Most Hotels near Grand Central Terminal in New York City service large groups and crowds. But the following two hotels, The Bernic, and Hotel 48Lex, are smaller, more intimate. And yes, boutique.
Certain hotels understand how to make customers happy right off the bat. Give ‘em booze! The Bernic Hotel, a Tapestry Collection by Hilton hotel, near Grand Central in New York City, offers a stem of Prosecco upon arrival – putting guests in a celebratory mood almost immediately.
It’s just one way that this smallish boutique stands out amid a slew of hotels near Grand Central Station, in Midtown Manhattan East, an area dominated by corporate and professional office buildings.
First Impressions of The Bernic Hotel
You can’t miss the Bernic Hotel on 47th between Lexington and 3rd. A slim modernist glass and steel structure wedged between two older brick buildings. It could be confused with a condo complex that features the rarest of NYC commodities – balconies. (In fact, the building was going to house condominiums, but the owner pivoted to hospitality after construction was completed).
The reception lobby is small – a vestibule, really. But a fun, interactive, wall-sized light-art installation livens up the space, and makes it feel larger.
This back-lit installation was created by “blind contour” artist, Ian Sklarsky, who is not blind, but is devoted to the blind contour method of drawing (etching the model without lifting the pen or looking at the paper). Images change seasonally, and, for added enjoyment, can be manipulated virtually on cell phones. Answer a secret question correctly and you might win a free piece of Sklarsky art.
Rooms at The Bernic Hotel
In addition to the Light-Art in the lobby, Sklarsky created Miro-like pieces that hang above the bed in each of 96 rooms, depicting one of eight different cities, scattered throughout the hotel. Each card key corresponds to the city represented in your guest room. (Mine was Tokyo).
Contemporary guest rooms are compact and tidy. They include features not often found in mid-range hotels – like heated bathroom floors, Nespresso coffee machines, comfy-hoodie robes. Oh, and Beekman amenities in bathrooms with large glass showers. And, of course, those balconies.
About 75% of the guest rooms include a private balcony – a stamp-sized space that encourages even the least voyeuristic among us to watch office workers toil away right across the street.
OK, I admit I spent a few minutes observing people at their computers and drafting tables, and in one room, what appeared to three young men animatedly pitching an advertising project. Oh, the stories one could concoct just by staying here and staring out the window!
Amenities at The Bernic Hotel
Though “flagged” as a Hilton Hotel (Tapestry Collection), The Bernic is actually privately owned. That’s why it feels more-boutique-less-corporate. And although not a 5-star Ritz or Four Seasons, this hotel offers “luxury in an experiential way.” Hotel staff contact guests days before they arrive to determine if they are celebrating something special and will create an experience around that.
There’s a seasonal rooftop bar with romantic views of the Chrysler Building and Pepsi Sign, as well. Though closed in wintertime, this bar in the sky is the place to be in summer.
Art Lessons at the Bernic Hotel
Artist Ian Sklarsky is open to the idea of 1 or 2-hour “blind contour” art lessons (price on request). He is an excellent teacher.
If the class is anything like the one I so very much enjoyed, you’ll discover your tolerance for staring into a stranger’s eyes for 60 whole seconds (in my case, very low). Plus, you’ll learn the art of drawing a model without lifting your pen or looking at the sketch paper. My takeaway? Watercolors are very forgiving.
Dining at The Bernic
Although the hotel does not own the restaurant access to raved-over Allora Restaurant is through The Bernic lobby. This makes it the perfect choice on cold and rainy nights. If you like old-world fawning service, traditional Italian cuisine, and a low-lit intimate dining room where you can actually hold a conversation, Allora is the best pick in the area. The Seafood Appetizer – calamari and octopus – is not only delectable, it looks pretty on the plate.
But if you order nothing else, go for Allora’s signature “30 Ft. Pasta” and Meatballs. Waiters cut those hand-rolled noodles, that are as long as a 3-story building is tall, into manageable portions right at the table.
That, and a bottle of wine, and you and a friend are set for the night. But you can’t go wrong with almost everything on the menu.
Room rates at The Bernic hotel near Grand Central start at $124 per night weekends off-season. Studio Suites at $332 and go up to over $500 for rooms and $700 for suites weeknights in season.
48Lex, a boutique hotel near Grand Central Station, was one of the first “lifestyle” boutique hotels to open in Midtown East, in 2011. At that time, it was touted as a design-forward, customer-oriented establishment on the cusp of a growing demand for this kind of lodging.
After 9 years and newly refreshed rooms, Hotel 48Lex hasn’t lost its mojo. It still offers handsomely furnished rooms, breakfast with room, and a complimentary wine and cheese hour to guests every afternoon.
Best of all, off-season weekends see room rates as low as $135 per night. These rates are practically unheard of for an upscale NYC room and with all the attendant perks .
First Impressions of Hotel 48LEX
Walk through the nondescript entrance of Hotel 48LEX into a long slim foyer fashioned with elements of Mother Nature: one wall of up-lit roughly chiseled New York schist opposite orange leather benches and spindly plants.
When first opened, reception was on the 2nd floor, in the Lexicon Lounge. Now, however, check-in is situated in a small area on street level where friendly staff usher you quickly through the process and into your room.
Rooms at Hotel 48LEX
Guest rooms are crisply posh and modern with a certain masculine cachet; charcoal pinstripe carpeting and floor-to-ceiling windows presenting dioramas of midtown commerce framed by grey curtains.
Bathrooms gleam with white subway tile and large glass showers – and, thankfully, plenty of lighting.
Lexicon Lounge at Hotel 48LEX
Every early evening, guests can enjoy a glass of wine and nibble on cheese and other small bites in the George-Jetson-hip Lexicon Lounge on the 2nd floor. Here, again, floor to ceiling windows overlook several iconic NYC buildings. Guests can use several available IPads and enjoy a complementary craft coffee while sitting on cushy couches or around a high-top communal table.
Morning brings a complimentary “European-style” breakfast – always a refreshing bonus in the typical “nickel-and-dime-the-guests” universe of other upscale hotels.
Laid out as a buffet in the Lexicon Lounge, fresh delectables range from cured meats and cheeses to cereals, granola, fresh fruit and pastries.
In the basement, fitness areas are divided into two rooms. One is for treadmills, elliptical, and other machines. The second for weights and balls.
Stay at this hotel near Grand Central Station on weekends offseason for the best rates. Winter weekend rates start at $135 (winter mid-week at $250) and include complimentary wi-fi, European-style breakfast and early evening wine and cheese hour.