The fireplace at the Refinery Rooftop in the Refinery hotel in New York, Feb. 4, 2016. Finding a bar with a good fireplace and cozy atmosphere can be a great way to while away a cold winter evening in New York.
Photo: TONY CENICOLA
Photo: TONY CENICOLA

In hotel bars, fireplaces that are the real thing: inviting

NEW YORK — When the February air is biting and Manhattan’s avenues seem never-ending, few pleasures compare with ducking into a hotel bar and sinking into a club chair beside a fire.

Not all hearths are equally inviting, of course. There are sleek fireplaces that, like people, seem to warn, “Look, but keep your distance.” There are fireplaces that beckon yet can be enjoyed only by guests and those who slide past doormen at hotels like the Jane and the Bowery. There are playful fireplaces too, such as the virtual blaze at Aloft Harlem. But unforgiving winter days call for the real thing: crackling fireplaces that inspire slow sipping and invite you to come closer.

Gramercy Park Hotel

The Rose Bar

Dark room? Check. Flickering candles? Check. Sumptuous curtains? Check. In some ways, the Gramercy is a romantic’s dream, with its blush walls and rouge furniture (billiards table included), its black-and-white checkered floor and the kind of pervasive shadows that encourage imaginations to run wild. Yet although you may be sitting on a posh couch watching orange embers float up the limestone fireplace, incongruities are all around you. There’s the rock music, the rotating modern art gallery on the walls, and, on this particular night, at least one disinterested waitress. All of this seems designed to broadcast that the Rose Bar is where it’s at.

Show up when it opens at 5 p.m. and you may be able to get a table. By 6 o’clock the fire had died down (although there is another fireplace in the lobby where you can sit closer), and the place had filled up. About 20 minutes later, the fireplace was relit, and I leaned back against the couch to finish off a salmon and dill plate ($18) and a Pancho Villa cocktail (Illegal Mezcal, Don Julio, spicy sangria, chile pepper and lime; $19) that appears deceivingly sweet (it’s pink) but, like the Rose Bar, has a welcome kick. Perfect for: sensualists; aspiring VIPs.

2 Lexington Ave.; Gramercyparkhotel.com.

The Ludlow

The Lobby Lounge & Garden

With its hardwood floors and white brick walls, light-filled atrium and dreamy tracks from Michel Colombier and Serge Gainsbourg, the Ludlow is one of the most cheerful yet serene places to while away the hours by a fire. Perhaps the most delightful time to stop by this hotel in the heart of the Lower East Side is on a weekday in the late afternoon, when you can get a spot on one of the velvety couches beside the fireplace, or a club chair on a geometric print rug. I ended up with a club soda (about $5) and the conviction, after staring into the hearth for a half-hour, that fireplaces are perhaps even more soothing during the day than after the sun goes down. Perfect for: catch-ups with friends; freelancers itching to upgrade from coffee shops.

180 Ludlow, between East Houston and Stanton streets; Ludlowhotel.com.

Royalton New York

Forty Four

There are more than 50 wood-burning fireplaces in the guest rooms at the Royalton in midtown, and guests for whom a run-of-the-mill fire just won’t do can customize theirs with scented sachets such as Oak and Apple. For the rest of us, double doors automatically  and dramatically swing open into the lobby, revealing a long strip of fire behind glass, one of the rare spots of light in the lounge area of bar Forty Four. This particular fireplace is slick, like something Al Pacino might have in his Manhattan office in “The Devil’s Advocate.” And only a few couches are right next to it though I was able to get one, having arrived a little after 10 p.m. just as the kitchen closed. That said, with a Margarita Manzana (Avion reposado, apple cider, lemon, agave, habanero bitters; $19) in hand, the lobby’s blackness and sunken seating area create a feeling of coziness, along with music turned down enough so that one can actually have a conversation. Perfect for: assignations.

44 W. 44th St.; Morganshotelgroup.com.

The Marlton Hotel

Espresso Bar

For me, few places hold a candle to the Marlton’s lobby on a chilly afternoon. That’s not only because there’s plenty of comfortable seating around the glowing fire. It’s because the space is filled with Greenwich Village locals, leisurely tapping away on MacBooks. It’s because the place is hushed yet not dead; dim yet not gloomy. And because the food is not only affordable, but also downright tasty. A roasted eggplant sandwich with mozzarella, preserved tomato and arugula on warm bread with shoestring fries ($12) was a spicy surprise, hitting the spot on a windy day. It’s come as you are and stay as long as you want, creating a place where the fire is not the only thing that makes you feel warm. Perfect for: locals; creative business travelers.

5 W. Eighth St.; Marltonhotel.com.

Refinery Hotel

Refinery Rooftop

An artful arrangement of hat-making tools in the lobby of this garment district boutique hotel, which opened in 2013 in a century-old building, is a nod to its former life as a millinery factory. On a Monday night, jazz wafted from the intimate, Prohibition-era-style lobby lounge, but up in the more than 3,500-square-foot indoor-outdoor rooftop lounge, 1980s hits ruled, and visitors were treated to close-ups of the Empire State Building.

In a corner, a handful of tables and couches are clustered around a fireplace. Alas, it’s not especially warm. But sitting below strings of cafe lights amid exposed brick walls, tucking into terrific comfort food — margherita flatbread ($14), butcher’s meatball sliders with herbed ricotta ($12), tater tot nachos with short rib, tomato, horseradish and Cheddar ($21) — one feels cozy all the same. The rooftop was busy around 9:30 p.m. although a table for two near the hearth was easily procured without a reservation (but do make one if you can). Perfect for: date night; girlfriend get-togethers.

63 W. 38th St.; Refineryhotelnewyork.com.

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