The Carlyle in Upper East Side, NYC

“I’ll be back in 10 mins; hopefully the food won’t be out by then.”

I excuse myself from the table at Dowling’s Restaurant inside The Carlyle, noting the time is sunset time — and I am surely missing photographing a spectacular show from our suite on the 23rd floor overlooking Manhattan.

Alfonso, the elevator operator in his smart white Carlyle suit jacket, remembers my floor and sends me on my way.

It’s indeed a spectacular show: the perfect sunset over Manhattan and Central Park, and I know I’m very lucky to be witnessing it. I click photos furiously, the food clock ticking in my brain. Just as the setting sun passes through the center of the iconic San Remo towers, I know it’s time to get back to dinner.

I settle back into my chair at Dowling’s – success! The food hasn’t arrived yet.

My better half TJ looks at me and shakes his head, “Nope. That was longer than 10 mins. Matthew brought our food out and then came back for it so he could keep it warm for us in the kitchen. And then he told me he’s going to have the chef prepare a whole new steak for me.”

I was gone for 17 minutes. This is the kind of thoughtful service you can expect at The Carlyle though: striving for nothing short of perfection for its guests.

And, with no fuss made, our dinner is presented several minutes later: fresh, hot, and absolutely delicious. TJ says his steak is in the Top 2 steaks he’s ever had. Even my drink is a triumph, which is a hard task to beat my favorite flavored Scottish gins. It’s called a Pink Pearl, which is Kyle Minogue‘s signature cocktail made from gin, apricot brandy, bitters, and the singer’s own brand of prosecco rosé.

I extend my apologies to the maitre d’ Matthew for having to grab those sunset shots; I honestly thought the food was going to take a lot longer. I’m here taking images for the hotel, I justify, mostly because I feel horrible for the extra bother. But no one here is bothered, they’re happy to help.

Dinner at Dowling’s at The Carlyle
Ribeye with herb butter and Faroe Island Salmon (with a Pink Pearl in the background)

So, that’s a quirky but personal little introduction to our incredible stay at the legendary 5-star luxury hotel The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel.

Since 1930, The Carlyle has been a landmark of NYC’s Upper East Side. It’s been host to every president since Truman, as well as HRH Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana (oh, just to name a few).

The hotel, known for its “discretion and grace,” continues to be a favorite amongst celebrities, so if you run into one while you’re there, please just pretend you didn’t. If you’re like me, you’ll be too busy looking at your surroundings and miss seeing them altogether.

Ever heard of the Met Gala, the Oscars of Fashion? That teeny tiny little event is just a few blocks away from The Carlyle, and every year the hotel hosts a full house of celebrity attendees, along with their own red carpet.

The Central Park Suite at The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel. All images © Emily Sandifer.

If that wasn’t enough, The Carlyle is also home to Cafe Carlyle, which has had a lasting impression on the New York City entertainment and social scene since it opened in 1955.

But wait, there’s more. You can’t forget the charming hideaway Bemelmans Bar, named after artist and author Ludwig Bemelmans, who was commissioned in 1947 to paint the whimsical all-season murals on the walls — and is the only surviving Bemelmans’ commission open to the public. It’s a favorite spot for guests and the neighborhood, which gives it an incredibly cosy and homey atmosphere, combined with its live music every night.

Many of the bartenders have been here for decades, including Sharif, who serves us each time we’re there during our stay. He and the rest of the bartenders are dressed in red velvet jackets, and with all the elements meshing together so well, you might forget what decade you’re in. But the crowd is an energetic and respectful crowd. They’re happy and excited to be here, whether it’s for an anniversary asking for their photo to be taken by their server, or for a midday meeting discreetly taking place in the corner. But the murmurs overheard seem to always be along the lines of, “I love this place” or “Isn’t this place amazing.” Yes, yes it is.

Sharif at Bemelmans Bar inside The Carlyle.
Ludwig Bemelmans’ whimsical murals inside Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle.
On the right: my favorite little detail.

And, then there’s the little bit of a decor surprise that adjoins Dowling’s and Bemelmans.

It’s a Turkish-style tea parlor, sometimes referred to as “the living room” of The Carlyle, called The Gallery. It was inspired by the Sultan’s dining room at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. It’s a great place for casual dining and afternoon tea.

If you’d like to read more about the history of The Carlyle, you can go here. There’s also some great fast facts here.

If I stopped there, that’s probably all you need to convince yourself to put The Carlyle on your bucket list.

… but I’m not stopping there.

