Hands up if you find yourself reverting to your childhood self over the Christmas period in film taste? Thought so. Me too. This year my family and friends had an extra treat alongside screenings of classics like Home Alone and Santa Claus: The Movie in the form of me banging on about how I’d stayed at The Plaza Hotel that year. I think the word hubs used to describe my thinly-veiled attempts to bring conversation back to the hotel Kevin McAllister had such a whale of a time in was ‘insufferable.’ It’s hard to recall, though: when I think of the Plaza, my mind goes to a happy place and insults fall on the deafest of deaf ears.
Let me reach back through the mists of memory to February last year for this one. New York was painfully cold. I was there for work – we were shooting Marloes Horst for the May issue. On landing we headed to the Nomo Soho, where the Maybelline and Marie Claire teams were staying. The hotel was stylish, but not overly comfortable – the kind of place that would look great in an episode of Gossip Girl but clearly isn’t designed for someone travelling with more than one bottle to put on the absurdly thin ledge under the sink, or a stomach that needs sucking in when sliding past the thin crack between the dressing table and bed.
The Plaza, where I’d decided to stay with my mum after the shoot for a few days of shopping and general living it up in New York, is the polar opposite: it may not be funky, it may not be where the Kardashians or Hiltons or whoever is on tv stays, and it may even not be “New York’s Most Exciting Hotel Experience,” as famously promised in Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, but it doesn’t need to be any of those things. It is instead the doyenne of the New York hotels, a grand and sumptuous place with gold leaf and huge, deep baths that take yonks to fill up. It’s decadent and old school. If you stood in the Palm Court as people took afternoon tea and squinted your eyes, you could practically see the Rat Pack shimmy on by. All that stuff does it for me – I like classic, you see.
Like Kevin, I had a little spellbound reccy on first getting into our ‘standard’ room and was delighted that comfort is as high on the agenda as the whole grand thing. This was extremely fortunate for us – all my plans of hooning around the city went to pot after day one. First, a walk to the Nike shop one block from the hotel left perilously red stripes wherever the wind’s tentacles encircled. Later, we headed to a pizza restaurant in a taxi kindly hailed for us by the intrepid doorman at the Plaza and found ourselves close to tears on exiting – no taxis were around and snow flakes swirled around us like hungry wolves stealing our heat. After that, we decided to stay close to the mothership.
Before I go on, I’ll give you the history of the hotel that swayed me to pick it: opened in 1907, it’s played host to F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beatles, Princess Elisabeth of Hungary (who is to thank for the pet-friendly policy – on staying in 1908 after being ejected from the Waldorf Astoria, she demanded accommodation for herself, 12 servants and her dogs, cats, owl, guinea pig, ibis, alligators and a bear), Ernest Hemingway, Grace Kelly, Truman Capote, and Marilyn Monroe among many, many others. It also served as a film set a number of times before Macauley made it the holy grail of hotels for children – North by Northwest famously set Thornhill’s arrest in the Plaza, and The Great Gatsby and The Way We Were also filmed in the hotel.
There we were, then, in a very lavish, very illustrious hotel with not much to do. It turned out that the hotel is sort of prepared for such incidents – the public areas are cavernous with shops and bars tucked into the folds of the building. The Palm Court in the ‘lobby’ (sorry: we Brits have an aversion to that word) is the main event and makes for a nice spot for tea. Behind that is Rose Club, which was previously the Persian Room jazz club where Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Billie Holiday all entertained lucky, lucky hotel guests. Sadly, no jazz was playing, though the fellow guests sipping cocktails provided enough people-watching entertainment to keep us happy for the duration of our drink.
We also found a champagne bar, a few snazzy ballrooms which we think were off-limits but that we poked our noses into anyway, a big beauty salon, and a downstairs food hall that’s a bit like the Selfridges one, but with that perky, smily service peculiar to America. Despite the latter, The Plaza is a bit of a letdown on the food front – the aforementioned freeze meant we’d have gladly welcomed a single restaurant in the hotel to settle down at rather than just eating off a counter. Where the Plaza fails on food, it wins on location: Berdorf Goodman’s is just across the road (up on the 7th floor is a spiffing restaurant full of proper New Yorkers – think diamonds and face lifts), and Sarabeth’s by the park serve up pancakes that justify the queues to get in.
The only other disappointing element to the Plaza is the lack of health facilities – a hotel this size should, in my estimation, have a spa or swimming pool. But, you know, I’m being picky, probably in an attempt to talk myself out of booking another stay there: the hotel coupled with the close proximity of BG would ruin me financially. If that’s not the case for you, I couldn’t recommend it more vigorously. Rooms are currently going for around £200 here, but I found them for around £150 per night in a flash sale so if you’re keen would suggest you log on every week or so to scout for deals. Oh – and here a few pictures of New York I took to whet your appetite //