Dial ‘M’ for marvellous [NYC Hotel Review]

I knew the place was going to be funky, smack-bang central, with a youthful vibe, but I was won over before we even arrived.

A visa waiver glitch meant our arrival into New York City would be delayed two days. This was barely softened by two nights at the Westin Hotel in Sydney, strolling Circular Quay, visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art, dining at Jamie’s Italian and lounging by the hotel pool. Hard to take, I know! But when an almost instant email reply confirmed that I would be refunded the two nights of our seven-night stay at citizenM, I was a willing convert, sight unseen.

When we eventually arrived at our buzzing Times Square location, via a hasty connection from LAX, weary but raring to go, self check-in at the central computer hub was a savvy touch that suited our tired mood and collective independent spirit. The arty setting with vibrant paintings, designer chairs, soft furnishings and guest library, was also soothing.

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Our room on the eighth floor (a Chinese proverb emblazoned on the wall next to our red door announcing the number’s prosperous association) was small but almost perfectly formed. The white linen-clad bed, raised above a wood-veneer base with deep drawer, was enormous and hugely comfortable. Bigger than a king size, it would have to accommodate the three of us, including our 12-year-old son.

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The frosted curved-glass bathroom (shower with rain and massage showerhead options) and WC was central to the small space, but could be concealed via a sheer white curtain alongside the bedside desk. The single sink was outside the bathroom below a mirror and, to the right, below the curved white bench, was a bar fridge with complimentary water bottles.  A sliver of a built-in desk, red designer chair, black ottoman, slender wardrobe with a safe and glass shelving opposite completed the bare bones of the room.

But the big winner with our son particularly was the in-room iPad, controlling cable TV, free movie channels and complimentary wi-fi, top city picks by fellow M guests, air conditioning adjustment, remote-control blinds and a range of mood lighting.

The giant picture window was a respectable distance from its view: a towering office building. If we peered left, we could almost see the Hudson River, at least that’s what I like to imagine! To the right, was the pulsating, never-ending throb of bright lights and humanity at its best, worst and most gobsmacking that is Times Square. We were excited, to say the least.

The multiple Tony Award-winning play “Fun Home” was showing across the street. It was added to the to-do list, following our visit to the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum and Frick Collection. We had tickets to the baseball, the night of our arrival, as it happened, and were booked to see a matinee performance of “The Book of Mormon”, which was riotously funny.

WEB4To appease our loss of two precious sightseeing days, we also splashed out on a helicopter joyride of the city skyline soon after arriving. I write about this exhilarating white-knuckle experience here.

CitizenM was going to be a brilliant base for our walk-out-the-door and into the Big Apple heartland requirements.

Established in 2008 with an ethos of providing “affordable luxury for the people”, and with a string of hotels in the world’s hippest cities, including Amsterdam, Glasgow, London, Paris and Rotterdam, I was impressed by the cool insouciance yet warm welcome evoked by the hotel group’s website. I promptly joined online to receive an instant discount on my hotel booking. The online citizenMag also fed my fancies and increased my to-do list in the weeks before our arrival.

Staff had been prompt, attentive and went above and beyond in their responses and suggestions in the raft of email exchanges that summarily occur prior to an overseas trip.

The tech-savvy, no-fuss independence brought to mind our memorable stay at Casa Camper in Barcelona in 2011. Where Casa Camper trumps citizenM, however, is by offering complimentary food, which was available in a range of menu options for in-house guests, 24/7. And only Camper guests can access the premises via their swipe cards. This provides much-needed peace of mind to adults with children in tow. It’s a concept that may well be visited by the citizenM group, but for now, we are sono contenta with our complimentary drinks voucher for two (of “anything you wish,” purred the dashing African-American barman). Wow. Bring out the Dom!

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The sky-high open cabinetry behind the bar is filled with art, design and fashion tomes, contemporary objets d’art, board games, bric a brac and two flat-screen TVs. From here, one accesses the central courtyard adorned with red steel tables and a kitsch but cute Statue of Liberty replica, also in red. Photo opps galore!

The mezzanine-level office, with Apple computers for guest use, evokes a sense of quietude, which was ideal for filing stories or catching up on business.

The rooftop-level bar (under-18s not permitted) is a sea of green calm, with banquette-style seating, ceiling-high mirrors, more books and games, and an inviting snack and bar menu. A wooden deck with low and chest-level tables and oversize-designer furniture is a perfect perch from which to absorb the city vista from on high.

A small but state-of-the-art gym received regular visits from my son and I.

Buffet breakfast and complimentary coffee, tea or hot chocolate was included in our tariff. There’s fresh fruit salad, as well as apples, oranges and other fruits in season, Greek-style yoghurt, muesli and cereals, bacon, sausages and eggs, French pastries and pancakes with all the trimmings. I love to fill up on fruit and sip a doppio or two before a day’s sightseeing, and Jude and Ross tucked into a little or a lot of everything, especially scrambled eggs, sausages, cereal and pancakes or chocolate croissants.

web5Around-the-clock snacks, such as meatballs and penne, salads or house-made baked beans, are also available in the breakfast area, for a price, as well as fruit, trail mix, soft drinks, juices, San Pellegrino, hot drinks and the usual bar fare.

On a drizzly afternoon, a lovely staff member even offered to light the custom-designed fireplace in the lobby to enhance a picture of yours truly, which he took time and care to shoot. These little touches mean the world to travellers, no matter how experienced they may be.

It’s a stylish, fun and funky base, but the young and forever upbeat staff at citizenM Broadway are the stars of the show; they make a stay at this cool but inviting hotel sing.

The Wrap.

The good: Unbeatable location, cliché-free hotel zone, fab facilities and funky rooms.
The less good: Slight run-off from the shower meant constant mopping with bath mats and used towels.

The overall: Brilliant service, arty style and an infectious sense of fun.

Cleanliness: 9/10
Location: 10/10
Facilities: 10/10
Value for money: 9/10
X factor: 9/10

More information.

CitizenM Hotel website

About Nicole

I am an arts, food and travel journalist, editor and proofreader, with a 20-plus-year career at metropolitan daily newpapers and national magazines. I am also passionate about the arts, travel, fine food and wine, excellent coffee, filmmaking, reading and writing poetry.

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