A room at The Knickerbocker hotel. Paul Warchol / The Knickerbocker
A room at The Knickerbocker hotel. Paul Warchol / The Knickerbocker

Hotel insider: The Knickerbocker, New York City



The welcome

The Knickerbocker name carries heavy clout. Opening on New York's Times Square in 1906, the hotel soon established itself as a go-to spot for the booming city's elite. F Scott Fitzgerald wrote his short story Mr Icky in one of the bedrooms, and namechecks the hotel bar in his novel This Side of Paradise. Said bar had a reputation, and it was colloquially dubbed the Forty-Second Street Country Club. It's perhaps unsurprising to learn that, shortly after the introduction of prohibition in 1920, the hotel shut amid financial difficulties. Until February, that is, when The Knickerbocker was reborn.

Amid all this grand heritage and mythmaking, it's easy to feel underwhelmed by this modern reincarnation's small, minimally decorated lobby. There's an explanation; in the century-long interim, the building was used by various businesses and offices (including as the base of Newsweek magazine from 1940 to 1959), and nothing was salvageable from the original furnishings.

The neighbourhood

It’s Times Square, the unofficial Crossroads of the World, so it doesn’t get much more convenient or exhilarating than this (the odd spandex-clad pavement obstruction aside). The Knickerbocker sits on the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway, next to the busiest subway station in the city, which serves four main lines and connects easily to all the others. Inside the station stands an aged subterranean masonry plaque marked “Knickerbocker”, where an exit once ran directly into the hotel lobby. A piece of history.

The room

I’m in a deluxe room king, and for New York, it’s huge. The 1906 building housed 570 rooms, and just 300 bathrooms. This incarnation goes for comfort, capping at 430 rooms (all, sensibly, en suite). Furnishings are tastefully hued in muted, modern tones. The original room price back when the hotel opened, incidentally, was US$2.75 a pop.

The service

The attention to detail is sublime. After a long day of sightseeing, there’s a surprise knock at the door and a delivery of a tray of chocolate-coated almonds, an apple, Voss water and a cocktail glass of jelly beans. A nice and unnecessary touch – water and soft drinks are free from the minibar.

The scene

The fourth floor hosts an impressive cardio gym – overseen by the New York Knicks basketball legend Larry Johnson, who has even curated special workout playlists. Next door is the intimidatingly specialist weight room, crowned with a high-tech boxing machine – overhead, Rocky is played on repeat for inspiration.

Best of all is the 16th-floor terrace, which offers obstructed views of the Times Square Ball, and likely to be the hottest spot in town come December 31.

The food

Charlie Palmer – the American celeb chef whose Michelin-starred Aureole is just steps away from the hotel – oversees the hotel’s culinary programme. The signature restaurant, Charlie Palmer at The Knick, has a casual but classy vibe. Downstairs, there’s a pleasant, casual coffee joint named Jake’s – a nod to the hotel’s founder, John Jacob Astor.

Loved

The history, location and attention to detail.

Hated

I was a little disappointed not to find a bath in my bathroom.

The verdict

Fresh life has been breathed into an iconic property, in a peerless location, and the result is about everything you could hope for.

The bottom line

Rooms at The Knickerbocker (www.theknickerbocker.com) cost from $491 (Dh1,803), including taxes.

* Rob Garratt

MATCH INFO

Borussia Dortmund 0

Bayern Munich 1 (Kimmich 43')

Man of the match: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Kill Bill Volume 1

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Uma Thurman, David Carradine and Michael Madsen
Rating: 4.5/5

La Mer lowdown

La Mer beach is open from 10am until midnight, daily, and is located in Jumeirah 1, well after Kite Beach. Some restaurants, like Cupagahwa, are open from 8am for breakfast; most others start at noon. At the time of writing, we noticed that signs for Vicolo, an Italian eatery, and Kaftan, a Turkish restaurant, indicated that these two restaurants will be open soon, most likely this month. Parking is available, as well as a Dh100 all-day valet option or a Dh50 valet service if you’re just stopping by for a few hours.
 

How to help

Donate towards food and a flight by transferring money to this registered charity's account.

Account name: Dar Al Ber Society

Account Number: 11 530 734

IBAN: AE 9805 000 000 000 11 530 734

Bank Name: Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank

To ensure that your contribution reaches these people, please send the copy of deposit/transfer receipt to: juhi.khan@daralber.ae

UAE'S YOUNG GUNS

1 Esha Oza, age 26, 79 matches

2 Theertha Satish, age 20, 66 matches

3 Khushi Sharma, age 21, 65 matches

4 Kavisha Kumari, age 21, 79 matches

5 Heena Hotchandani, age 23, 16 matches

6 Rinitha Rajith, age 18, 34 matches

7 Samaira Dharnidharka, age 17, 53 matches

8 Vaishnave Mahesh, age 17, 68 matches

9 Lavanya Keny, age 17, 33 matches

10 Siya Gokhale, age 18, 33 matches

11 Indhuja Nandakumar, age 18, 46 matches

MATCH INFO

What: 2006 World Cup quarter-final
When: July 1
Where: Gelsenkirchen Stadium, Gelsenkirchen, Germany

Result:
England 0 Portugal 0
(Portugal win 3-1 on penalties)

PFA Premier League team of 2018-19

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Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City)

Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)

Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

Fernandinho (Manchester City)

Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)

Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

Sadio Mane (Liverpool)