Andaz 5th Avenue: Really Great First Stay, Could Become My New Go-to in New York

The Andaz 5th Avenue is a bit of an enigma, I think the property is widely misunderstood and expectations were certainly high so when it opened a few months ago many of the reviews were lukewarm or negative.

It’s not an inexpensive property, but it’s not an expensive property by New York standards either. It not ultra-hip trying to be cool W, but it’s still sleek and fun.

And it’s a new brand trying to get out all of the kinks, there aren’t a whole lot of Andaz properties such that they’ve figured out exactly who their customers are (as opposed to what market research tells them to expect) and how those customers’ needs actually match pre-planning.

So lots of misses being reported at the outset: people who feel like it’s not their style, trying to be hip when they’re not.. people who expect a true luxury property at prices perhaps half of what you’d pay at the Peninsula (or even less). Families on several-night stays who like the value proposition of free soft drinks (in the library downstairs and from the minibar), free snacks (albeit just a bag of chips, granola bar, and a chocolate bar), and free internet… who find that it’s more of an adult-oriented hotel, lighting tends towards dim, and rooms without chests of drawers aren’t really geared towards long stays.

So when folks pull up, don’t see clear signage from a hotel that’s trying to be extremely understated and walk inside to find that staff aren’t wearing uniforms.. their expectations clash with realiy, even when it’s a nice reality. And I rather assume that the ‘new concept’ meant that even the staff and management were trying to figure it out so execution wasn’t always at 100%.

As for me I’m rather glad I waited a few months before trying out the hotel, because what I found pleased me a great deal. It isn’t Trump or the Ritz-Carlton Central Park, but it is much more modern, a much better price-value combination, and a generally all-around good hotel experience at least in my one stay so far.

As a Hyatt Diamond I was upgraded to an “Extra Large King” with view of the New York Public Liberary front entrance. The view I could take or leave, not a real selling point, but the room was extremely large by New York standards and the bathroom exceptionally spacious. It wasn’t a suite, as I might get with status at the Intercontinental Barclay, but it more than met my needs. And it’s much bigger than anything I’ve seen at the W New York or the Grand Hyatt. It was certainly comparable to my mainstay Junior Suite at the Parker Meridien.

The staff was certainly friendlier, and the service across-the-board more responsive and helpful, than at any of those properties.

The hotel provides free internet to everyone, so that Diamond benefit wasn’t useful here. They also provide free non-alcoholic minibar. And drinks are abundant throughout the property, there’s 24 hour soft drinks including quite decent coffee in the library as well as unlimited waters, there’s even a complimentary shelf full of water in the gym. I certainly appreciate that.

Diamond benefits are still nice, they offer a $15 food and beverage credit or entertainment credit or the standard points as welcome amenity (no big deal). But the nicest perk is breakfast — not a dollar credit to spend (as often the case at a property sans lounge), but unlimited ordering for breakfast in the restaurant or from room service.

We checked in at 11L30am without difficulty. The place is a bit non-obvious. It has a 5th Avenue address without obvious hotel signage, and the actual entrance is around the corner with no sign above the doors. The hotel staff do not wear uniforms obvious to a first time guest, but they do a good job of realizing who is walking in for the first time (that bewildered ‘did I finally find it?’ look is a dead giveaway). They also do a pretty good job of remembering names and greeting guests they see throughout their stay.

Here’s the 5th Avenue side entrance, just showing the street number.

And here’s the main entrance, again not much signage…

.. except that you’re walking past glass with ‘Andaz’ etched into it

We were guided to the library for checkin where we were offered something to drink, well worth accepting because our concierge disappeared for several minutes with my credit card while handling our checkin.

Our concierge brought us upstairs to our room, we made it to the hallway and the directional signs from the elevators are subway themed (with ‘uptown’ and ‘downtown’ directions) and have murals on the walls as though in a subway.

Or concierge showed us the elevator key cards and the doors where you don’t insert your key but hold it up to the lock (similar to what we had at the Grand Hyatt Mumbai). Upon leaving us, he gave us his card with his name and the concierge phone number printed on it and instructions to either call or text any requests.

