Andrew Harper, famed hotel inspector, reviews New York hotels and restaurants

By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, special contributor


Andrew Harper is the famously anonymous hotel inspector who sells his independent reviews in a newsletter called The Hideaway Report. 

As Travel + Leisure magazine explains, "In his 30 years of traveling incognito with the mission of reporting the world’s finest hotels, resorts and restaurants in his members-only newsletter Hideaway Report, no one has ever guessed his identity. (...) 
The first issue of his advertisement-free Hideaway Report appeared in 1979 and grew by word of mouth. Today, tens of thousands of members pay $195 annually for a basic membership or $400 annually plus a $500 initiation fee to be part of the Premier Class, which offers upgrades and other perks to travelers."

He recently launched an edition on New York, which we were very eager to get our hands on.

The much-respected Harper travels incognito and always pays his own way, so that his opinions can always be counted on as unbiased.

Harper focussed the New York newsletter on the new and noteworthy hotels that everyone's been talking about: The Crosby Hotel, The Plaza and The Pierre, along with a few recently opened restaurants.  "I'm glad to report, although battered by the financial meltdown, the city has lost none of its incomparable gift for self-reinvention," Mr. Harper remarked.

He was concerned with making his voice heard amid all the noise: New York hotel reviews are on a million free websites, for example.  "So much has been written about the city and so many opinions are widely available," Mr. Harper said, "It forced us to work even harder to try and present some unique viewpoints."

I read the newsletter in full and, to sum it up, Harper loved the Plaza and the Crosby, loved Marea and Corton, yet disliked The Pierre, pictured above, of which he wrote:

The best feature of our moderately sized room was its 
side view of Central Park. Decorated with anodyne good 
taste, it provided a large desk fitted with the panoply of 
electronic gadgetry required by today's business traveler. 
(We formed the distinct impression that The Pierre is 
primarily targeting the business rather than the leisure 
market.) We found it offensively cheeseparing to be 
charged an extra $12.95 a night for Internet access, and 
from the painfully audible tantrums of a man in the 
adjacent room, we gathered that the hotel's fax machines 
don't always work flawlessly. It beggars belief that so much 
money could have been spent on renovation without 
ensuring better soundproofing. 
Overall, we found the service to be poorly drilled and 
off the mark. We requested a copy of The New York Times 
and received a Wall Street Journal instead. And a rather 
unappetizing Japanese breakfast (soup, grilled salmon and 
rice) was delivered to our room instead of the continental 
breakfast we had ordered. It took two more phone calls 
to obtain milk and sugar, and the hotel had no cream 
cheese for our toasted bagels. In New York! 
Since the Manhattan branch of London's Le Caprice 
restaurant had yet to open, we went out to dinner. On our 
return, we were surprised by the lively Mexican wedding- 
party music that the chambermaid had selected for our 
evening listening during the turndown service. The Pierre 
has a fitness center but no spa, which again ranks it behind 
other New York hotels in the same category (especially 
the Four Seasons and the Mandarin Oriental). Checking 
out the following day, we mentioned the soundproofing 
problem to the woman at the front desk, whose only 
response was, “New York is a noisy city.” 
If The Pierre lacks important amenities and a  
well-trained staff, its most serious shortcoming is an  
almost total absence of charm.

Ouch! :)

To buy an annual Andrew Harper membership, click here.