Ace Hotel New York, Midtown, Manhattan, New York, NY *** (UPDATED)

Q: What is it? A: A Midtown hotel where a huge efforts has gone into art direction and merchandise and whatnot while very little has gone into staff-training to make guests feel like guests. Or maybe the guest-thing is just so totally last month?

UPDATE (January 2014): I just added an extra star is for the Breslin restaurant, which I’d from now on will describe as a gastro-pub with a competent kitchen and attentive and very friendly service. More to follow soon.

Ace Hotel, New York – glass door
Opened in early spring 2009. Much work had gone into making it look like it’s been around way longer. The sign language is not exactly yelling modernity. And just note the scratches. Like buying a pair of stonewashed jeans with pre-made holes.

Ace Hotel, New York – bedroom
This is a room in the Medium category. There are Small, Mini and Bunk if you want to stay for less. Large, Double and Loft are available if you want to roll like, ahem… an Assistant Art Director flaunting the agency’s plastic on an inspirational trip.

Ace Hotel, New York – desk
The first thing you will run into when entering your room is this long table, complete with red turntable, coffeemaker, industrial lamp, pencil sharpener (never used), some stacked magazines and – should you ever need it – a tiny space for writing.

Ace Hotel, New York – turntable
Here’s where the hotel’s efforts went; curated vinyl collections. Nice. I just wonder how many of the hotel guests have used one in real life before? As a former DJ, I have a soft spot for vinyl, but these weren’t exactly Herb Powers Jr-engraved 180-gram vinyl 12-inch singles.

Ace Hotel, New York – bathroom
”Love is meant to make us glad” it says on the mirror. Industrial style lamp. Hand towels neatly rolled and put into pockets in the canvas storage solution (seen left). It’s pretty but when operating the temperature of the shower requires a PhD in something, this reviewer will experience a shortage of patience.

Ace Hotel, New York – sign at elevator
In the corridors, messages are designed, well… sort of. I just wish that the creatives behind these faux fresco paintings would have taken a few step further than to the Champion Gothic series, developed for Sports Illustrated by Jonathan Hoeffler in 1990.

Ace Hotel – Midtown, Manhattan, New York – burger of lamb at the Breslin
The Breslin – labeled as a gastropub by Guide Michelin and awarded with a Michelin star. The Guide also remarks ”The hostess may be too cool for school…” and after my first visit I had to agree. But the place got better and above is the famed lamb burger at the Breslin, boosted by a whip of cumin-infused mayonnaise, served by the first person at the Ace who focused on her guests rather than her next record deal.

Ace Hotel – Midtown, Manhattan, New York – seafood sausage at the Breslin
Genius. The seafood sausage at the Breslin. April Bloomfield and her team of chefs (many of them female) have managed to add a more fresh approach to the traditional pub-grub. Not that this is a lean thing for the weight-watchers, but at least it’s not a course that will cause you to say ”I need to lie down…”

Because first impressions last.
I arrived with a favorable view of the hotel. E-mails and websites gave me the sense of something new; a cool place that will not break your ironic, pistage-colored piggy bank. With this in mind I entered this hotel, turned right and looked at a front desk manned with three young employees; all busy looking down, staring their screens. A pair of horn-rimmed glasses leans out from the little room next to the reception. The glasses throw an indifferent look in my direction only to return to something more important than a guest. Standing a mere 8 feet from the mahogany front desk with my large aluminum case, I’m puzzled. Am I looking like I’m not going to check in? No, I just brought a lot of clothes to the bar. I let the seconds go by. Tic-toc, tic-toc… Front desk sure is busy.

A room in the category they call Medium.
Relatively hip design firm Roman & Williams created the interior design of the Ace Hotel; lobby, restaurant and the 269 rooms. In the room category “Medium” one of their contributions is a table with a turntable – and the minibar placed in a flightcase. An industrial lamp tries to reinforce the look. I applaud them for creating something that is not your usual hotel room, but no funky messages on the bathroom mirror can make up for a floor with not enough pitch (the water stays instead of going down the drain). It also takes quite a while to figure the shower’s blender out. There are nice details here and there but I’m not prepared to fully embrace the concept, as it doesn’t feel very homey. Roman & Williams did a better job with the public spaces, if you ask me.

Why work in a bar when you don’t like people?
A little later it’s time for a lighter meal and I’m asked to wait in the bar. Good. I need a coffee anyway. It turns out to be one of the most hard-earned cups I’ve ever had. I will not bore you with remarks on the bartender’s outfit. That would be unfair to him as I’m looking at a stereotype dressed in a wife-beater. What I can’t ignore is the attitude. I have to repeat my not-so-complicated order three times. Paying feels like seeing a bad dentist. Again, I’m puzzled.
Later I suddenly bump into something that feels like a novelty – a friendly waitress! Wohoo! The hotel restaurant – The Breslin – recently earned itself a Michelin star. I wonder why. The lamb burger I finally get is overcooked almost beyond recognition. Two cans of Sixpoint Sehr Crisp kept it company but… no, this clearly isn’t the gastro pub that the Guide Michelin reviewer dined at. It can’t be. It better not be.

Thanks Ace, but no thanks.
This is the kind of hotel that I feel I must book myself in at again. Soon. I want to see if I’m a victim to an entire staff having a bad day (at good hotels you simply don’t have a bad day) or if this is how they think that you should interact with ”international travelers (…) freelancers and people who just want to kick it.” I know I’m repeating myself now, but before I entered I expected something good from this establishment. I left bummed and annoyed at the attitude that I met. The Ace could be a great Midtown place with a very sensible price tag but – and this is why I’m going to stay there soon again – I want to find out if Ace has really recruited ALL of its nonchalant (and stereotypically hipster) staff from the University of Douchebagistan. I seriously, honestly do want to find out. Stay tuned.

Ace Hotel New York
20 W 29th Street
New York, NY 10001
United States


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Ace Hotel – Midtown, Manhattan, New York – The Breslin entrance
Welcome to the outside of the Ace Hotel and the Breslin. Incidentally, the hotel’s name while it functioned as a SRO (essentially a residential hotel), was (drumroll!) The Breslin. The building dates back to 1904 but most of its interior has been selected by some funky Roman & Williams designer prior to the opening as the Ace in 2009.

The Breslin restaurant at the Ace Hotel, Midtown New York
The kitchen at the Breslin, who managed to impress the testers from Guide Michelin so much that they earned themselves a Michelin star in 2013. And with time, as I had more meals here, the staff has gone through some kind of metamorphosis. They are now caring, friendly and match the performances of the kitchen extremely well. ”Hearty” is the word, I think. Highly recommended!

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