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Reviewed August 15, 2014

You THINK you love New York - but I really DO love New York. This is how very much I love New York: I love New York so much that I intentionally leave my lush, cool, serene green space here in upstate and also intentionally spend my birthday week in the city most years - which means I spend a week in the noxious sauna that is New York in August.... Yes, while sensible people flee New York to be where I live, I am headed in the opposite direction down the Saw Mill. And as Mr. Blue always wants Mrs. Blue's birthdays to be singularly memorable every time, we try to Go Big instead of Go Home.

My two favorite hotels in New York have been (Absolutely is - for reasons explained in another review) The Carlyle - and running close, (also reviewed) but still second,The Peninsula.

Because we have had beautiful moments in the Plaza Athenee in Paris - and we naturally gravitate toward the quiet, walkable, safe neighborhood of the upper East Side of New York, complete with a dazzling array of international luxury goods shops up and down Madison - and all on significant (!) sale during the sleepy days of August; we adore the quick accessibility of really extraordinary restaurants that normally have a three months or more waiting list in season for a table; and any thinking person appreciates the easy walking distance to exceptional world class museums (The Met, The Frick, The Jewish Museum, Neue to name some favorites and the Whitney which is, sadly, moving downtown any minute now). The park is nearby - Park avenue is a block away for quick cabs up and down town - it's really a great location.

SO: Let's agree we understand the Plaza Athenee is a not ever cheap and we can just cut to the meaningful chase. We call up Lily - the Best AmEx Concierge of All Time - and she gets us a truly beautiful room at the Plaza Athenee NYC for my birthday week - and when we get there, our AmEx status gets us upgraded to an even more beautiful Junior Suite. Really beautiful suite, serene, immaculate, restful, beautifully appointed, Architectural Digest quality. Everything clean, gleaming, pressed, the placement parfait. (You can still hear street noise there on the 9th floor on 64th at an hour of the morning when you'd rather not - but the city is a city is a city.)

Nice collection of oversized Penhaligon Blenheim bathroom amenities, fresh and plentiful towels, spacious bathroom with double sinks (my idea of what should be mandatory in every hotel bath suite) separate, full sized soaking tub, rain shower with a hand held shower as well - (each and both with surprisingly low pressure, a disappointment) and a smartly separated toileting area with a beautiful custom willow ware bowl sink. A very smartly set up 1/4 kitchen with an espresso machine, mini fridge, cabinets (all of which can be closed behind mirrored French door bi-folds). Terrific and thoughtfully placed closet space - you could easily camp in relative comfort here for a month or more if you had to - and in the spacious and tastefully appointed sitting room - a welcoming assortment plate of exquisite and fresh miniature macaroons.

The public spaces, hallways, etc. upstairs are bright, quiet, immaculate and look to be newish or in otherwise good shape. By contrast, all the elevators are unusually dark, small, cramped, and look like they lead to an outlawed speakeasy. The exercise room is barely bigger than a closet, looks like one of those accessories hastily thought out and badly installed in the 1980's when we all traveled for work took a dose of indoor treadmill instead of statins.

Oh - but one more great thing: Priscilla in the lounge is among the best service personnel my husband and I have met anywhere, on any continent, period. There when you want her, gone when you don't, doesn't conspicuously hover, doesn't interrupt while your mouth is full to ask if you need anything - asks the right questions, offers good information on food and drinks, unobtrusive but observant, quiet, warm, cheerful, helpful - she was the best part of our arrival. We had excellent drinks and creative, delicious, surprisingly imaginative and well prepared and presented food for a hotel lounge on our first night.

I've just told you all the good parts - because I'm now going to tell you how no hotel, anywhere, at this price should permit any fraction of their services to be so utterly mediocre - and about check-in which met my standards for, well, just plain weird.

Let's start with the fact that the front entrance absolutely reeked of vomit - for the entire week that we were there. We found this so disturbing that we actually asked other patrons in the elevator if they, too had noticed this olfactory offense. Yes, they had - and were equally baffled by either the fact that the door staff was either collectively suffering from anosmia or the door staff somehow thought this added a charming sense of gritty realism to August in New York. It was simply revolting.

Add to this: no air conditioning ANYWHERE in the entire lobby - not the front door, not the front desk, not check-in. Nada. Zilch - so they LEFT the front door open so the vomit scent could waft into the lobby...(Really, truly, wish I were exaggerating here - but I'm not.)

