The hotel opened for business in 1930 and neither the Great Depression, nor any subsequent blip, ripple or nuisance, social, political or economic, has left so much as a muddy footprint on its immaculate threshold. At a certain point, probably during the Kennedy administration, with which The Carlyle was closely associated, it morphed into something more than a mere hotel; it became a locus of myth and magic. To spin lightly off 76th Street through its unresisting revolving doors and into its black-and-gold lobby is to pass into another, lovelier world – one that’s not quite real, and all the better for it. People who call The Carlylean Art Deco hotel are either careless or have only seen it from the outside.
It actually comprises a wild jumble of styles – Orientalist flounces here, neoclassical flourishes there, cheerful twitters of Wiltshire chintz, and shouty outbursts of butch, blocky mid-century Manhattan modernity. The biggest rooms aren’t necessarily the best – there are some here the size of broom cupboards that are more charming than entire villages in Provence. The ace up The Carlyle’s sleeve is BerneImans Bar, of which every good thing you’ve ever heard is true. Though the lights are low, the murals, by Ludwig Bemelmans, author and illustrator of the Madeline books, are soul-brightening, and the superb Martinis even more so.