The Mark Hotel: a magical stay in Manhattan

Celebrate Christmas in style at The Mark in New York’s Upper East Side

East 77th Street, in New York City’s Upper East Side, is a magical place at Christmas. Dogs guide their walkers down the snow-piled pavement on their way to Central Park, while around the corner, on Madison Avenue, shoppers flit between brightly lit stores. Watching it all is Harry. Wearing his blue baseball cap bearing the signature orange “M” monogram of The Mark Hotel, Harry is the hotel’s vendor of “hautedogs” – at least in summer.

In winter, his black and white-branded hotdog cart ladles out cups of hot chocolate, topped with marshmallows and other sugary treats, to grateful mittens. By no means are all those who stop for a chat guests of the hotel. Many a local will call in on Harry on their way to the park, while the doormen tousle their dogs’ ears.

Last May presented a very different scene. That month, Hollywood stars, singers and models paused on the red carpet in front of the hotel’s art deco doors. Chloë Grace Moretz, Phoebe Dynevor, Sophie Turner and – of course – Anna Wintour, to name drop a few, posed for the photographers on their way to the Met Gala, hosted around the corner at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – their outfits endlessly discussed in magazines around the world. On their return to The Mark, after a long night of carousing, the stars were treated to hotdogs and fries from Harry’s not-much-less-famous hotdog cart.

Phoebe Dynevor at The Mark © The Mark/BFA

Phoebe Dynevor at The Mark

©The Mark/BFA

Park life in the city

I checked in to The Mark in early August, when it was blisteringly hot outside, as the city often is in summer. I opted to take a stroll through Central Park, entering at the gate close to the huge bronze statue of Alice (in Wonderland), surrounded by the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit. The grass was sprinkled with New Yorkers sunning themselves, with groups huddled out of the heat, chattering under the trees.

Restaurants and shops are also situated close by, as is the metro station that lays all of New York City within easy reach. I took a train to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in lower Manhattan, for its poignant reminder of the horrors, but also the individual stories of heroism and self-sacrifice, that took place that day, now more than two decades ago. The museum cleverly and sensitively incorporates the jaw-dropping foundations of the original World Trade Center twin towers into the exhibition space, which, owing to its size, defies one visit. Then I returned to The Mark to cool off with a beer and, of course, one of Harry’s hotdogs, garnished with a little Korean kimchi, while I watched the dogs and their walkers go by.

The Mark is very proud of its dog-friendly credentials, providing its furry guests with a dog bed, signature water bowl and mat. If dogs could write reviews, I’ve no doubt they would score The Mark highly. In their stead, I will vouch for the comfort of the rooms – a large cosy bed, ample space to walk around and an Italian marble bathroom with tub, separate shower and signature black-and-white-striped floor – more on that in a moment…

The lobby at The Mark ©2014 Francesco Tonelli/The Mark

The black and white stripes are mesmerising

©2014 Francesco Tonelli/The Mark

A winter wonderland

But first back to winter. Through The Mark’s heavy doors, Holly Golightlys sit in the foyer, swaddled in coats by Lagerfeld. The striped floor beneath their Louboutin heels (the same as that found in the bathrooms) is mesmerising, set off by flashes of colour from the light fittings and furniture, specially crafted for The Mark.

The decor is the work of French interior designer Jacques Grange. It is all just so stylish. No wonder impossibly chic Upper East Siders can be found in the hotel bar most evenings, putting away martinis, as well as in two-Michelin-star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s The Mark Restaurant. This month, the New York outpost of posh Paris eatery Caviar Kaspia is set to open at the hotel, serving up classic favourites, such as twice-baked potato topped with eggs and caviar, and blinis with salmon.

The Nutcracker performers ©The Mark/Angela Pham

A private performance of The Nutcracker

©The Mark/Angela Pham

Meanwhile, up on the top two floors, the penthouse suite is truly spectacular. It is simply enormous – the largest hotel penthouse in North America. The terrace looks out towards the Manhattan skyline, and the red-brick ziggurat-like buildings of its near neighbours, the Met, and Central Park with its trees that turn golden in autumn, but in winter are heavy with snow. Here, on the private  terrace, an ice rink is laid out.

But go back down the stairs, past the Christmas tree decorated with Swarovski crystals, to the high-ceiling Great Room. Here, you can stretch out on the sofa before the fire, and take in a performance by the New York Theatre Ballet of The Nutcracker just for you. Christmas doesn’t get any more magical than that.

Chris received a complimentary stay at The Mark Hotel. From $1,250 a night, plus tax. The Holiday Penthouse Spectacular Package is $75,000 a night throughout December for a minimum two-night stay, themarkhotel.com

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