News & Reviews Rest of the World USA Review: Aman New York

Expectations are everything.  If you swipe right on a picture of Chris Hemsworth and my hideous face shows up for the date, you’re morally and legally allowed to taser me.  Them the rules.  My stay at Aman New York was very much about expectations.  First of all, it’s an Aman.  That’s 99% of the reason to go.  I can assure you, I’m not spending eight hours flying to New York because Four Seasons have opened their 900th new hotel of the year.  Then there’s the price, which is a tad on the side of “did I read that right?” as you spit your drink all over your screen.  On the one hand, when you open at these rates, you’re going to set sky-high expectations, on the other, I’m much older, uglier, roughed up, and expecting issues.  I’m like a beaten-up spouse that takes the blame for the thug I married.  

Yet negating the pros and cons, there’s the major part of this and the hint is in the hotel’s name: New York.  It’s not exactly notorious for world-class service unless that service is getting tips on how to masturbate on the subway.  It’s not often someone contacts me, looking for the worlds best hotel, and is undecided between South East Asia or New York.  I’m not saying those people don’t exist, just, fortunately, they don’t have internet access as they’re not sound of mind.

Saving the world

Remember when Matthew McConaughey left behind his daughter in Interstellar to save mankind…I could totally relate.  Very similar situation here.  I was leaving behind my less-than-two-week-old daughter to make this trip, such is my dedication to the cause.  This is the hotel opening of the year.  Mankind needed my assistance.  I didn’t want to come immediately after opening, that was just asking for issues, so I came two months later.  Which also resulted in issues.  In conclusion, keep an eye on your life choices, kids.

In their defence, they also got a lot right.

On arrival, I was immediately introduced to the Aman service ethos, which made them so famous and created such a dedicated following.  It felt like everyone knew who I was, and management was seen everywhere.  Those interactions and personalisations truly make the experience.  Their ninja housekeepers would somehow sneak in multiple times during the day to restock food and tidy up.; they kept restocking the nuts to the point they may have mistaken me for a parrot, but I’ll take their smothering over neglect.  Their only miss was an automated email asking for preferences, then not following through with my only request, a memory foam pillow.  That’s those darn expectations getting in the way of things again.

Facilities

With only 83 rooms (60 are currently open), it firmly sits in boutique territory and offers plenty of facilities for a hotel of its size.  The lobby isn’t going to beat Aman Tokyo, but it offers a warm, comfortable, inviting area, besides the bar, and entry to Arva, their Italian restaurant, and the real show stopper, the year-round outdoor terrace, with retractable roof and windows.  Even in October it was still getting plenty of use.  The lobby has the exact vibe that a city hotel should, so you’re going to be disappointed if you thought you were going to meet your shaman here.

There’s also a separate bar, but it’s only accessible to members, which I believe costs $250,000 or approximately two spa treatments (more on that later).

Aman really wanted their spa to be the highlight of the property.  It takes up 3 floors, with the pool annoyingly requiring you to head to the 11th floor then walk past the gift shop, down some stairs and through a corridor.  It is worth the visit.  For a hotel with no view, they’ve relied on the design to create the atmosphere.  With the outside temperature over 30C, it’s the perfect place to get over jet lag and remember the family you left behind.  Just a shame that there’s only two loungers and neither allow you to comfortably lay down.  I took more sympathy on the always-on-duty lifeguard, which just felt like an experiment in psychological torture.  That poor fucker has to just sit there all day questioning their own sanity.

The sauna and steam room are in separate male/female changing rooms, but luckily they’ve got you covered if you do want to share them, as you can rent a Spa House for the bargain price of $6,000 for half a day.  These Spa Houses offer a sauna, Vichy shower and an outdoor terrace with a hot tub and plunge pool.  I like the concept, but I also like my children having food, so think I’ll pass on that one.

A little more in line with my price range is the free gym.  For a hotel of this size, the gym is really impressive.  As you’d expect, it has the latest and greatest equipment and some of the latest and “are you really sure this actually does anything” gadgets.  It looks like a few of them were bought from a Scientologist convention.

Like most Aman’s, the food was reasonably priced, but whoever set the spa pricing must have had their cat run over the keyboard at the last second and started adding extra numbers.  My 60-minute massage cost over $500, which isn’t great value for money, even more so when what they delivered was not what I asked for.

The food is good, without being exceptional.  But let’s be honest, not many people go to city hotels to eat exclusively in the hotel.  Were I staying in London, which has a vastly superior hotel scene than New York, there’s only a few properties I would bother to eat in.  Their Japanese restaurant, Nama, had some good dishes, but just like Arva, it suffers from the limited menu.  All the same, you can could eat and enjoy every meal here should you wish to spend your entire city break indoors.  Not that I’d do that…

Room

Aman New York is on 5th Avenue in Midtown.  This means the view is spectacular, assuming you’ve lived your entire life in an underground bunker and even a trip to the dentist is a delight.  Otherwise, it’s a stage up from the Baccarat, where you’re staring into a dumpster, but it’s not exactly Angkor Wat.  What I’m trying to say is, it’s a bunch of buildings.  Reception is on the 14th floor and the rooms are between floors 12 to 7, so you’re not gonna see the skyline, but on the positive side of things, it means you won’t see Godzilla destroying the place either.

