Veteran traveler Margot Black took her family to Loews Regency Hotel in New York with high expectations, and went straight to work putting the hotel concierge to the test.
I spent two nights at the Loews Regency Hotel in New York with my husband and 22-month-old toddler for some quality catch-up time with family members.
OK, I’m no longer 21 and scouting the trendiest clubs and bars; instead, I’m a mom with a needy toddler, but I still want to be able to take advantage of all that the city has to offer.
And for that I need help.
Although the Loews Regency takes up an entire block on Park Avenue at 61st Street, this four-star hotel has a distinctly boutique feel.
There are 353 guest rooms, and the hotel features the renowned New York supper club Feinstein’s. It’s got a full fitness center (everything from personal trainers to Pilates instructors), a hair salon, dog-walking service, Wi-Fi and 24-hour room service. In short, everything you may need during your stay.
However, the hotel also advertises itself as a child- and pet-friendly hotel, so I was more than ready to put the concierge to the test.
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Who mans the desk?
The concierge desk at the Loews Regency is manned by two people at all times and is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Kathleen A. Nugent Harris, who has been a concierge all her working life and a proud Clef d’Or badge owner for 20 years, is a woman who clearly loves her job. She cites many high points over the years but just two weeks earlier, she had been helping a couple that was in town waiting to see if one was a good kidney match for the other.
Since then, they’ve promised to come back and see her after the transplant.
While we were talking, six couples came to the desk and asked for restaurant recommendations. Kathleen sent all six to different places. She informed me that restaurants are the most common request (specifically price range, dress code and where to go) along with securing theater tickets (Loews works with a range of ticket brokers, instead of being tied to just one).
Check out Margot’s previous article: Putting the Concierge to the Test: Four Reasons Resort Maui at Wailea.
I arrived at the hotel in the early evening with a weary toddler in tow, who was happy once he was handed a little toy (thanks Loews – nice touch). Michael Caraher, the concierge on duty, informed me exactly where I could buy diapers, formula and milk so I didn’t have to roam the streets in search of supplies. He then suggested that we head over to Burger Heaven for a bite to eat.
As I launched into a list of my concerns, he shooed me away, which seemed startling at first, but he explained that it was already 8.30 p.m. and the restaurant’s last orders were at 9 p.m.
Burger Heaven served perfect burgers, and served them quickly. The waiter could have done with a little more time at charm school, but for the first night it was just what we needed.
The next day I defied Michael. I told him I wanted to dine at Serendipity and he actually wrinkled his nose. Again, startling.
In fact, both Michael and Julian Vasquez, another concierge who worked at Trump Plaza for eight years before joining Loews a decade ago, were both against Serendipity. Michael suggested that we might be better off at Serafina, which was around the corner, and Julian suggested Mickey Mantle’s.
But my cousin and I had fond memories of the famous frozen hot chocolate, so Serendipity it was. However, this time we were traveling with baggage in the form of three boys, ages 22 months to 10 years old.
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Where do I start? There was nowhere to park strollers, no changing station, no high chairs—just booster seats with loose straps—and I had to stand in the middle of the restaurant holding my son’s milk bottle for a very long time before anyone helped me.
I can’t understand why they don’t separate each floor—one for families with small kids and everyone else on another. Also, why was there a pillar with a huge glass vase on it next to our seats? It’s completely impractical when you have children in the vicinity.
The restaurant is ideal for girls in their tweens and teens, but not for little boys (although they enjoyed the hot dogs). Our waiter seemed annoyed that we had children with us and it took 20-25 minutes before our food arrived, which is an eternity in kids world. Although the frozen hot chocolate was as delicious as I remembered, the experience was cramped, annoying and exhausting.
Michael was right. I’ll never defy him again.
Compared to the nightmare of Serendipity the day before, the family-friendly Serafina was a dream. This is one of the six New York Serafinas and they all serve up simple-yet-tasty Italian meals. We chewed on calamari and garlic bread, followed by a smoked bacon and mushroom pizza, and homemade ravioli.
Other plus points include the fact they had room for strollers, we were made to feel very welcome and were put with the other families at the back of the restaurant. Waiters bought something out for our son to munch on immediately, and he was happy to wander around visiting other nearby children. We never did get to Mickey Mantle’s, but my lesson was learned!
Penguins in the Tub
The Loews Regency has great contacts in the showbiz world (chances are you’ll bump into someone like Bette Midler in the elevator) and has relationships with morning talk shows and film studios. However, I didn’t realize just how colorful some of the guests could be …
Kathleen remembers the time that they housed six crocodiles in a room for a publicity tour, with instructions to keep them fed in the dark. She recalls, “Finding someone to do that job wasn’t easy,” but they made it happen. They’ve also kept penguins in the tub on ice and even hosted a tiger. It’s all in the line of duty (and perhaps can be easier than dealing with demanding humans).
Julian’s most challenging requests are last-minute marriage proposals: one prospective groom requested Michael Feinstein and a roomful of roses. The hotel obliged, but he says that these sorts of tasks are always the trickiest.
The concierges at Loews are experienced and know what they’re talking about. Kathleen came to the rescue on our final rainy afternoon when I was desperate to find somewhere that my toddler could run around and be a little boy. She suggested the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, a place I had never considered. He had a wonderful time and got to play and tire himself out (always a bonus for a mom on holiday). It is perhaps one of the best childrens’ activities centers I have ever seen.
But here’s a travel tip I picked up: Try to visit childrens’ museums on a sunny day, and you’ll probably have the whole place to yourself. It seemed as every New Yorker with a kid descended upon it on the rainy day we visited.
But it was a great suggestion (thanks, Kathleen!), and I returned home one happy mother.
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By Margot Black for PeterGreenberg.com. Visit Margot on the Web at www.blackinktravelwriting.com.