Review: InterContinental New York Barclay Hotel

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A couple times a year I like to go on a quick weekend trip to New York, which is generally easy from my home in D.C.

For my birthday recently, I went up there to see Aladdin on Broadway (which was great, by the way) and get together with some friends (and also, if I’m being honest, to go to the Rue McClanahan/Golden Girls-themed cafe).

I think I’m officially done with crashing on friends’ couches (and I don’t know anyone in the city who has the luxury of a spare bedroom), so I usually book a hotel.

You may be surprised to hear that New York is a pricey hotel market. I still have two weekend night certificates from Hilton (thanks to my Hilton Reserve card), and there was space at some nice properties in the city. However, I ended up booking a paid stay at the InterContinental Barclay, for a couple reasons:

  • It allowed me to complete the Accelerate promotion, so I earned tens of thousands of IHG points.
  • At $230 per night including taxes, it was a really good deal. Rates at this hotel are frequently in the $350 range.

InterContinental New York Barclay location

The hotel was originally built for passengers transiting through Grand Central Station, which is only a few blocks away. Several subway lines are close by.

That said, Midtown is probably not the best place for leisure travelers to stay, as there isn’t a ton going on. It’s a bit sterile, and doesn’t have a lot of the character that you’d find in neighborhoods like Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Union Square, etc. But getting around is generally easy on the subway (though lately the MTA has been having some issues).

Concierge Desk

Check-In

My boyfriend got there around 1:30 (I took a later train from D.C. and didn’t arrive until the evening). He couldn’t check in yet, as there were no rooms ready, so he just stored his bag.

Check-in desks

We came back later and were able to get a room. Usually in my experience at IHG properties they’re pretty good at acknowledging loyalty status (I have Platinum Elite status courtesy of my IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card), but in this case they didn’t mention it.

The Property

The exterior of the hotel looks shabby to me, not because it isn’t well maintained, but because it’s a brick building in New York that was constructed nearly a century ago, several years before the Empire State Building. Some people really love this pre-war style of architecture, but it’s just not my thing.

The lobby is very nice, though quite dimly lit. It’s clean and welcoming, and very reminiscent of how a luxury hotel would have looked back in the first half of the 20th century.

There is a Gin Parlour off the lobby as well, which looked very classy (and not just because they spell “Parlour” with a “U”).

Lobby
Gin Parlour

The Room

I booked a standard room with two double beds, and that’s exactly what I got. It was a typical size for a New York hotel room (i.e. in most other cities it’d be considered tiny). The beds were full-size, not queens, which is fine.

Overall the finishes in the room were nice. They definitely reflected the hotel’s status as a piece of New York history, meaning the decor was more “classic” than modern. But everything was in good shape.

Unfortunately, the beds weren’t comfortable.

I usually like a firm mattress, but this was like sleeping on a slab of concrete. Oddly, the pillows were the complete opposite: too soft to provide any meaningful support. (I imagine that they would have provided firmer pillows upon request, but the bed was just too hard to feel comfortable regardless.)

View from the room

Check-Out

Normal check-out time at this hotel is 11, but I requested an extension to noon and was graciously accommodated.

There was a little drama when leaving the hotel, though. We needed to store our luggage for a few hours. I mentioned this to the front desk agent upon check-out, and he pointed me to the bell desk, where about a dozen guests had gathered waiting for someone to help them. I went to stand in line.

Nobody was behind the desk, and after several minutes of waiting, another guest left the line to ask the front desk if someone would be there soon. The front desk person did not seem to appreciate the question, and said “yes, someone will be there shortly.” The guest asked if there was just one person working and the agent said, “no.” I think the guest was expecting something along the lines of “sorry for the delay,” and was a little upset an apology wasn’t offered. The guest said sarcastically, “well, thank you. What a lovely hotel.”

A couple minutes later, two bellhops appeared, one from outside and one from a back room. The one from outside (who seemed to be a more senior employee) quietly berated the other bell hop for taking his break at such a busy time.

Honestly, it wasn’t the end of the world — overall we waited about ten minutes.

Bottom line

If this hotel is a way better price than other comparable properties, consider staying here, especially if you like this classic decor style. But beware if you don’t like extra firm mattresses.

Personally, I will probably be more likely to explore other options on my next visit to the city.

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Comments

  1. I stayed here not long after the refurb and had a fairly similar experience (as Spire Ambassador). The hard product is now great for the price, but service is in general far from anything approaching 5 star. It’s a good 4 star hotel when you can get it for a good price, otherwise don’t bother. It’s certainly not pitched as a flagship property in terms of service. I prefer the Conrad and Andaz Fifth Avenue in this 4.5 star market segment.

  2. Yup, it is exactly what it is: a recently refurbished luxury (but not over the top) hotel in a boring yet convenient location. When rates are low, it’s a very practical option.

  3. As an IHG credit card “Platinum Elite” I’ve always received the welcome gift that’s supposed to come with that status–and the one level upgrade. The gift has varied from a dress wallet to a vallet bag to a portable mouse in Southeast Asia, to bottles of water or bonus points here in the US. The upgrades have been to higher floors or better views or to Club Level rooms. To get nothing and not be acknowledged is something that’s never happened, especially at an InterContinental.

    I’m assuming from your write-up that you “pulled a Lucky” and didn’t say anything. It’s just a small slight/oversight in the scheme of things during a short stay, but not getting what you are due–or even mentioning it, is behavior I will never understand.

    Otherwise, it looks like a good cheap option if you’ve gotta be stuck in Midtown.

  4. This is a nice hotel at a good price, very convenient if you need to be in or near Midtown east. I found the bed to be very comfortable and we received the IHG upgrade without asking.

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