Unless he mistakes this for a moth, then you’re in trouble

I booked the Fifth Avenue Suite (approx. $5k/n) and they kindly upgraded me to a Grand Suite (approx $8k/n).  Problem is, they’re not really suites – there’s no separate living area.  So if you want to ignore the rest of the review, take away this one piece of advice:  book either a base category or a top suite.  That means you’re either spending around $3,000/n to stay here or over $15,000.  I don’t see the upside to upgrading to the lower room categories, as all you’re getting is a junior suite with a huge bathroom.

Like the rest of the property, the room has a look about it that makes it feel like an Aman.  I don’t really know how to describe it, but just like if you see a guy with a moustache within 500m of a school you know he’s a pervert, you’ll know it when you see it.  What makes Aman special is that there isn’t a set formula, which is what Four Seasons have fallen into the trap of.  Instead it’s that there is a uniqueness to each property, but an overall theme where you realise few, if any, other brands would be at this level.  They are beautiful, well thought through, comfortable and unique.

The Grand Suite is mostly called a suite because the bathroom is larger than my first house, but that doesn’t add much to the experience to justify the price increase.  You benefit from a large wardrobe, huge shower with steam capability, and two toilets.  The retractable bathroom doors will look familiar to anyone that has been to Cheval Blanc Randheli, which would make sense as it’s the same architect.  They make more sense in the Maldives, as you’re looking out into the ocean, whereas this helps you look into an alleyway to see an old guy masturbating.

The temperature, TV, blinds and lights are controlled via an iPad.  The real showpiece is the fireplace and TVs on either side of it that can be hidden with the push of a button.  With very easy-to-use lighting, good noise insulation, nice design and excellent blackouts, it would tick all the boxes.  Were it not for a snag or two…

Snag list

With Aman New York having opened barely 7 weeks ago, there was always going to be hints that things were new.  Let’s take a look at a few of them.

  • One of the Toto toilets did not work – I had to wipe my own arse like some kinda animal
  • The heating did not work and engineering needed to change it manually
  • The underfloor heating was not working, except for one small area by the wardrobes
  • No signs in the elevators, so you need a lot of button mashing to finally figure out that floor 11 is the spa and 14 is the reception
  • A loud, rattling noise in the bathroom that sounded like a Troll was stuck behind the mirror using a vibrator
  • An alarm was going off in the men’s changing rooms
  • The kinda silly things where you can’t use their international charging adapters as they don’t fit and turndown service came twice, as they didn’t know they’d already been
  • I only found out the minibar was free as I was leaving as no one ever showed me around the room – my precious!

Seeing that during opening night at Four Seasons Ten Trinity, the fire alarm went off, we had to be evacuated, then the shower flooded the room, this really wasn’t so bad.  Should it happen at the rates they’re charging?  Definitely not.  But they’re all easily fixable.  It’s if you’re reading this in a month’s time and having the same issues, then I’ll start to worry.

Their compensation started off as overkill, then descended into madness.  At least I think it did, as I’ve still not received the bill they promised.  Whilst there is a lot of room for improvement, there was nothing that occurred that truly bothered me.  Maybe I turn into a nice person when I’m jetlagged and on 3 hours of sleep.   Or maybe this is what a mental breakdown feels like.  First I had some Aman swagger sent to the room with an apology note, then they offered me a complimentary chauffeur to my next stop, and then the spa treatment and a night was comped.

This is the second stay this year, in a hotel by a brand I adore, where I’ve received a free night compensation for the issues, whilst not asking for anything.  What does this teach us?  That I really need to stop going to new hotel openings.

The Good

  • Service

The Bad

  • Lack of choice for suites

The Luxurious

  • Spa facilities

Rating

Good

Conclusion

Is it worth it?  Can you justify $5,000/n on a so-called suite?  That’s the most subjective question.  For New York, a terrace, amazing spa, spacious rooms, good (albeit extremely busy) location, decent food and good service – that’s a home run.  But I once took issue with similar opening rates of  hotel that also had its fair share of teething issues when it opened.

If you’re treating Aman New York as a destination hotel and coming here just because it’s Aman, then you will be disappointed, especially if you’ve been to Tokyo. Still, if you need to be in New York then it’s probably the best option. You’ll need to decide if it’s worth paying twice that of the competition.  It’s not a resort, it’s a city hotel, so can only be so good.  Whilst Aman Tokyo managed to somewhat find a blend between resort and hotel, due to the impressive lobby, views and pool, money and reality means that isn’t possible in New York.  Not until Bezos stops pissing around with dick-shaped rockets and buys the Empire State Building and puts a hotel in there.

It feels like an Aman, even if it doesn’t have one defining feature that might make it stand out as one.  At one stage, all my future trips were Aman based, like a junkie looking for his next fix.  I would seek out Aman’s and focus on the destination secondary.  But during our upcoming trip to Courchevel, it’s not even a consideration.  It’s not that Aman has got any worse, it’s that others have caught up.  In New York, they have the opportunity to surpass everyone.

The concern was always can they offer Aman service in New York?   It’s not there yet, but I have no doubt it will.  That is a miracle worth commending.  The real question: is it really worth it? You’ll have to decide that one.

Room type: Grand Suite Duration: 30 September > 2nd October, 2022.  $7,500/n + taxes

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 4th Oct '22

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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