870 7th Ave. New York, NY
How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Stay at the newly refurbished Park Central Hotel and walk across the street.
Yes, this former way station for Hollywood stars (Mae West and Jackie Gleason) and First Ladies (Eleanor Roosevelt, who kept a suite here), known in the past as the New York Sheraton and Omni Park Central is now a competitor once again in the realm of upscale mid-price mid-town New York City hotels.
Park Central Hotel Guestrooms
Rooms, large by NY City standards, have been updated in a modern gray palate, with plaid carpeting, judicious use of chrome, and artwork and photographs reflecting Manhattan in all her moods. Bedding is appropriately delish – high-count linens of course – and the lamps on side tables feature outlets for laptops and phones. No more scrounging around behind the bed for plugs. Bathrooms are small but eye-catching with textured brick-red wall coverings, a vivid pop-art portrait, large shiny porcelain black and white tiles (designed like piano keys in homage to Carnegie Hall), and saints be praised, a large mirror with built-in light.
Park Central Hotel Public Areas
Though at first the marble lobby seems a bit sterile, continue behind the reception desks to find a soaring gathering space/bar/restaurant (Park Kitchen) – so aesthetically pleasing, it is sure to become a destination unto itself. Plenty of upholstered seating, a couple of wing-shaped communal tables with surface outlets (perfect for laptops), and four humungous chrome and blown glass ball chandeliers above: the space invites guests to read, talk, meet and eat.
Park Kitchen is at once part of and separate from the rest of this public area: comfy pillow-strewn grey and chartreuse banquettes in nooks topped with icicle-glass lamps create surprising intimacy. Even more surprising is the destination restaurant “Comfort Food With Thought Behind It” that emerges from the kitchen. This is no accident.
Chef Nate Eckhaus, who did stints with Danny Meyer and in New York’s most exalted restaurants, sees to it that food is up to the standards of the space. Eckhaus grew up in middle PA with no exposure to the culinary arts. “As far as I knew, fish came out of a can.” That changed after Eckhaus enlisted in the Navy to “see the world,” and in the process tasted what the world had to offer.
Now, Eckhaus brings his passion for cooking to dishes easily recognizable to visitors from around the globe: with a twist. The phenomenal “PB&J” is actually “Pork Belly and Jam,” ($8) and multi-textured, toothsome Heirloom Beet Salad ($13) incorporates Burrata cheese and grilled rustic bread. And what exactly is the secret behind his wildly popular signature Fried Chicken ($14/$24)? The chicken is brined overnight, then dunked in buttermilk and maple syrup and coated with a mixture of bread and graham cracker crumbs before it’s fried to a perfect golden crunch. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of all is that you can enjoy this innovative, yet familiar cuisine for less than you’d expect in a fine New York City dining establishment.
* Malerie Yolen-Cohen was hosted by the hotel for purposes of review. All opinions are hers alone.