The Lowell Hotel, located on New York City’s Upper East Side, is in league with grand dames like The St. Regis, The Ritz-Carlton, and other legendarily luxurious New York institutions. The one difference? The Lowell is much smaller and more intimate, tucked away on a side street and much less imposing than its oversized cousins. Which is a very good thing: The 74-room Lowell is a little jewel box of a hotel, offering personalized service and recently renovated to include a beautiful club room, an upscale cocktail bar, and one of the finest French restaurants in the city.
The Lowell was constructed in 1927, and it remains independently owned and operated. Its exterior blends in with the other apartment buildings and townhouses on the block, but the lobby is elegant and dripping with marble.
Just off the lobby is the elegant Club Room, with its crown moldings, wood paneling, French Oak parquet floors, comfortable seating, and a fireplace (needless to say, it’s a great spot for afternoon tea); Jacques, a cozy cocktail bar with an antique mirrored ceiling; and the one year-old Majorelle, an impossibly elegant dining room serving high-end French fare that would feel right at home in any of Paris’ most luxurious hotels.
Upon check-in during a recent visit to the hotel at their invitation, we were handed an actual key, complete with its own tassel, which we returned to the desk any time we left the hotel and reclaimed upon our return (a classic style that few large-scale hotels would even consider employing now). Our room, decorated in a palette of cream, beige, and brown, was absolutely beautiful, with a super-soft king bed with 300-thread-count Frette linens and a cashmere throw, a large antique Oriental rug over a hardwood floor, his-and-hers closets, windows on two sides (thanks to a small alley), a huge TV, and a granite-topped kitchenette bar featuring a well-stocked mini-bar and six different drinking vessels (coffee mug, tea cup, rocks glass, highball, wine glass, and snifter). The bathroom was all marble, with two sinks with high-end fixtures, a separate water closet, and a huge shower.
There are also many suites, some of which are among the only hotel rooms in the city to boast wood-burning fireplaces; someone will come and build a fire for you (with custom scents, if desired) on command. While the guest rooms are comfortable and luxurious, the suites, which the hotel developed with interior designer Michael Smith (who famously was the interior decorator for the Obama White House), really have the feel of luxury apartments, complete with terraces and kitchens. There’s a reason why The Lowell is a home away from home for so many.
If you’ve ever visited La Grenouille, one of the few remaining old-guard French restaurants in the city, then you probably encountered Charles Masson, who both ran the front of house and designed the restaurant’s signature floral spreads for 40 years before leaving in 2014. The elegant Masson has few equals in the industry, and he’s found a new home at The Lowell’s restaurant, Majorelle. Opened last year after a three-year, $25 million renovation that also created the Club Room and Jacques, Majorelle is a luxurious (and luxuriously pricey) upscale French restaurant that fits right in with the neighborhood and the hotel’s brand of opulence. Also designed by Smith, the restaurant boasts vaulted ceilings, a pleasing cream-and-gold color scheme, an Italian marble floor, and plenty of fresh flowers (arranged by Masson, of course).
We dined there for lunch, and had the opportunity to sit under a retractable roof in an outdoor garden complete with plantings, fountains, and a fireplace. Masson greeted us with a glass of Champagne (now that’s hospitality!), and gave us the opportunity to peruse the menu from chef Richard Brower and pastry chef David Carmichael. The kitchen is one of the few in the city to have its own braisière for broths, sauces, and soups; there’s an oven reserved exclusively for soufflés, and Carmichael mills his flour in-house.
We started our meal with fresh local asparagus topped with a buttery blend of fresh mushrooms and herbs as well as a salad of crab and avocado surrounded with mango coulis; the asparagus was perfectly cooked and nicely paired with the sautéed mushrooms, and the crab salad was generously-portioned and super-fresh. For the main course, we sampled the veal scallopine with artichokes, pistachio, and beurre noisette and a risotto aux fines herbes; the nicely browned slices of veal played well with earthy, tender artichoke hearts and the rich sauce, and toasted pistachios and chunks of fresh lemon provided a nice textural contrast and just the right amount of acidic brightness, respectively. As for the risotto, it was rich and perfectly cooked, studded with an ample amount of fresh herbs and surrounded by a drizzle of herb oil.
We also sprung for a cheese soufflé, which arrived fluffy and light as a cloud; we’re honestly surprised it didn’t float away. It still packed a deeply cheesy (and deeply satisfying) punch, however, and it still managed to vanish before our eyes. I can’t pass up a canelé when I see one, and the ones made in-house here over a multi-day process were essentially flawless, creamy and custardy on the inside; chewy and caramelized on the outside. House-made vanilla ice cream was also far more delicious than expected. From start to finish, this was easily a Michelin-quality meal. The restaurant has also launched a $40, 40-minute "Express Lunch" of two courses plus coffee and petits fours, served at Majorelle and Jacques Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon to 2:30.
Whether you’re looking for a high-end hotel for a trip to New York but don’t want to sacrifice the personalized service of a boutique or are looking for a romantic setting for a special occasion lunch or dinner or a fancy cocktail, The Lowell is definitely be a hotel you should know about. I’d say that they really don’t make them like this anymore, but apparently, they still do.
The hotel stay and meals that were the subject of this review were provided at no cost to the writer.