To say that the Fitzpatrick Manhattan, one of two New York properties owned by Ireland's Fitzpatrick Hotel Group, is popular with Europeans is an understatement. Guests from the Emerald Isle were spilling out of the lobby and onto the sidewalk as we pulled up in front of the Lexington Avenue address during a recent visit with two children in tow.
Despite the mayhem, a valet appeared as if by magic to park our car, and a concierge ushered us through the crowd -- a group of Irish tourists just leaving, he explained -- toward reception.
While I'm sure we weren't the only people in the hotel not speaking with an Irish brogue, it did seem that way, from the guests we met in the tiny, European-style elevator to the ultrafriendly hotel staff.
Updating a classic
The hotel is working with consulting firm Zeffdesign CQ to redo its facade and lobby area by fall. A revamped restaurant, tea room and meeting room were unveiled earlier this year.
The look of the property is early 20th century; the design team has been charged with reconciling that reality with contemporary tastes, using dark woods, bold colors and updated lighting.
Instead of a front desk, for example, reception staff will greet guests from individual welcome desks set up in the lobby, where travel-weary arrivals can drink Irish tea or a cocktail while they register.
The renovated restaurant, now called the Fitz, offers everything from traditional Irish high tea, complete with scones and finger sandwiches, to Irish, continental and American cuisine. A menu of small plates, including steak brochettes with warm mango chutney and petit potato pancakes, served with scallion creme fraiche, is available in the lounge area.
Our guestroom boasted a posh Old World decor with modern updates. The living room featured a pullout couch, desk with dataport and a flat-screen TV as well as a separate bedroom with lush, antique furnishings and its own TV and bathroom.
The four of us fit comfortably in the suite, which also came equipped with a kitchenette off the living room, complete with sink and refrigerator.
Overall, the atmosphere walks a fine line between sophisticated and cozy, perfect for having breakfast in your bathrobe and slippers or getting elegantly dressed for a night on the town.
Grand at Grand Central
We also visited the hotel's sister property, the 144-room Fitzpatrick Grand Central on East 44th Street, where we had a look at the recently renovated lobby and guestrooms.
We checked out the Liam Neeson Penthouse Suite, named for the Irish actor whose mother is a frequent guest. It features a living area with a fireplace, a dining room, a Waterford crystal chandelier, floor-to-ceiling windows and a private rooftop patio.
We stayed for lunch at the Wheeltapper Pub, which boasts an amenity unusual in New York: an outdoor, heated garden patio outfitted with a new awning cover. The pub boasts a quirky decor, with atmospheric interior brick walls and authentic Irish railway memorabilia and artifacts personally imported by Fitzpatrick Hotel Group CEO John Fitzpatrick.
Signature dishes at the Wheeltapper include pan-seared jumbo sea scallops with a pomegranate reduction, saffron-vegetable couscous and roasted game hen with sausage-walnut stuffing.
Packing it in
Several packages are on tap at the Fitzpatrick Grand Central Hotel, including a Penthouse Proposal Package that incorporates accommodations in the Liam Neeson Penthouse Suite with fresh flowers and chilled champagne, dinner for two with white-glove service, room service breakfast and a rose petal bath. The package is priced at $1,999 per night.
Packages available at both hotels include an American Girl Experience offered in conjunction with the American Girl Place store and restaurant on Fifth Avenue. It includes breakfast in the hotel restaurant for one adult and one child, complete with place setting for the young guest's American Girl doll, as well as a take-home American Girl Travel Bed. Rates start at $299 per night through June 26; $259 from June 27 to Sept. 6.
A Shoppers' Package with discount coupons for retail outlets such as Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Kenneth Cole, Saks, Sephora and Zales, and a continental breakfast, starts at $199 per night.
A Roses and Romance Package features a dozen roses, champagne and strawberries and full American breakfast for two, from $399 per night.
For more, visit www.fitzpatrickhotels.com.