Check in went like this: we pull up in our Jet Car, and the bellman walks over to our car from where he was smoking and chatting across the street - doesn't get there in time to open my door (What? A gleaming, black, top of the line Audi S-caliber road car isn't posh enough for PANYC?) and then asks if we have luggage even though my husband already has the trunk open and is pulling out bags himself....

Walking past the vomitous entrance - turning right past the stifling front desk, we are told to "keep going, check in is over there". Over where? Oh, over there where a young man is sitting at a crammed and obstructed low desk with an oscillating fan blowing on him and we are expected to sit down opposite him on the chair that is so low to the desk we feel like a naughty kinder at the principal's office - you're kidding right? Is this Candid Camera or a Plaza Athenee property??? (Maybe the Dorchester Collection management is punishing the the PANYC Welcome Staff or attempting to get them all to quit - and we guests are simply an unwitting part of this evil plan?)

And: If you need to print a boarding pass, or use the Business Center - it's adjacent to the sign-in desk. Literally. Not five feet away. It's a SINGLE bedside table (not kidding) that the computer monitor and keyboard can't fit on at the same time - and a boudoir chair. I spent a half an hour with my knees in my armpits, sweating, swearing, attempting to send an email to Little Miss Blue at summer camp while the fan over at the check-in desk kept blowing the rancid sweat smell of the check-in clerk my way.... Yes, anything that wasn't working, was unavailable, or in any way questionable at PANYC was met with "We're upgrading"... Not "We're sorry for the inconvenience, we do apologize, how can we make this better, here's a voucher for a cooling and relaxing gin and tonic in our Bar Seine, please come back and enjoy us again in Octo-Novem-Decem-ber when our upgrade will be complete". No. No such courteousness. Just a disgruntled "We're upgrading" as if your normal range of needs as their guest are inconvenient. Yes - rude. Yes - inappropriate. Yes - utterly baffling for a hotel of this caliber.

OH! Wait - And this! This was amazing!!!! (We haven't really talked about how my husband and I actually discussed the possibility that the Dorchester group uses August to either weed out and train raw lobby staff or let their junior varsity finish out the game.) Just as the door man and the bell hop were apathetic and mostly just barely performing their jobs (no friendliness, no professionalism, not even striving to be minimally helpful) - THIS tops it - THIS will make every mother reading this just boil....

While I am sitting there at the "Business Center" and attempting to type a cheerful note to the camp-bound daughter describing the 20 years in the making Jeff Koons Play Doh sculpture at the Whitney - nearby (five feet in the OTHER direction), this thinks-he's-witty desk clerk begins speaking to a child whom I would guess was maybe three or four years old, and rather shy, and slightly clinging to his parents. The desk clerk is speaking non-stop to the child, wants the child to say hello to him, interact with him, engage with him, (validate him?) in some way - and of course the child doesn't speak. THE DESK CLERK SAYS TO THIS CHILD: If you don't say hello to me I'm going to hide under your bed tonight until you do. I actually stood up to look and see what was happening, I was so appalled - Child looked terrified, family wordlessly immediately left the building. I was horrified and dumbfounded. (No, I'm not kidding. No, I didn't make this up. AND - If it had been my child I would have been hard pressed to decide whether I called the police and filed assault charges or just punched this guy out myself - Can you imagine an adult saying such a thing to a child? Seen Monsters Inc? If this child was able to fall sleep any night his family stayed at this property - following this assault - it would be miraculous....)

I am always conflicted about turn down service (like it/don't like it with the hours seeming random and sometimes invasive, with the slippers and the floor linens and the bed chocolates sort of stuff) but I want a bottle of water placed on my bedside table every night - I expect it at properties of this sort, do not want to have to either ask for nor pay for bottled water - and was shocked to not receive it here (even after we asked for it twice - just never received it any night). Some nights we got turn down, others we didn't, and we couldn't figure out the pattern or the why.... We had to call and ask for towels once, and face cloths a different day, and our shower lacked a silicone gasket on the bottom and flooded our bathroom every time we showered (yes, we told them) - which resulted in us using 100% of the towels every time we showered (went through two sets of towels each, every day - just wasteful and unnecessary).

The PANYC restaurant, Arabelle, looks like a modified, left over set from Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. As we ate dinner out every night other than our first night (where we had aforementioned excellent small meal in their Bar Seine) we can only comment on the two (we smartly quit after that) breakfasts we ate in Arabelle.

