Hotel Reviews

The Whitby Hotel – A Masterpiece in Midtown Manhattan

Art aficionados and casual travellers alike will revel in the playful design and airy, bright ambience that illuminates The Whitby Hotel. With landmarks like Central Park and MoMA around the corner, it serves as an ideal launchpad for exploring the city’s cultural hotspots. Delightfully bold furnishings and thoughtful details make The Whitby the ultimate blend of cosiness and upscale elegance.

Behind the limestone façade and grid-pane windows of The Whitby Hotel is an impressive celebration of art and design. Bohemian textures, colourful decor and one-of-a-kind artworks shape the hotel’s distinct personality, while its midtown location places you in the epicentre of New York’s most iconic borough. Our roaming reviewer, Arabella Peterson, experienced The Whitby firsthand – read on to discover more.

Design and Ambience

Kit Kemp, Firmdale Hotels’ co-founder and creative director, has transformed The Whitby into a visual odyssey. Kemp uses her English design perspective to forge an inspired space grounded in comfort and functionality, drawing on the elegance of London’s luxury landscape and the eccentric homeliness of the English countryside. The decor is an explosion of sumptuous, textured fabrics and intricate wallpapers, with a clear focus on craftsmanship and attention to detail. Each space in the hotel, from the lobby to the suites, tells a unique story through bold colour schemes, contemporary art pieces, and bespoke furnishings, making every corner of The Whitby an adventure in design.

Kemp’s art-forward approach means the hotel is filled with innovative works, so it’s well worth exploring beyond your room. In the lobby, you’re greeted by Alabaster Plinths by British sculptor Stephen Cox RA, and next door, in the Whitby bar, vibrant works by Carla Kranendonk, Daniel Frost, and Nicola Clarke overlook cocktail-sipping patrons. But the Pièce de résistance, in my opinion, is Maarten Baas’ Real Time Grandfather Clock, a conceptual yet utilitarian piece that embodies The Whitby’s delicate balance of quirkiness and practicality.

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Rooms

With 86 individually styled bedrooms and suites spread over 16 floors, no two rooms are the same at The Whitby. The rooms, sporting distinctive colour schemes and signature touches are a testament to Kit Kemp’s keen eye. One of these hallmark features is the upholstered mannequin in each room, which encapsulates the room’s theme and symbolises the tailoring that goes into each design. The mannequin has become a recognised symbol of Firmdale Hotels and is even incorporated into the logo. Another quintessential element is the oversized headboards, beautifully embroidered and embellished with unique patterns.

While the ornamentation is busier than most luxury hotels, it never feels overwhelming. Every textile and interior accent, though varied, compliments the next. Soaring roofs and floor-to-ceiling windows also contribute to this sense of balance, with sunlight brightening and opening up the rooms. Beyond the living spaces, bathrooms are exquisitely outfitted in granite or marble, with double basins, a walk-in shower and RikRak luxury bath products.

I stayed in a One Bedroom Terrace Suite, a haven on the eighth floor boasting a private terrace with a view of 56th Street. With a separate bedroom and living room, I could completely spread out and make myself at home in this 720-square-foot chamber. The living room was a comforting sight for this jetlagged traveller, featuring a plush sofa bed with floral upholstery, two armchairs, a coffee table adorned with bespoke ceramics, curated books, and a bouquet of fresh flowers. In the corner is a record player and a collection of New York musical classics, from Frank Sinatra to Henry Manchini’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s score, a fitting accompaniment to my morning coffee and bagel. To add to the opulence, there’s a guest powder room, a handwoven rug, and a decorative fireplace that ties together the whole living quarter.

Through the adjoining door, the bedroom includes every amenity you could desire – a walk-in wardrobe, king-size bed and fully-stocked mini-bar with a collection of spirits that will satiate the most discerning connoisseurs. The bathroom is impeccably designed in white rippled marble with two basins and a deep, freestanding bathtub. Unfortunately, my trip was at the tail end of autumn, so I couldn’t fully utilise the private balcony, but in the warmer months it would be a superb spot for afternoon drinks overlooking the Manhattan skyline.

Drinking and Dining

The chromatic adventure continues into The Whitby Bar & Restaurant, where sweeping ceilings and a 30-foot pewter bar anchors a bevvy of woven baskets, ceramics and vividly upholstered settees. The adjoining orangery, bathed in natural light, provides a serene backdrop for enjoying the creative menu. Here, you’ll find a contemporary fine dining menu that blends modern American and European influences, incorporating elements of French and Italian culinary styles. Some standout dishes are the diver scallops, red wine tagliatelle, black trumpet mushrooms, red beet and port reduction and the jumbo asparagus, white polenta, warm shitake mushroom and tomato vinaigrette.

The Afternoon Tea is $75 per person or $95 with a glass of Joseph Perrier, Brut NV, a must-try, especially for British tourists craving a taste of home. An array of sandwiches, including classics like cucumber and cream cheese and egg salad with black truffle, are followed by sweet delicacies, notably pecan pie with whipped cream and eggnog tiramisù. All this is paired with an impressive selection of speciality teas.

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Unique Offerings

The Whitby’s commitment to culture extends beyond visual art, as evident through the “Voices of New York” series, which showcases new and established local vocalists performing every Saturday at The Whitby Bar. This live music offering adds an energetic layer to the hotel’s ambience as strains of bossa nova, jazz, blues, broadway, and cabaret float through the bar. If you’re the bookish type, there’s a reading room with over 2,500 books, which can be used as a quiet workspace or a private dining room. The 24/7 gym is equipped with state-of-the-art treadmills, spin bikes and ellipticals; utilise the same-day laundry service for your post-workout kit.

Location

Located on West 56th Street at 5th Avenue, The Whitby offers access to some of New York’s most iconic attractions. By day, there’s a sense of dynamism in the area, characterised by a mix of tourists, business professionals, shoppers and culture enthusiasts. Retail stores, from high-end boutiques to the flagship shops of Fifth Avenue, are abuzz and cultural landmarks like The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Rockefeller Center, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral draw in bustling crowds.

As evening falls, throngs of tourists thin out and the area becomes more subdued, but the nearby upscale restaurants and bars come to life, attracting visitors and locals. Some must-try neighbourhood mainstays are Trattoria Dell’Arte, La Grande Boucherie and The Consulate Midtown. If live music is your bag, don’t miss a visit to Carnegie Hall, where world-class orchestras have performed for 130 years. Stroll for 10 minutes, and you’ll find the art-deco marvel Radio City Music Hall, where you can catch a live show – for those travelling during the holidays, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is an iconic musical that has been running since 1933.

Between the sprawling Central Park, glamorous Broadway Theatres and eclectic Times Square, staying at The Whitby is ideal for ticking some essential activities off your New York bucket list.

Final thoughts

The Whitby Hotel takes personalisation to a new level, delivering an endlessly inviting home away from home that feels more residential than corporate. Elements of traditional English design with vivid imagination and unconventional flair make this a gem in the crown of New York’s commercial hub.

Contact Details

Website: www.firmdalehotels.com

Address: 18 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019, United States