The Hotel Giraffe, a restful haven in Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood, impresses guests with an inviting lobby lounge and exquisitely appointed rooms
Maybe it’s the live orchids in the lobby lounge, the fresh green bamboo stalks in my guest room or simply the name of the hotel, but I immediately feel at peace after checking in to the Hotel Giraffe, a sleek and stylish sanctuary in New York City. Being a fan of history and architecture, I also like the landmarks that lie just outside its doors.
Located on the corner of Park Avenue South and East 26th Street in Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood, between midtown and downtown, the 12-story boutique hotel stands in good company. Occupying a whole city block across Park Avenue is New York Life Insurance Company, its 40-story headquarters crowned by a gilded, pyramidal roof, a golden beacon on the city skyline since 1928.
My balconied room facing East 26th overlooked the site of a house where Herman Melville, author of novels like Moby Dick and Billy Budd, lived from 1863-1891. A plaque on the site’s current building attests to that fact, and the corner street sign designates the intersection as Herman Melville Square. Also from my seventh-floor nest, I glimpsed one side of the massive 69th Regiment Armory, a Beaux-Arts-style edifice that has fronted Lexington Avenue since 1906 and today houses the National Guard’s 1st Battalion.
The Inviting Lobby Lounge of New York City’s Hotel Giraffe
What endears me most to the Hotel Giraffe is the airy, high-ceilinged lounge paneled in blond wood and bordered by windows on two sides. Relaxing over breakfast or winding up the day with a snack and a cup of coffee or tea, guests feel their cares lift away while seated at the dining tables or in the couches and easy chairs flanked by potted trees. Orchid plants, single orchids floating in silver teardrop vases, and lilies brimming from the large vases on the piano and service counter lend a cheery floral touch, and soft music soothes. Shelves behind the counter hold carved wooden African animals, and one wall sports a framed picture of a giraffe. The black baby grand, right in the middle of the room, adds a note of grandeur whether it’s played or not. Pre-pandemic, a pianist used to serenade guests during evening wine and cheese receptions.
The nightly reception may be a thing of the past, but guests still come down to the spacious lounge, called the Club Room or Grand Lobby, to help themselves to snacks (health bars and bags of gourmet potato chips), fresh fruit, coffee, tea, and soft drinks. The continental breakfast bar offers fresh pastries (muffins, scones, croissants), yogurt, orange juice, and hard-boiled eggs. On my recent visit, I was glad to see that Gabriella, a gracious lady from Slovakia who had served me at the evening receptions, was the breakfast attendant.
Attached to the modern, red-brick hotel and accessible from its lounge is a brand-new restaurant, the independently operated Casa Soglia.
Hotel Giraffe’s Guest Rooms Offer Every Comfort
Like many hotel guest rooms in Manhattan, the quarters here are not huge, but the abundance of mirrors seems to enlarge the space. Expect to see a lot of yourself, as there are mirrors almost everywhere. They covered two walls in my bathroom, and they were set into both sides of the closet’s wooden doors. A large, wood-framed mirror was mounted above a long granite-top workspace graced with potted bamboo, and mirrors surrounded the bar set-up atop the refrigerator. Ceilings are 10 feet high.
A glass shelf above my ice bucket, bottled water, and wine glasses held four books, including Tall Blondes: A Book About Giraffes by former ABC-TV news correspondent Lynn Sherr, who tells everything you ever wanted to know about the gawky but graceful creature. Also on the shelf were Toscanini: An Intimate Portrait, The Biography of Alice B.Toklar and Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood.
The 72-room Hotel Giraffe is part of the Library Hotel Collection, which includes three other Manhattan boutique properties—the Hotel Elysee, Casablanca Hotel, and Library Hotel. At the latter, each of the 10 guest room floors is dedicated to one of the 10 major categories of the Dewey Decimal System, and every room has its own collection of books and art exploring a topic within the category.
One of my favorite in-room touches at the Hotel Giraffe was the button-activated window shade, which blocked out the light (but not the street noise). The antique rose-and-gray color scheme and light wood furniture set the tone, and I appreciated the large potted plant next to the glass doors that open on to a petite Juliet balcony. The sparkling bath had the usual boutique hotel amenities, including a telephone and lighted make-up mirror. I found plush slippers and bathrobes in the closet but didn’t have a chance to use them, nor did I find time to relax in the velvety armchair with matching ottoman. Linens are 100 percent Egyptian cotton.
There’s more greenery on the hotel’s Rooftop Garden, a warm-weather gathering spot furnished with park-style benches and accented by a six-foot-tall giraffe statue. The lofty perch is popular for intimate weddings.
Checking Out Curry Hill From My New York City Hotel
Happily, my go-to spot for ethnic dining in New York was just a block away from the Hotel Giraffe. I am talking about a two-block stretch of Lexington Avenue known as Curry Hill or Little India. There, between 26th and 28th streets, you’ll find a dozen or so reasonably priced eateries dishing up Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Nepalese specialties. Most are humble, nothing fancy. My favorite is Curry in a Hurry, where window tables in the upstairs dining room overlook the bustle of Lexington Avenue.
Anchoring this international enclave is Kalustyan’s, a venerable grocery store that purveys foods from India and other South Asian countries. People especially love shopping for spices and sauces. What intrigues me, though, is the historical plaque at the store’s entrance. It reveals that in 1881, U.S. Vice President Chester A. Arthur, upon the death of assassinated President James A. Garfield, took the oath of office as America’s 21st president at this very address, as the brick building was his townhome. He also died there. A statue of Arthur stands in Madison Square Park, a pleasant greenspace near the iconic, triangular Flatiron Building, a few blocks away from Curry Hill and the Hotel Giraffe.
The neighborhood is a favorite of mine, one that calls me back whenever I have a few days in New York City.
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By Randy Mink, Senior Editor
Lead Photo: The Hotel Giraffe’s Rooftop Garden. (Photo credit: Library Hotel Collection)