Let's start with: institutional, drab, bland, mediocre, overpriced and poorly staffed. Sammy, the beverage attendant was an excellent server, really on it, very helpful, might as well have been the only server in a not busy, uncrowded setting. Just nothing good to say about the quality of the food (squashed flavorless, unflaky croissant that looked like it had been used for a seat cushion, rock-hard butter that tasted as though it had absorbed the odors of cleaning fluids, scrambled eggs that were cooked but oozed unidentified liquid, flavorless berries and hard, equally flavorless melon, sugary/gluey but flavorless muffin-thing) except that it was was supposedly food, nothing good to say to about it. Husband said the coffee was bitter and maybe burnt both days.

So - For this trip, Plaza Athenee at this location: It is a great location. Lavish and beautifully appointed rooms, one excellent and one other fine restaurant staff person. Everything else, so very far below Athenee Paris standards as to have been unrelated. Hope you have better luck than we did. As I believe life is sometimes a learning-by-doing proposition we'll not stray from our exceptional and beloved Carlyle when staying on the upper East Side again. PANYC really disappointed - at any price point.

Room Tip: Rooms away from Madison or 64 - and higher up floors will be quieter.
  • Stayed: August 2014, traveled as a couple
    • Location
    • Service
9  Thank 2014Cooper17
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Athenee, General Manager at Hotel Plaza Athenee, responded to this reviewResponded August 19, 2014

Dear Guest,

I truly regret to read that you were not fully satisfied with your recent stay with us. I have read your comments thoroughly and have reviewed them with all departments involved. We sincerely apologize for the inconveniences caused to you - some of which, unfortunately, are not in our control.
While we understand you enjoy your visits to the Carlyle, we would very much appreciate the opportunity to welcome you back to the Plaza Athenee. I would like to invite you to stay with us, as my guest, for up to 2 nights of your choice. I may be reached at ajmaurice@plaza-athenee.com for assistance with your accommodations.

I hope I will have the opportunity to meet you in person in the future.

With kind regards,


Anne-Juliette Maurice

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 6, 2014

Excellent hotel! And Rick Cook, Chef Concierge, makes the difference.
Once you try Plaza Athenee, you'll never go somewhere else.
The perfect position, the kindness of the team, the beauty of the rooms, the quality of all the services... Simply fantastic!

  • Stayed: August 2014
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
2  Thank D_C_P_20
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Athenee, General Manager at Hotel Plaza Athenee, responded to this reviewResponded August 9, 2014

Dear Guest,

Thank you very much for sharing your recent experience at the Plaza Athenee, New York.
We greatly appreciate your feedback regarding Rick, our Concierge whom we agree, can work wonders.
We look forward to welcoming you back soon,

Kind regards,

Anne-Juliette Maurice

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 6, 2014

Quiet location but near by most of the places we want to go by walking .
Services is great
The room is nice , bed excellent ..bath room is disappointed
I don't mind expensive food but don't think their hotel breakfast is reasonable
For breakfast I don't think I like to pay over 50 bucks .
Small hotel , not much going on but still remain basic luxury .
After stayed at the Plaza ..I feel plaza athenee is old & small but I am happy stayed there .
Got free zoo tickets & Victoria garden activities ..happy !!
Service is nice very basic nice

  • Stayed: July 2014, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank Hannah T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 31, 2014

Other reviewers have commented glowingly on the location, decor, service, dining, atmosphere, amenities, etc.; they are all quite right. I would only add that this level of excellence does not occur by accident; it can only be the result of leadership and teamwork. We know we can count on the Plaza Athenee to always provide that extra effort, which is why we keep coming back.

Room Tip: All the rooms are good; the suites are amazing.
  • Stayed: July 2014, traveled as a couple
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank shutterlab
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Athenee, General Manager at Hotel Plaza Athenee, responded to this reviewResponded August 9, 2014

Dear Guest,

We greatly appreciate your most kind feedback regarding our team. The Plaza Athenee family is indeed very special and committed to ensure each of our guests are well looked after.
We look forward to welcoming you back to the Plaza Athenee and thank you again for your lovely comments which our team will read with delight.

Kind regards,

Anne-Juliette Maurice

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 26, 2014

I loved The Plaza, the location is fantastic between Park and Madison but situated on a quit piece of elegance in NYC.
I am a world traveler and am very particular with service, linens and luxuries. The Plaza had it all for me and i will be back with my family very soon
Thank you so much Plaza Athenee . Love you and all of your professional staff, gabrielle

  • Stayed: July 2014
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank Gabrielledestries
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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