Mar 21, 2024

'My stay in a $25,000

Did our intrepid reporter survive two nights in the city's most luxurious hotel room? And would he ever work out how to turn off the lights?

Looking down on to Fifth Avenue and a vast image of Beyoncé covers one side of Tiffany's as it undergoes a major refit. Next door and the black edifice of Trump Tower, the name in vast, vulgar gold letters, rises to the sky. Around the corner is New York's Central Park and just adjacent is the famous department store Bergdorf Goodman. It's morning and as the sunlight beams down East 57th Street I can see pedestrians and traffic pouring down the avenues with the occasional flash of red and blue lights from the NYPD and the odd famed FDNY fire truck.

But I hear no noise. Not a police siren or a fire truck, not the horn of a car or the slightest hint of general rumble of traffic. I'm secure, cosy and safe behind thickened glass and amid the confines of what is possibly the swankiest and most comfortable of rooms and is most definitely the most expensive of suites.

The set of rooms I'm staying in encompasses a large sitting room, a study, a bedroom, a walk-in closet, large bathroom, shower-slash-steam room, kitchen and dining area, pantry and hallway. There are two TVs which shimmer into life as fronting panels disappear silently, a fireplace, a bar of high-end gins and whiskies, brandies and vodkas, and fridges filled with soft drinks and beers, a silent ice machine, a coffee machine and a sommelier fridge, whose different zones offer red and white wines and bottles of Taittinger chilled to the correct temperature. There are endless drawers that, when pulled out, reveal cashew nuts and olives, every type of tea bag and beautiful cups. On the dining table are stacked little boxes of chocolates and tiny cakes and, on a stand, three large Asian pears.

In my closet hang my freshly pressed shirts; in a box, covered in tissue paper, are my socks and boxers. There are several iPads dotted around that control temperatures, blinds, shades and televisions and on which you can access virtually every newspaper in the world, be it The Boston Globe or the UK's Western Daily Press.

And as I consider these items and assets at my disposal I also take in the price tag, one that affords this and considerably more luxury at hand: $25,000 a night. Yup. That's the cost for one of the two Aman Suites in the recently reopened Crown Building in Manhattan (built in 1921 and then the tallest structure in the city). That's what you pay for more than 2,000 square feet of New York City real estate with a library curated by book publishers Phaidon, an original art collection including a huge and impressive reproduction of Hasegawa Tohaku's Pine Trees masterpiece, all amid the tranquil open-plan aesthetic of Japanese-style minimalism.

This suite is one of the cornerstones of the Aman group's latest reveal: the Aman New York which displays the extraordinary ambition of the company – run by chairman and CEO Vladislav Doronin, born in Saint Petersburg now with Swedish nationality and domiciled in Switzerland – which was founded in 1988 and has 34 hotels and resorts across the world.

Just don't be so brash as to call Aman New York a hotel. Company speak refers to it as a resort – an island, even. Access is granted at street level, past black ropes attended by burly but charming (to the legitimate resident) doormen and into near darkness then quickly past a vast solid desk built of a single piece of Belgian blue marble and into slightly lighter lifts which whisk one to the 14th floor.

There the lobby gives way to a vast, high-ceilinged lounge and bar. Off that are a couple of restaurants, a wraparound garden (with underfloor heating so you can sit out there even when snow covers the city) adorned with bonsai trees and Japanese maple, and a private club (don't ask me – not even the marketing manager is allowed in there).

And if you think $25,000 a night is a little steep for bed and breakfast, there are other numbers that put it in the shade. The Crown Building's refit, which took three and a half years and cost $1.3 billion, also offers 22 private residences. One of them sold earlier this year for $75 million. But then it was over five floors, had significant outdoor space, a penthouse swimming pool and pool house and a private entrance on West 56th Street as well as servicing from the hotel and entry to the spa.

Access to the spa, of course, I also enjoyed. And where I was treated to a two-hour massage of near total skin exfoliation and where virtually every bit of me from earlobe to little finger tip was rubbed, caressed and revitalised. The spa is over three floors, has a 65ft swimming pool and, in addition to treatment rooms, a gym and yoga studio and two 'spa houses'. That's right, book in with your beloved for a weekend of cryotherapy, an infrared sauna detox and Chinese medicine. And as well as a large double bedroom, living space and private outdoor terrace, you get hot and cold plunge pools.

Naturally there's a Japanese restaurant, Nama, an omakase-style establishment where, sitting at the large hinoki-wood counter you surrender yourself to the will of the chef and sake wines to match for eye-watering sums of money. There's a high-end Italian restaurant too where you get breakfast, and where the mere flicker of an eye sees bowls of grain with avocado and eggs, delicious coffee and juice concoctions whisked to your table.

On my first evening I escaped this island of heavenly luxury for the alternative reality of a private view and dinner at a smart Park Avenue club. Jet lag, fine wines and being a New York novice saw me walk 25 minutes in the wrong direction as I tried to return to my suite.

Back at the Aman, I successfully made it to the 14th floor before floundering in my attempts to find the second lift I needed to take me down to my suite on the 11th floor.

Once inside my lavish cocoon I spent a good half hour trying to turn the lights off. At least two iPads later, shades up, blinds down, TVs off and stowed and fires extinguished, I found myself struggling to switch off the large, electronic candles. That mission accomplished, I set to the rather more complicated task of closing the bedroom doors. I counted around eight of these, two conventional ones to the bathroom and closet and another six pivoting partition walls.

Job done and eight glorious hours later I was revitalising myself with a swim, sauna and private steam in my shower room.

The next night, I was invited to the jazz bar, a so-called speakeasy in the basement. Here a complex constellation system of 50 speakers and microphones enables extraordinary acoustics directed by the renowned musician Brian Newman. Guests must access the club by first using the service elevator shared by the hotel's 500 staff. Which frankly feels a little awkward, before you reach the club's posh entrance and three hostesses. That idea needs tweaking and the jazz club roughing up a little around the edges as it feels more cruise ship than illicit Prohibition-era gin joint.

That night I was all over lights-out in my suite in a record 10 minutes. When I next visit and the $25,000 comes out of my own pocket for the night, while I tuck into the cashews and champagne, I'll have my entourage attend to that little detail...

Aman New York, The Crown Building, 730 5th Ave, New York, rooms from $25,000 per night,