Hotel Review: The Whitby Hotel

The Whitby Hotel in Manhattan’s Upper Midtown is a stylish and fun New York retreat, says Rosie Fuller.

“We feel that Midtown can be just that little bit too serious, and what we wanted to add was colour and wit,” says Kit Kemp, interior designer of The Whitby Hotel, which is just two blocks from Central Park in Manhattan.

Her vision is apparent as soon as you enter the lobby, with sculptures and artwork from an array of artists, including 70s pop artist Joe Tilson and designer Hermione Skye, decorating the floor, walls and ceiling. The most captivating is a grandfather clock designed by Martin Baas, where a shadowy ‘grandfather’ inside the clock changes the time every minute with his felt-tip pen.

Kit is co-owner and design director of Firmdale Hotels, with a handful of hotels in London and now two in New York: the Whitby, which opened in 2017, joins the company’s Crosby Street Hotel, tucked into a quiet corner of SoHo. All showcase Kit’s playful design, which is extravagant but not imposing.

Over 16 floors, the Whitby has 86 bedrooms and suites. Terrace suites on the upper levels have large balconies where we felt we were presiding over the chaos of Manhattan. When it’s time to retreat, the suites feature a king-sized bedroom and a large living room, both with floor-to-ceiling windows for excellent views, and two marble-lined bathrooms; one with a deep free-standing bath as well as a walk-in shower.

Besides extensive room service, eating and drinking take place in either the Whitby bar, which has a collection of baskets from different parts of the UK as its artistic centrepiece, or a restaurant called the Orangery – a stunning, bright room featuring a wall of 40 illuminated porcelain pots by Martha Freud (Sigmund’s granddaughter), each etched with a New York landmark. Breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner menus are created by head chef Anthony Paris and frequently change to revolve around seasonal ingredients. The cocktail menu includes Firmdale’s signatures – a cocktail for each of the company’s hotels – and while perhaps I should have tried the Whitby Paloma, I can instead report that Dorset Square Hotel’s gin-based offering, the Silly Mid Wicket, is divine.

Driven: BMW i8 Roadster

Further communal guest areas include the drawing room, with comfortable sofas, an honesty bar and, unsurprisingly, intriguing design, and a well-stocked gym.­­ For a luxurious yet relaxed and stylish yet friendly haven in a fantastic Upper Midtown location, I would return to the Whitby time and again. I’ll have to – there’s too much to take in for just one visit.