Located at 50th and Lexington in Midtown Manhattan, The Benjamin epitomizes discreet luxury with a quiet and intimate ambiance inside a beautifully restored 1927 Federalist building. The 209 rooms and suites with separate kitchenettes were completely renovated in 2011. The National restaurant on the ground floor opened in 2010 under the direction of 2011 Iron Chef winner, Geoffrey Zakarian.
The warmth is immediately apparent upon entering the small but tall and modern lobby trimmed in dark wood paneling and high Art Deco mirrors. A curving staircase leads to the second floor and five meeting rooms hosting up to 200 pax, with bright windows overlooking Lexington. Adjacent, the business center is whimsically anchored by two giant steamer trunks standing on end, used as bookcases and desks for the public computers.
After walking around The Benjamin’s meeting facilities for a few minutes, you almost start forgetting you’re in a hotel.
“The Benjamin is big enough for a good size group but small enough not to get lost,” says general manager Andrew Labetti. “We offer a level of discreet luxury without a lot of noise. It’s upscale and understated, and we have a lot of clients who appreciate that.”
Yet just outside, clients are within walking distance to the heart of Manhattan, including Rockefeller Center, the Shops of 5th Avenue and a wide spectrum of galleries and museums.
Also on the second floor next to the meeting space, there’s a fully independent kitchen for dedicated catering service. All F&B at The Benjamin is overseen by Zakarian’s staff at The National, and the venerable chef himself is available for in-house chef table dinners and group cooking demonstrations.
One of our favorite new restaurants in the city, the 125-seat National feels like a traditional corner brasserie designed for the 21st century with a long bar on one end and café tables and banquettes along the windows.
The New York Times says:
“It is the sort of restaurant where it is nice to be. And the food, which hews close to Mr. Zakarian’s new-American aesthetic, is to match. It is simple but not really, a menu of standards put through the reinvention machine, followed by wise and often wonderful desserts from Marisa Croce, the restaurant’s pastry chef.”
The “Ugly Burger” is the house specialty and by the looks of things during our lunch a really big seller. Between the fresh baked buns, they load it up with pickled jalapeno, NTL sauce, house pickles, Bibb lettuce and thick smoked bacon. Definitely try the tuna crudo appetizer served with thin slices of grilled pineapple and jalapeño. We also enjoyed the mussels delicately flavored with garlic, ginger and vermouth, served with a cornet of warm crispy french fries.
Nice touch with the homemade ice tea. The ice cubes are created with frozen tea, and they offer a variety of fruit-infused ice teas varying daily.
The rooms are large by New York standards and all of them have kitchenettes with fridges and microwaves. For VIPs, there are 18 one-bedroom deluxe suites, ranging from 550-820 sf, with nice size terraces, retro metal furniture and sweet views of Midtown.
The Benjamin touts itself as the first hotel to have an official “Sleep Concierge,” offering a choice of 12 pillow options. Anya Orlanska and her staff will send attendees an email a few days prior to arrival with a link to the hotel’s pillow menu. The most popular options are the “Cloud,” containing more than 10 million air beads, and the “Lullaby,” which has extra thin speakers in the fiberfill and a cord that hooks into your MP3 player.
Additionally, all of the double pane windows are operable, and each is equipped with blackout drapes.
Room décor is white and pale caramel with beautiful cotton cream bedspreads and white marble bathrooms. Furnishing are somewhat traditional, complemented by smart work desks and 24-hour room service from The National.
The overall effect is calming, soothing, kinda like home. Well, the cooking is a little better.