Perhaps that’s why the vibe at the Hotel Roger Williams betrays none of the snootiness you might expect along Madison Avenue. Concierge service is at the ready, but ask those same front-deskers to recommend a nearby watering hole or bite to eat, and out comes a pamphlet that lists Roger’s Drinks, which include the Merc Bar, the Back Room and the Rusty Knot (what, no Bar at Eleven Madison?); Roger’s Favorites, which include ABC Kitchen, the Shake Shack and Spice Market; plus more ideas for three-dollar-sign ($$$) eats and places to explore.
Once it became a hotel, the building underwent a few facelifts, the most recent in 2005, with tasteful pops of primary colors in the rooms and the lobby areas. Today it has 193 rooms; the ones without street-facing windows cost a bit less.
The Breakfast Pantry on the mezzanine level offers a buffet that beats the kind you find in a typical chain hotel by a mile. The price is an eye-opening $17.95, but the lighting is hospitably soft, making it easy to scan the spread without squinting. There’s New York pedigree fare (Eli’s Bagels, Petrossian smoked salmon, Balthazar pastries), plus cheeses, eggs, thinly sliced cured meats, fruit, big ceramic bowls of muesli, daily newspapers and fresh hot beverages. The presentation is more along the lines of a generous B&B, minus the stenciling and the doilies.
I was booked into a long narrow room with two double beds. Street sounds and lights from the windows along Madison Avenue were muffled by shoji screens and what looked to be blackout shades, although they were out of reach. Blond wood furniture, vaguely Danish. The effect: modern, bright and clean. I was feeling good.
But the bathroom was pretty darned small. I was glad to be traveling solo, as there was no landing space for my cosmetics bag. Besides the usual small-bottle toiletries (Aveda, nice), there were a few packets of condoms (responsible, but ew) in the cardboard box where I thought the shower cap might be. They were available for a fee, just like the candy, chips and $6 bottles of water in a basket by the door.
Now, about those glitches: I plugged my laptop and cellphone charger into an outlet near the desk. Nothing happened. Then I noticed that the hanging lamp above each bed didn’t work. Sets of wall switches by each bed were inoperative.
I called downstairs; an attendant came within minutes. Whoever had vacuumed must have blown a circuit, he said cheerfully, fixing things in an instant. Turns out that the one set of switches was for the blackout shades, which came down with a satisfying plunk. I appreciate a hotel room that goes scary dark.
A potentially stickier problem arose when we discovered that my booking was for two nights, but I needed to stay for three. Could Roger find a spot for me?
Yes, with no charge for what would have been a $75 upgrade. I got the key to a corner-room king executive with views of Madison and 31st Street. The long entrance hallway had a floating shelf with votives. The bathroom had easily 21
2 times as much room as the first one. Even the shower had its own window.
Turning the corner, I was happy to see a king-size bed, a bigger desk and a flat-screen TV on the wall, a comfy chair for reading and, in addition to that pick-and-pay basket of goodies, more votive candles, a tabletop wine rack with a few half-bottles, glasses and a corkscrew.
And that’s how Roger closed out my midtown visit — with a little bump up in gracious living.