World’s Great Hotels: The Pierre


The first in a series on iconic hotels around the world, we look at one of Manhattan’s finest.


Opened in 1930 with such fanfare that its new owners – Wall Street investors and Charles Pierre Casalasco of Corsica – managed to entice acclaimed chef and “father of French cuisine” Auguste Escoffier to design The Pierre’s opening menu. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say it was a globally notable event.


While much has changed over the years, The Pierre, today operated by Taj Hotels, is known as much for its warm hospitality and discreet service as for its location, location, location … right on Central Park at Fifth Avenue.


Luxury hotels in Manhattan are aplenty but this is the only one that, since 2015, has held its honour as a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel and AAA Five Diamond property on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The hotel’s 189 rooms; 49 of which are suites that offer classic design with bespoke pieces, loads of natural light and high ceilings that overlook Central Park or the city. When we visited in November, the leaves in the park had turned all shades of yellow and rust. An exquisite sight.


As a hotel guest, you might well share the elevator with its white-gloved operators and some of the hotel’s permanent residents. Elizabeth Taylor, a former resident and others, are immortalised in the murals of renowned American artist Edward Melcarth that decorate the walls of The Rotunda. Today’s owners are as famous but the hotel’s discretion keeps their identities private.


While you have access to the hotel’s luxury Jaguar house car and one of the city’s best known Les Clefs d’Or Concierge teams who will be able to get you tickets or restaurant reservations only a handful of others can, you may not necessarily want to leave the premises.


Although the heart of the theatre district – Broadway and 42nd Street – is close by, it is Broadway at The Pierre, the hotel’s acclaimed monthly cabaret series at the hotel’s Two E lounge that is the hot ticket. While we were there, cast members from acclaimed musical Hamilton were performing to a sold-out crowd.

In 2017, Two E’s Afternoon Tea was rated the best in New York by Town & Country magazine and the third best in New York City by Yelp. Two E also offers an Indian inspired Tiffin & Tea service. Perrine restaurant, helmed by Executive Chef Ashfer Biju, serves seasonally-inspired New American fare, but also features daily specials of vintage Pierre classics such as oysters on the half shell and corned beef tater tops.


If you are celebrating, the Grand Ballroom at The Pierre provides the largest space without supporting columns of the city’s five-star hotels. As you’d expect, rooms and suites are marvelously appointed with marble bathrooms and exclusive Etro amenities. Al Pacino’s tango scene in “Scent of A Woman” and, more recently, Anne Hathaway getting ready for the MET Gala in Ocean’s 8 and many others were filmed there.




THE PIERRE … by the millions


$15 million raised by the Charles Pierre Casalasco and his Wall street investors in 1928 to build the hotel – an astounding amount for the time.


$2.5 million is what oil tycoon J. Paul Getty paid for the hotel in 1938 after it had gone bankrupt during the Depression.


$10 million in precious gems and cash was stolen from guests on 2 January 1972 when five men wearing tuxedos entered the lobby, handcuffed the guests and staff, and raided the hotel’s safe deposit boxes.


$12 million paid in 1990 by Australian media heiress Lady Mary Fairfax for the three-floor, 1 270m2 penthouse. It had been redecorated to include an 18-foot high limestone fireplace and mantle originally from a French chateau.

$21.5 million paid in 1996 by investment banker Martin Zweig who purchased it Lady Fairfax. It was a record price for a New York hotel residence.


$66 million is what it was sold for in 2017. It was originally listed for an eye-watering $125 million in 2013 but attracted no buyers.




WORDS Brian Berkman @BrianBerkmanZA



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