In The Breathing Method, the thriller writer Stephen King imagines a library in the heart of New York stacked with leather-clad volumes and reading desks. It is both centuries old yet illusory, in that it does not exist within our world.
Whether King meant it or not, his 1982 novella also summed up one of the most fascinating aspects of America’s most culturally and historically rich city- the perception that the real action is going on somewhere else- underground, in a smoky back room, or in a lofty penthouse suite, far above the madding crowd.
The Roger New York carries on this tradition. There’s something otherworldly about the hotel, completely refurbished in 2012 and appearing to exist in an hermetically sealed world of its own. From outside, it’s almost invisible- yet another brownstone building in a long line of them on Madison Avenue.
Yet inside, its' real character is revealed. Colourful Chesterfield sofas, lustrous thin carpets, placed atop chevron parquet flooring and an open staircase leading you up to the breakfast area and the Parlour Lounge, with its generous assemblage of delicious cocktails.
There’s also something wonderfully personalised about the hotel staff. Too many New York concierges offer that fake smile (also, for some reason, found in Bangkok)- all mouth no eyes. Yet the Roger’s staff take genuine delight in helping you find whatever you’re looking for. In our case, this was a good beer bar, offering combustible-strength chicken wings, and Macy’s flagship store on Herald Square. This is a short walk from the Roger’s front doors (which, given their breadth and height, are just as much an old-fashioned delight as the hotel’s attitude to its partrons).
The rooms, too, are a pleasure. High beds with cotton-rich sheets and backboards, excellent sound-proofing and speedy room service. The bathrooms are squeezy but the minibars are a minibar-connoisseur’s delight. Deals are good too: stay four nights and get an extra night’s stay free. You’re also a short stroll from some of the city’s greatest sights and eateries, from the Empire State and the Flatiron building to the Wolfgang’s Steakhouse at 200 East 54th Street.
In its own words, the Roger New York describes itself as the modern traveller’s ‘home away from home’. Many hotels would like you to see them this way of course, but the Roger both lives up to its own inner belief, and gives you a little taster of something else besides: the sense that somewhere in New York, a different sort of life is going on. It is, and it’s happening here.