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Trip Report Trip Report: Short weekend in NYC (wordy)

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Actually it was a long weekend, Memorial Day weekend, but we were there for a big wedding, so our time for touristing and just being in the city was very limited. (We had a lunch, a rehearsal dinner, the wedding and a brunch to attend, whew!)

We stayed at The Royalton Hotel, which is on 44th between 5th and 6th, and almost directly across the street from the Sofitel where Dominique Strauss-Kahn met his Waterloo. The Royalton's entryway is extremely understated, and in fact does not even feature the hotel's name, just "44" on a pair of tall, black industrial doors. The lobby, however, is a stunner, dark and sexy, with several intimate seating areas consisting of leather banquettes and armchairs with fuzzy pillows and furry throws, cocktail tables, two bars, and moody lighting. The lighting is so moody, in fact, that locating reception and the elevators can be challenging, and the atmosphere can seem forbiddingly hip.

Fortunately, the staff were friendly and helpful beyond our expectations, and all of the hotel's services were very well-performed. (A long gown was steamed and returned within 10 minutes.) We ordered room service about 15 minutes before they began serving, it arrived 15 minutes later, and everything was hot and delicious. You know how room service can be a compromise? This wasn't. I would happily eat these meals again in a restaurant. (Fresh pasta with wild mushrooms and asparagus, and mixed tempura seafood with chips, for the record. Yum.)

The deluxe king room on a high floor was enormous, a relief after the minute (and dark, of course) elevators. Even the slate bathroom, with outstanding water pressure and toiletries from Malin + Goetz, was spacious. Everything was super clean, the long (10 feet?) banquette a welcome and comfy change from the usual hotel loveseat, and each room comes with an iPad!

That first night we went to see Jerusalem, starring Mark Rylance, at the Music Box Theater; we walked there, through Times Square, which I enjoy in small doses. There is not a bad seat in this very intimate theater, and Rylance's performance is galvanic, just amazing. I highly recommend this play, which is essentially about the soul of England in the 21st century, and who in society is safeguarding it.

Afterwards we went to db bistro, which is Daniel Boulud's "casual" eatery, almost across the street from The Royalton. Service was impeccable, and the late night atmosphere was nice, energetic but not frenetic. The menu is appealingly tweaked bistro fare, salads, fish and hangar steak and chips, that sort of thing. I would rate the food as very good, not excellent, but the place is well worth a visit nevertheless, for the wine list, the desserts (OMG), and again, the welcoming service.

The next day I attended a wedding luncheon at David Burke Townhouse, and SO visited the NHL store, which he said is smaller than one might imagine, and less well-stocked than he expected. But he enjoyed seeing the studio where the TV and radio broadcasters sit. David Burke Townhouse has a stunning dining room, bright red with white furnishings and accents, lovely food, and attentive, if slightly brisk, service. The menu is also essentially bistro fare, with an emphasis at weekend lunch on elevated breakfast dishes. I had eggs Oscar, which was very soft-boiled eggs with peekytoe crab, hollandaise sauce and toast batons with which to mop up the unctuous, soupy goodness. The desserts were spectacularly plated, and all quite good, especially the peanut butter marquise and the butterscotch panna cotta.

After the rehearsal dinner that night, we repaired again to the Royalton's compelling lobby, where the cocktail waitress recognized us from the previous night and greeted us warmly. We shared a bottle of wine friends had sent to the hotel for us--it was delivered to our room with glasses, an opener and a card, very well done. I can't tell you how cool we felt in that lobby! Cooler than we are in real life, but isn't that the point of a place like that??

On Sunday we had breakfast at the Red Flame Diner, also on 44th street (really, this street gives great value!). It's very clean, very fast, and has that classic diner menu everyone loves, including a well-stocked pie and cake case. For a quick, very casual bite, I highly recommend it.

Then it was on to the Met for the Alexander McQueen exhibit, Savage Beauty. I may post a separate thread on this, because it was SPECTACULAR! Worth the 45 minute wait in line, certainly. The fashions are striking in person, and the exhibit itself is beautifully done, with moody rooms done in varying styles to suit the collections, atmospheric music... it was quite emotional, really. Bought the catalogue. Loved it.

Sunday night, we had the wedding to attend, at a venue that shut down promptly at midnight, leaving some guests wanting more. So we confidently said, come to The Royalton, visions of that lobby dancing in our heads, and they did. Fun! Only, we arrived first to find it Dead As A Doornail. Not a human being in sight, just that gorgeous decor and hip music still in place, bars closed. What to do? We remembered that our mini bar in the room was actually a maxi bar, stocked with 375ml bottles of liquor. It struck us as excessive then, but is nothing short of perfect now! We ask the front desk, would they mind if we brought everything down and made ourselves at home? Of course they wouldn't!

About a dozen of us take up a banquette, and I and a friend go behind the bar, barefoot now, in our long gowns, to rummage for ice. A hostess appears, clearly concerned that her bar is about to be despoiled, but she is the soul of politeness, "Can I help you with anything?" She then quickly brings us glasses, a bucket of ice, and then, a small tray of frozen mint bonbons, because we look like we're celebrating a big event, she says. Now that's service! We stay unmolested until almost 3am, kill a couple of the maxi bar bottles, leave behind our dead soldiers and a tip, and manage to find the dim elevators and our room with surprisingly little fuss.

Monday morning brings a post-wedding brunch, very welcome to the ever-so-slightly hungover, a speedy checkout at The Royalton, and a shockingly crowded but otherwise uneventful airport experience and flight home.

I should add, in the category, of bureaucratic details, that we paid $270 per night before taxes for a deluxe king room at The Royalton, purchased and paid for in advance from jetsetter.com. Jerusalem tickets were $85 each before tax and service charge from Broadway Box (a discount). db bistro was about $100 for 2, 2 drinks, 2 main courses, complimentary tiny dessert tray. Red Flame Diner is cheap. Maxi bar at hotel is expensive, but handy.

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