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A Review Of The Crosby Street Hotel, And Some Budget Alternatives

One of the most important things to plan when visiting New York is, “Which hotel?” No rocket science that. But there are so many of them. So many hotels. And they are often terribly expensive. So, here, for your reading pleasure, is a review of the Crosby Street Hotel, where I stayed last weekend for 3 nights. It certainly qualifies as expensive, since rooms start at around $500/night, but I also have a few budget alternatives in my pocket to share. Remember, the family fortune is dwindling, and sometimes one’s job does not prefer to put one up at 5-star venues.

The Crosby Street Hotel is owned by the Firmdale Group, a London concern. As it turns out, this matters. The ethos of the place is dignified, pleasant, service in the best Anglo-Saxon tradition. (Oh, yes, I know there are bad Anglo-Saxon traditions, but hotel service isn’t one of them.) The aesthetic is both clubby and quirky. But the heart is New York, and the Crosby Street Hotel functions with Manhattan-esque efficiency smack dab in the core of cobble-stoned, 19th-century Soho. It’s even near the Spring Street subway station, on the #6 line. You can zip right on up to the Upper East Side if you must. I just don’t think you’ll want to.

Walk into the lobby to find the reception desk directly en face, as the French say. No need to navigate an echoing lobby. This is the perfect size, large enough that you don’t bump anyone, small enough to feel more like a tony, tongue-in-cheek apartment building than a hotel. Behind the desk clerk, little mailboxes for your keys, in the European style. Your keys, of course, are actually a plastic fob with some mysterious beeping technology, but never mind that. The large lobby statue of a head made from words makes clear you’re meant to be as much amused as served.

Two elevators. Phew. I hate those banks of 17 doors opening and closing with red arrows flashing and alerts buzzing. I always feel a faint anxiety that I will wind up on the 24th floor, unable to navigate my way back down, at the mercy of a mysterious card key I have failed to obtain.

The room itself is comfortable, elegant, colorful, and furnished with just enough extra details that, again, you feel both the aesthetic and the intent of the establishment. I mean, a little box of 3 aromatherapy lip balms as a favor? Thanks, Aunt Althea and Uncle Percy, the imaginary relatives you are coming to believe have invited you to their London house.

Althea and Percy have a unique sense of color, too. In the light of the floor to ceiling, paned windows, fuchsia is actually calming. Not something I thought I’d ever say.

The bed is properly fluffy, the television properly flat, the lighting properly adjustable, and the bathroom properly granite. My only quibble would be that I do not require enough room in the glass-walled shower to engage in Irish step-dancing and would much prefer a bathtub be included. Although the little runnels carved into the granite floor of the shower to enable fast drainage were a nice touch. Again, practical and graceful at once.

The hotel bar and restaurant is decorated in a similarly detailed, irreverent, and color-innovative style. Silver metal-covered bar tables. Light iron chandeliers hanging by the window. Warmly-colored glass globes overhead for light fixtures. And the most adorable felted wool chairs, each with a different totemic thingie appliqued on the back. All of which still manages to hang together. Nice work Althea and Percy. Super.

Althea and Percy have also managed to train a hotel staff to be solicitous, not obsequious. Having arrived very late, I was down in the bar hoping to eat, but the kitchen had closed. The waitperson, upon hearing I was a guest of the hotel, managed to find me some dinner anyway. Makes one feel quite, well, welcome.

At the end of the day, in a great hotel you must be both both home and away. Comfortable, in a foreign land. Witness orange stitching on felt pillows in the restaurant. Evidence of someone’s handiwork. The spinach and goat cheese omelette I had for breakfast was as good as those I make myself, and I make a very good one. Whole grain toast. A pot of loose leaf tea and a hotel silver tea strainer. Home.

Away. New York City, right outside those floor-to-ceiling windows. Paying for a higher floor at The Crosby gets you more than just a night free of street sounds. One of the window panes cranks open, a bit. Just enough to sit on the cushioned window seat with a camera and breathe the rain as it falls past your face.

If, in fact, you are thinking about going to New York, not just dreaming as I do at pictures of hotels in other places, I have some additional recommendations. For traditional luxury, I like the The Ritz-Carlton on Central Park South. The rooms are small but fitted out in wood-worked details like crown moldings and chair rails and built in vanities that merit the over-used term “jewel box.” Great park views too. For small luxury, I’ve stayed at 60 Thompson and The Gansevoort (good place for movie stars), but I prefer the Crosby to either of these, as the rooms are larger and the staff less prone to hipper-than-thou behavior.

