Arrival/Check-in: It seems no matter when we leave or how much “buffer” time we allow for the drive from Boston to New York City, the stretch of I-95 through Connecticut is always rife with traffic delays. Needless to say, we were just a bit stressed when we pulled up to the front door of The Benjamin at the corner of East 50th Street and Lexington Avenue. The tension eased with the help of a remarkable doorman who had our bags out of the car and in the lobby in no time flat. Check-in was quick and easy despite my distracted attention as I simultaneously answered questions at the front desk and called my nephew to tell him we might — just might — be on time for a planned dinner date. I turned from the desk to find a bellman ready and waiting to escort us to our room, where we did a quick change and headed back out to catch a cab uptown. We arrived almost on time for dinner, just 45 minutes after we first walked into the hotel lobby. I love efficiency! (30/30)
Guest Quarters: We had requested the hotel’s only two-bedroom suite as additional family was joining us the following day. Unfortunately, due to ongoing construction (during our mid-October visit, The Benjamin was two weeks from opening The National, a “grand café” set to showcase the culinary talents of Chef Geoffrey Zakarian), the suite had been temporarily transformed to serve as the hotel’s breakfast restaurant and lounge, so we settled for the next-best option — side-by-side one-bedroom suites. While the rooms were slightly different in terms of size and layout, each featured a bedroom furnished with a king-sized bed, a bureau, a 42-inch plasma-screen television, an oversized closet and an adjacent bathroom stocked with Elemis bath amenities; a living room with a sleep sofa, an armchair, a leather ottoman, a large desk with easy access to multiple electric outlets and Internet (wired or wireless at $13.95 per day) and a 42-inch plasma-screen television; and a galley kitchen with a refrigerator, a sink, a microwave and place-settings for two people. A cook-top in the kitchen would have been a welcome addition, especially for a long-term stay or family travel. (28/30)
Services/Amenities: In addition to 209 guest-rooms and suites, The Benjamin offers a 24-hour fitness center and the Wellness Spa. While we didn’t have time to visit either, the fact that they are on site is a definite plus for both business and leisure travelers. The hotel also touts its “Good Night’s Sleep Guarantee,” sleep concierge and pillow menu. We didn’t call on the sleep concierge, but we did request samples of four of the 12 special pillows on offer — Upper Body, a candy cane-shaped pillow for head and upper back support; Lullaby, a hypoallergenic fiberfill pillow embedded with ultra-thin speakers to play music via an MP3 or other connection; Jelly Neck Roll, constructed so one side will roll under to enhance neck support; and a 5-foot body cushion. A staff member delivered three out of four (no body cushion) without explanation. There was no clear favorite due to differing personal preferences, but most options seemed more gimmicky than useful. (38/40)
The Experience: Built in 1927 and opened as the Hotel Beverly, The Benjamin opened in 1999 following the completion of a $30 million renovation. The boutique-style hotel has a quirky charm due, at least in part, to its historic status. With families and couples coming and going throughout our three-night weekend stay, it felt more like a residence than a hotel.
Total Score: 96/100– Lisa Matte
125 E. 50th St.
New York, NY 10022
tel 212 715 2500
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