One of the reasons I personally wanted to stay at The Carlyle actually didn’t have much to do with its high-society status. It was for its Art Deco motifs and those whimsical murals, which aren’t only in Bemelmans Bar, but have also inspired the bespoke wallpaper in some of the rooms. I’m a big fan of historic buildings and a big fan of anything Art Deco (my photography studio in Downtown LA, is after all, called Loft 1923 for very good reason).

The hotel’s first decorator Dorothy Draper would certainly be happy with the current version of The Carlyle. Even with contemporary redesign, the Art Deco influence has remained.

The staff is efficient and friendly. They’re talkative and jovial. We’ve mentioned Matthew at Dowling’s, the all-day dining restaurant that was opened in 2021 after a renovation of the previous space. We’re also helped by Patrick during our Dowling’s experience, as well as Julia who sets up the semi-private dining area of Dowling’s on our first day there.

Kelly from in-room dining shows up with our breakfast one morning and is a natural when I asked to take some photos of him “doing his thing.” Mustavo at the front desk is a fellow camera enthusiast. Naz is kind enough to take our photo outside as we’re leaving for the airport. There are so many others who we didn’t catch their names, but every single person we came in contact with is amazing at their job and proud doing it. I don’t know about you, but that’s sometimes very hard to find in today’s world.

Patrick at Dowling’s

On our last morning waking up on the 23rd floor with the view, we enjoy the sunrise and then walk one block to Central Park with our in-room coffees in hand. Going so early turns out to be a great way to beat the August heat. As filmmakers, Central Park is a walking cinema, replaying scenes in our brains from movies every time we pass by a spot we recognize. It really doesn’t get old.

We thought the feeling of New York City might have changed post-Covid. This is our first time back since 2019, the “before times.” But it’s inspiring as ever. Maybe we’re just lucky staying at a place like The Carlyle, which seems like their service and maintenance at the beloved property hasn’t lost anything during the pandemic (maybe means yes, of course).

The Carlyle seen from Central Park

The evening before, we sat in two cosy armchairs in front of our Rosewood Suite’s huge window watching a lightning storm roll in. It was one of those evenings that goes by slowly, thankfully, especially when you put your phone down and forget about social media, and just enjoy the world around you.

I’m really thankful for that opportunity, so thank you to Caroline with Rosewood and The Carlyle for gifting us such a perfectly photogenic and inspiring suite, and for the opportunity to experience the legacy that is The Carlyle, and the entire staff that makes it that more special.

Watching a lightning show over Manhattan from our room at The Carlyle.
Suite views

The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel: BOOK DIRECT.

What We Love:
-The in-room dining is worth every. single. penny. We ordered lunch, breakfast, and dinner and it *might* have been the highlight of our trip.
-Views, Views, Views
-Attentive and friendly staff
-Art Deco decor and whimsical murals
-Great location in Upper East Side: Madison Avenue meets 76th Street, one block from Central Park (and so much more)
-The Carlyle’s signature soap: a Honeysuckle blend made exclusively for The Carlyle by Gilchrist & Soames. It’s delightful — and that was even before I knew it was famous.
-Everything. Literally don’t have a “What We’d Improve” section. Next time, we’ll be sure to stay during the times when Cafe Carlyle is open with entertainment and maybe leave room for a trip to the Spa or the Yves Durif Salon. And dessert. Next time we’ll definitely leave room for dessert.

The Central Park Suite at The Carlyle.
TJ flips from “The Carlyle” by James Reginato
In-room dining lunch
Behind the front desk
Enjoy the most plush hotel slippers you’ll put your feet in – and Carlyle’s famous honeysuckle soap.
Oh, what’s that, you say? More in-room dining? Don’t mind if we do.
Photo of me by TJ Dalrymple

*This was a partnership stay in exchange for fair trade in photography assets for The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel.
All opinions here are sincere. 🙂

3 thoughts on “The Carlyle in Upper East Side, NYC

  1. My evening being entertained by Eartha Kitt at The Cafe Carlyle burns Defiantly and Brightly in the Night Sky!!!***

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  2. My husband and I were certainly blessed to hear Bobby Short play the piano at The Carlyle. Years later, I got to meet him at a private party celebrating the New York Festival of Song at Leonard Bernstein’s former apartment at The Dakota. Mr. Bernstein’s daughter served as the hostess, even though the lovely apartment had been sold to a new person. Mr. Short commented to me upon meeting him, “ I’ve always wanted to play in Savannah and just visit there. It was quite obvious that I was from the south when I acknowledged meeting him.

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