The view from the room was of the New York Public Library:

The room itself has high ceilings. Quite thoughtfully there are plenty of electric outlets. The lights do take time to figure out, many folks have complained that the lights aren’t bright enough but I only found that to be the case in the bathroom (my wife says it would be impossible to apply makeup). There’s no dresser drawer, but there is a drawer with each nightstand. And there’s a glass closet with hangers. The set up is perfect for a night or two, and especially travling solo. It’s not really designed for nesting, unpacking a suitcase for a longer stay.

Here’s the minibar:

The bathroom is both stylish and large and the shower is ginormous, but the water temperature – while offering good pressure — didn’t get especially hot except at the max temperature setting (and then a bit too hot, very difficult to adjust and keep just right). The are exceedingly comfortable. I did notice the lack of storage space and feature taking priority over design, there was no ‘backup’ roll of toilet paper (was it at a W I stayed in recently where the extra roll was labeled “backup plan” ..?).

The gym is downstairs, small (but in separate ‘sections’ and with mirrors appears much larger at first glance). Well equipped, no press machines but weights and treadmills and headphones to borrow.

Turndown service was provided, which meant that the bed was adorned with an extra pillow and the blackout shades drawn. No chocolates or bedside water (though unnecessary perhaps with both provided complimentary with the mini-bar)

Breakfast in the morning was a real highlight. First I ordered up a pot of coffee when first getting up (5:30am or so), and then called back later for an actual breakfast order. All of the food was really quite good, certainly well above average in quality, and both orders were taken off the bill automatically without my prompting.

The room service menu as well was interesting, with most offerings customizable — they have meats, sauces, toppings, and whether you’re
ordering a salad, a sandwich, or an entrée you can mix and match ingredients and cooking styles to your liking. I didn’t test out the concept, and of course execution is what’s key, although the idea certainly appeals. The items are available anyway, why shouldn’t the hotel be able to manage to arrange them in the most appealing manner?

On the morning of checkout I tested out the concierge texting feature, I asked for late checkout and 10 minutes later I had a reply saying that it was handled. It’s a brilliant idea, work with them whether you’re in the hotel or not and in a way that people have become increasingly used to communicating. But the execution isn’t all there yet, I asked about cable news channels as the TV guidance didn’t seem to match channel numbers. I got a reply, but this time it took 47 minutes to hear back.

The hotel offers online checkout, but I didn’t use it because I didn’t want to chance missing out on the departure gift, at least to see what it was. I was presented with a choice of lollie pop, lip balm, or breath mints. At their strong suggestion I chose the lip balm.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary –

    Did they not have the Fat Witch brownie available as a departure gift? That has to be one of the best brownies I’ve ever eaten. I highly recommend it.

  2. Your review was spot-on. Too many people are struggling with what to compare it to and it’s not fair to this hotel to be compared to the Ritz or Peninsula. But like you, this is now my go-to hotel in NY. Still have one free suite night and two free regular nights and looking forward to using them here.

  3. I stayed there last month in the same type of room, agree with you about signage, it was hard to find, and also i thought the staff was overly friendly. But overall loved the hotel and would stay there again, it is a huge step up from the W.

  4. Stayed there last month – not comparing it to anything like the Peninsula, Ritz, etc. – just to other Andaz’. Did not like the hotel at all. Still feel that it is run by a lot of interns without any grown ups supervising. Love the location; feel the staff really needs training in customer service.

  5. Glad you enjoyed it Gary… have stayed here a couple of times including the second night it was open (think I opened the FT thread on this one) and enjoyed thoroughly. If I wasn’t getting such great rates at W Lex (189 anyone?) I would be hear all the time. Staying here next weekend using the same Expedia deal for the whole family – again thanks to Gary for the heads up I got from here on that one. Paid for stay, but used cert to upgrade to a suite for the family so looking forward to checking that out. This place does have it’s rivals outside of the chain system (e.g. Gramercy Park) but is definitely way up there in the $3-500 range of hip hotels in NYC

  6. This coming weekend I am bringing my family to New York with my Expedia deal (total cost $19.80). I have two rooms @Andaz Wall St location. Is this what to expect or is the downtown Wall St location a different animal??

  7. Gary
    Once again a great inspiring review!
    I have a few words to say first W who?
    Hyatt has a hot hit on their hands with both the 5th Ave and the Wall Street locations.I think Wall Street is even more grand and beautiful.My only concern is how hard the platform beds are.Otherwise fantatsic way to go Hyatt!Brilliant

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