The Benjamin: A Reliable, Comfortable, and Convenient New York City Hotel
The Benjamin is located on a stretch of Lexington Avenue just north of Grand Central Terminal that saw a boom in hotel construction in the 1920s and 30s (The New York Times even dubbed it “Hotel Alley”), and many of those hotels are still in operation, albeit with new names and thorough modernizations. Opened in 1927 as the Beverly, the Benjamin still has those “old bones” and a stately, Neo-Romanesque façade designed by Emery Roth, the era’s preeminent hotel and apartment house architect, and during a recent stay at the invitation of the hotel, it proved to be a comfortable, accommodating hotel with a few pleasant surprises, an incredibly convenient location, and a charming restaurant from chef Geoffrey Zakarian.
Located at the corner of Lexington Avenue and 50th Street, the Benjamin is perhaps best recognized by its dramatic series of setbacks, which allow for lots of lovely balconies, as well as the octagonal tower at its peak. The ground floor is mostly taken over by its restaurant, The National, and its lobby is on the 50th Street side. The lobby is small but comfortable, with ample plush chairs and couches and a high ceiling, and the check-in process was a breeze.
We stayed in a one-bedroom suite, which clocked in at about 500 square feet and was modern and comfortable. The separate living room had a comfortable seating area, a large TV with drawers beneath, and a work desk with multiple outlets, but the real surprise was a full kitchenette, complete with a full-size refrigerator, a sink, a microwave, marble countertops, ample snacks and beverages for sale, and plenty of cupboards stocked with tableware.
In the bedroom, the bed was very comfortable, curtains did a great job of blocking out the sun (if not the noise from construction on the street below, but that’s New York), the bathroom had plenty of marble, and the closet was big enough to walk into. The suite was certainly plenty roomy enough for a couple, and could easily hold a family thanks to the living room’s pull-out couch and ample storage. Many companies also rent suites here for employees visiting New York on long-term business, as the kitchenettes are very desirable, and rooms here are very reasonably priced; in fact, the hotel was originally designed to be residential-style, so this approach makes sense.
We had dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, The National, which as mentioned is run by Geoffrey Zakarian. (He is also responsible for the hotel’s in-room dining menu.) The restaurant is charming and comfortable, with slightly rustic décor and plenty of light woods, sort of French café meets country farmhouse. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and it’s a popular spot for a sun-filled breakfast or brunch. Executive chef Rezart Gorencavic’s dinner menu tilts towards Mediterranean/New American, with something on the menu for everyone, from cheese and charcuterie to Spanish octopus a la plancha, house-made pasta, grilled branzino, pan-fried pork schnitzel, and two burgers (one beef, one lamb). Our dinner there, however, had its highs and lows.
We started with Ugly Sliders, pared-down versions of the menu’s signature Ugly Burger, topped with pickled jalapeños, special sauce, house-made pickles, and bibb lettuce; these were perfectly cooked, juicy and flavorful, and bode well for the full-size version.
Our other appetizer, stone-ground polenta with fromage blanc, caramelized shallots, and bacon, was incredibly soupy and rendered very greasy by the liberal topping of fried shallots and not-very-crispy bacon.
Cast iron chicken with mashed potatoes and kale was delicious and hearty, with an incredibly rich and flavorful jus.
The sirloin in the steak frites was also perfectly cooked to medium and the fries were crisp, but the steak was doused in an overseasoned maître d’ butter that made the whole dish too salty. Overall, we enjoyed our meal, and it’s a beautiful restaurant with a crowd-pleasing, accessible menu, well-made cocktails, and professional service, but it certainly wasn’t flawless.
The Benjamin is a very nice hotel, with a super-convenient location, a high quality of service and professionalism in its staff, a beautiful lobby, comfortable rooms, spacious suites with welcome kitchenettes, reasonable prices, and a lovely restaurant. We’d certainly recommend it.
The hotel stay and meal that were the subjects of this review were provided at no cost to the writer.