A classic New York hotel on the Upper East Side, The Lowell offers the convenience of a city apartment and the luxury of an around-the-clock hotel staff — all comfortably tucked away in a quiet residential neighborhood. The Lowell is located just steps away from some of the best shopping in the city and is equally close to Midtown Manhattan offices, the theater district and Lincoln Center, making it an ideal place to stay while visiting New York.
We had the chance to sit down with John Mark Hopkins, chef concierge at The Lowell, to discuss the perfect weekend in New York, including recommendations for the best things to do, sites to see and places to eat within a five- to 10-block radius of the hotel.
Tell me about The Lowell. What sets your hotel apart from other luxury options in the city?
The Lowell is a small, independent hotel with only 72 rooms and suites; we’re also the only hotel in New York City with woodburning fireplaces in several of our suites, and many of our suites have recently been redesigned by Michael Smith.
The property itself is special, but I think our best asset is our staff; a lot of my colleagues have been here for many years and take great pride in the service they provide. Our owners and general manager recognize and value the hotel’s unique character, and we strive for service that is warm, gracious and personalized. One frequently experiences a cookie-cutter, highly scripted version of guest service in larger hotels, but we are very proud of not doing that at The Lowell.
Discretion is one of the first words that come to mind when speaking about The Lowell. We have many very high-profile guests who prefer to keep a low profile when they’re with us, and they love being able to slip in and out of the hotel without a lot of attention. We don’t have a huge lobby filled with people hoping for a glimpse of a celebrity; our guests know that The Lowell’s opulence and luxury are discreetly waiting for them upstairs.
Would you say The Lowell is best suited for the experienced or first-time New York visitor?
I think it is perfect for both. We’re ready to provide as much assistance as a first-time visitor needs, and our small scale means that a guest will feel at home very quickly. We’re also in a very exclusive, primarily residential, neighborhood; you can get to Midtown in a very few minutes, but East 63rd Street feels miles away from the commotion of Midtown.
Experienced visitors love us as well; I’ve noticed during my eight years at The Lowell that most of our first-time visitors become regulars. One very quickly begins to feel like an Upper East Sider here, and The Lowell becomes a second home.
What experiences are unique to The Lowell?
Curling up with a book next to the fireplace in your suite; the opulence of our Michael Smith-designed Penthouse Suite with two or three bedrooms (your choice), four private terraces, three bathrooms and a gourmet kitchen — we can even arrange for a private chef and butler for you if you like; being welcomed home by our staff members who think of you as part of their extended family.
Sticking to a five- to 10-block radius, what would you recommended as the best place to …
… shop for the afternoon?
Shopping is one of the more universally popular activities in this neighborhood. All you have to do is walk out our front door and turn left, and you’re on Madison Avenue in about 30 seconds. Don’t worry too much about whether to turn left or right, because you’ll want to shop in both directions. And don’t worry about how much you can carry; everyone around here delivers.
If you time your visit right, you can be here during one of the many art and antique fairs held throughout the year at the Park Avenue Armory at Park Avenue and 67th Street — a five-minute walk from The Lowell.
And if you’ve done all of the Madison Avenue boutiques and are still in the mood for shopping, try some of these unique places:
Tender Buttons: Open since 1964, this is the only shop in the United States devoted entirely to buttons. It’s amazing. 62nd between Lexington and Third avenues.
Just Bulbs: The only light bulb store you’ll ever need, on 60th between Second and Third avenues.
Katagiri: Need to stock up on okonomiyaki mix or miso paste? How about frozen cod roe or gyoza? The oldest Japanese grocery store in the United States is on 59th between Second and Third avenues.
Dylan’s Candy Bar: Yes, there are several of them now, but this is the original flagship store and a very popular destination: 60th and Third Avenue.
Kraft Hardware: This has been the place to go to for decorative hardware, plumbing and accessories for more than 70 years: 62nd Street between First and Second avenues.
Mrs. John L. Strong: Wonderfully old-fashioned bespoke stationery since 1929, on Madison Avenue between 62nd and 63rd streets.
… have a cup of coffee (or tea) and unwind?
In the afternoon, I’d recommend the Pembroke Room here at The Lowell; the coffee is excellent but I’d also highly recommend the traditional afternoon tea, which is served daily from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
… simply stroll around?
Anywhere in the neighborhood is great for a stroll, but if you would prefer that we give you some guidance to start, head for the Central Park Zoo — just a block and a half from here. Try not to miss the sea lion feeding. If you’re not in the mood for penguins, polar bears or sea lions, go around the zoo and into the main part of the park.
… to admire art?
The Frick Collection (70th between Fifth and Madison) is the private collection of Henry Clay Frick, a controversial tycoon who died in 1919. He wasn’t particularly nice, but he amassed quite a collection of European paintings that are on display in what was his Fifth Avenue mansion. The museum is already a wonderfully intimate experience, but we can also schedule private tours for you with enough notice.
… enjoy a good breakfast with the newspaper?
I think that the best breakfasts in the neighborhood are right here at The Lowell, either in our Pembroke Room on the second floor, or in the comfort of your suite. And if you’ve booked one of our suites with a terrace, it’s the perfect place to relax with your paper. My favorites are the English Breakfast and the whole-wheat pancakes. (I always eat a big breakfast.)
My second favorite place for breakfast in the neighborhood is Mon Petit Café, a little bistro at 62nd Street and Lexington Avenue. It’s a very casual, quirky neighborhood place with great omelets.
… have a leisurely lunch?
At the Post House — one of the best steakhouses in town. You can certainly have something on the lighter side, like a chicken Caesar salad or Dover sole, but I always look forward to a big shrimp cocktail or oysters Rockefeller and those wonderful lamb chops. And it can be as leisurely as you want, since they don’t close between lunch and dinner.
… eat a fabulous dinner?
Fabulous dinners are the norm in this neighborhood, and I can’t pick just one place. If you want to pull out all the stops, though, Restaurant Daniel is the obvious choice. It’s Daniel Boulud’s flagship restaurant and keeps getting better, and they’re just two blocks from The Lowell.
I’m also a big fan of Rouge Tomate, a beautiful restaurant on 60th between Fifth and Madison avenues. The food is wonderfully fresh and vibrant; it somehow feels decadent and healthy at the same time.
… enjoy a drink (with a view)?
For a drink with a view — definitely the Robert at the top of the Museum of Arts and Design on Central Park South. They have a spectacular view of Central Park, and I’d recommend an Olmstead or a Negroni.
… have a classic New York experience?
I could arrange for you to start your day with a personal trainer, followed by a high-protein breakfast in the Pembroke Room, an appointment with a wardrobe consultant and lunch at Fred’s at Barneys. Or you could go to Le Veau d’Or, a charmingly creaky French bistro that opened in 1937, where you’ll be the youngest customer (no matter how old you are), followed by a movie at the Paris Theatre and maybe a carriage ride in Central Park. There are so many variations of a classic New York experience that I’d want to know which particular one you’re looking to create. Talk to me!
Editor’s Note: Guests now have the option to choose between traditional suites and the more contemporary, Michael Smith-designed suites.