If you’re traveling on a budget (at least in the Manhattan sense of the word), I have stayed in two places I can recommend highly. The GEM Hotel Soho stretches things a big with the Soho name, as they’re really on the Lower East Side. Oh well. Close enough. Manhattan is for walking. And, though they don’t have a restaurant of any sort, there’s an enormous Whole Foods right down the street, that serves a great breakfast upstairs. Yes, I said upstairs. It’s New York, of course the Whole Foods has an upstairs. Silly me, I was surprised. You, I am sure, have much better sense than I. Rooms are usually priced at $269, but they have a special offer this summer of $159/night with Choice Hotels membership.

I also like The Best Western Bowery Hanbee Hotel for <$300/night. It’s in the middle of Chinatown, which is rather underrated as a New York neighborhood. The Hanbee serves a cereal and coffee type breakfast, but right out the door you can find both bao (buns) and Western diner grub for very little. And in fact, the Hanbee is even closer to actual Soho than the GEM Soho.

I knew some day I would appreciate the frugal boss who introduced me to these places. Have a wonderful trip.

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23 Responses

  1. Cute hotel! I stayed at the Morgan on Madison Ave. in February and loved it. It's so weird staying in a hotel in NYC after living there.

  2. Oh how I wish I could just pack a little bag and head to NYC for the weekend! Maybe next Summer!

  3. This sounds like a wonderful stay! I have an upcoming trip to nyc and am going to seriously considering booking the Crosby. Thank you!

    xo Mary Jo

  4. That looks like a fun hotel. As I'm usually in NY on business, we're always put up in midtown. If we travel again there for pleasure, will definitely have to check that one out.

  5. The Crosby sounds perfect…from the waiter finding you dinner after the kitchen has closed to the lip balms and then your breakfast omelette and tea…bliss!

  6. i am a sucker for felt applique, predictably; love the pictures (and the use of fuchsia). what, pray, were the three lip balm flavors?

  7. What a lovely description of the hotel. I might, just per after reading your story, consider to visit NYC, just because of the hotel ;)

  8. Another budget option is Club Quarters, which has three Manhattan locations as well as accommodations in other U.S. cities and London. I've attended a meeting in the S.F. Club Quarters (in the Financial District) and found the hotel to be nicely appointed. Several university alumni associations, including my own, offer Club Quarters membership as a benefit. Rates in Manhattan CQs are as low as $214 a night.

  9. Hi LPC,

    What a wonderful, wonderful post. I so love it when bloggers give me info I can actually use. I love the attention to detail that you pointed out. Thank you for being such a good "reporter." I know it's a pain to photograph everything you want to talk about but so worth it for us! Thank you so much. I have no plans to visit NY but now I want to. I say you've done your job!


  10. Love this hotel review – far better than anything you would read on a travel internet – the hotel sounds absolutely perfect (except for a bath but I would overlook this if I could go to New York!)… x

  11. Thank you guys. It really means a lot to me that you enjoy the review. I confess to thinking of you all in taking the pictures. Luckily hotels don't move around too much so I could snap away. Fritinancy, I had heard of Club Quarters and just never got around to setting up a membership when I was traveling to NYC. Glad to hear you like the place. Lauren, felt, huh? And the lip glosses were unscented, chamomile+geraniu, and lemon.

  12. LPC
    Thank you for the reviews!

    I like that you've covered a range of budgets and reviewed not just the aesthetics but the feeling of the hotels.

    Will store the details for the dream return to NYC. One day.

    SSG xxx

  13. Wonderful review, thank you for posting it. I love small hotels like the Crosby but when I travel for business I need to stay in hotels that have actual hotel vaults, not just room safes, and most of these newer hotels don't have them. That leaves me stuck at the old dowager hotels!
    One more thing, I'm glad that you suggested a Best Western in Manhattan. When I was living in Genenva in the 1990's and going back to Paris every other weekend, I always stayed at a Best Western hotel in great neighborhood that had just been redone. It was a great business hotel and I was hoping that it would stay under the wire and not get discovered. But it did, and now it's too crowded.

  14. Thanks for the recommendations! I went to N.Y. for the first time this easter, and can't wait to go back.
    All the different neighbourhoods had their own distinct flavor, it was like visiting many countries at the same time!

    I'm norwegian and we don't have that diversity here.

    Can't wait to go back!

  15. Hello LPC,

    I loved your uncomplicated, healthy and delicious recipes from your past posts. Could you please be so kind to share your spinach and goat cheese omelette recipe? Tank you.

  16. Dear LPC,
    What I love about you is that you always notice nice and appreciate nice things around you (both significant and insignificant).

  17. Love the pop of pink on the headboard. It reminds me of the happy feeling I had when I encountered the oversized Vermeer headboards at the Paramount for the first time. Sounds like a lovely visit!

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