaurant are two venues that have and continue to draw those in search of special experiences are Café Carlyle and Bemelmans Bar. Café Carlyle has played host to some of the great jazz musicians and every week on a Monday you can still see Woody Allen and his jazz band who have had a regular residence since 1996. The walls of Café Carlyle continue the connection to brilliant artistry and provide their own historic significance with the murals that adorn them, painted by the academy award winner Marcel Vertes. The theme of beautiful, beguiling murals continues as you move into Bemelmans Bar, a beautiful art-deco space named after the great artist and writer, Ludwig Bemelmans. Adorning the walls are a series of stunning murals painted by Bemelmans featuring his creation Madeleine, in Central Park. It is the only place in the world where Bemelmans artwork is on display to the public and knowing this, combined with the beauty of the pieces just add to the magical experience that a visit to this bar brings each time. Some of the most enjoyable hours I have spent with friends have been whiled away in low lit corners of Bemelmans as Madeleine gazes down on us from the wall. There it is again. Special.
The Carlyle. Historic? Yes. Respected and loved? Always. Just as relevant and engaging in the modern age as it was when it opened its doors as a high end property in 1948? Undoubtedly. The focus on quality, the care, the memories, the knowledge that you are treading paths and enjoying experiences that have thrilled and inspired some our greatest innovators and continue to do so, proves why this place counts. Just say the words to someone and wait for the reaction. The Carlyle.