Travels

St Regis of New York City

St Regis was the first luxury hotel I stayed in back in the early 90s when I started travelling for work. St Regis Shenzhen made such an impression that I made it my bucket list to stay in the first St Regis and have a Bloody Mary.

Built by John Jacob Astor IV in 1904, the St. Regis in Fifth Avenue, New York City, has been welcoming the upscale and famous for more than a century. Sip a martini in front of the Maxfield Parrish mural at the classic King Cole Bar, or enjoy high tea or dinner at Astor Court, before either heading up to your perfectly-appointed room or heading out into New York’s endless nightlife.

Named after the Upper St. Regis Lake in the Adirondacks, the St. Regis opened in 1904 across Fifth Avenue from several of the Vanderbilt mansions (whose owners fought bitterly against the hotel being built at all). The Beaux-Arts exterior of the 18-story hotel was designed by Trowbridge & Livingston and Arnold Constable was brought in to design the interior spaces. Astor died in 1912 on the Titanic; his son Vincent ran the hotel until the Depression, when he was forced to sell, but bought it back after it had doubled in size with a new wing designed by Sloan & Robertson.

King Cole Bar

The iconic King Cole Bar opened its door in 1934 and became known as the place where the Bloody Mary was invented. But the name was too vulgar for the St Regis so it was renamed The Red Snapper. In October 2014, the beloved libation celebrated its 80th Anniversary in grand style at The St. Regis New York and around the world. Till this day, King Cole Bar remains an iconic Manhattan watering hole.

“Old King Cole” by Maxfield Parrish, 1904

Maxfield Parrish’s mural was installed in 1932 still adorns it today even though it was originally painted for the Knickerbocker Hotel (another of Astor’s hotel in NYC that went bust) in 1904. It’s witnessed the invention of the Bloody Mary, and has been featured in scenes in The Devil Wears Prada and Hannah and Her Sisters.

Bartender Fernand Petiot invented what became known as the Bloody Mary at the hotel in 1934—the year Prohibition ended. At the St. Regis, it’s referred to by its original name—The Red Snapper. And this has been the tradition of St Regis, every property will have its own version of the Bloody Mary, but they will still serve the original The Red Snapper.

A delectable seasonally-focused menu awaits you in the centerstage location of Astor Court, located in between the lobby and the King Cole Bar. This reverent restaurant hosted many luminaries of New York for its famous high tea. As with many hotel restaurants, it’s actually open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. I did not have the chance this trip to try the restaurant because as a Platinum Elite, I get to have breakfast sent to my room.

The Room

Sheraton bought it in 1966 and following the merger with Starwood, Marriott is the current operator, which features the hotel as the centrepiece of its ultra-luxury “St Regis” collection. Renovated most recently in 2013, both the rooms and common spaces within the hotel are undoubtedly elegant.

The bathroom space was a bit small in my opinion, but noting that the property was designed in the last century, the real estate for the bathroom was not a consideration I assumed.

Another unique amenity of the hotel is its Butler Service, where guests enjoy the attentions of a personal butler including beverage service, garment pressing, packing and unpacking, and shopping. You can ask the butler to help run simple errants, but remember to leave a big tip.

The Daily Dessert Service

New York Cheesecake

Everyday, Platinum Elite members are entitled to some member perks, like a dessert service sent to your room. There’s a few items to choose from daily and they change everyday.

Creme brûlée with lemon madeleine

I thought it would be just a simple dessert, but both items were well plated and worthy a single photo their own. Of course they tasted wonderful too.

House made ice cream

On the first day when we checked in, the butler brought two items. But on the second day, there’s only one because my companion wasn’t a Platinum Elite member. Bummer, but I have yet to verify if this was the policy.

Breakfast in Bed

Again, another perk of the Platinum Elite member, you get breakfast included with your stay at St Regis. And besides going to the Astor for a proper sit-down breakfast, you have the option for breakfast to be sent to you in the room.

American breakfast – day 1

It was welcomed as I was still getting through jet lag.  I called downstairs to ask how the free breakfast amenity worked with room service, and was told that I could order the American breakfast. The breakfast was sent to the room at the exact moment we asked for, and it was still warm and steaming when we were eating it.

American breakfast – day 2

The American Breakfast set came with two organic eggs any style, breakfast potatoes, choice of Kassler Rippchen pork loin, applewood smoked bacon, chicken sausage or turkey bacon, choice of toasts, choice of freshly brewed coffee or tea and choice of orange, apple, cranberry, grapefruit, tomato or V8 juice. We tried everything.

Room Service

Everyone talks about the St Regis Nw York’s breakfast, but with the $50 credits per day, it’s time to try their room service. This is the fourth St Regis I have stayed and in every one of them, I ordered the St Regis Cheeseburger.

Perfect medium rare wagyu patty

The patty was done perfect medium rare and retained the moisture and full flavour. I would say the burger was good, but it was the fries that beat the rest of the St Regis. Any better, they would have to go get it from McDonald’s and pour it on the plate.

Chicken Curry with Roti and Basmati Rice

And it’s common now in the room service menu to cater for an international clientele. We ordered a chicken curry and it turned out to be something close to home. Delicious especially after two weeks in the US.

It’s the Service

While the rooms were beautiful and the hotel’s Midtown Manhattan location is optimal for both business travellers and tourists, other luxury hotels in the area can say the same. Its room service was delicious but some other boasts of Michelin starred restaurants. At the end of the day, it’s the service of St Regis that makes it stands out above the rest.

Maxfield Parrish’s mural

The St. Regis New York is now owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, which bought the hotel for $310 million in 2019. The hotel is still operated by Marriott thankfully.

St. Regis New York
Two East 55th Street, At Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10022

Stayed in Aug 2022

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