Award-winning Hotelier Marlene Poynder has had a journey that many would aspire to have. She’s gone from Western Australia to New York City, working with some of the best brands in the business along the way and now she’s at the helm of Rosewood’s legendary Carlyle hotel that’s one of the finest properties ever built. She caught up in New York with James Wilkinson to talk about her journey and much more.
Over the past 30 years, Marlene Poynder has been one of the world’s most acclaimed Hoteliers.
She’s been on a journey that has taken her from Australia to New Zealand, Asia and the United States, including leading the teams at Park Hyatt Sydney, Hilton Queenstown, the Waldorf Astoria Beijing, Conrad New York Downtown and now at one of the world’s finest properties, The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel, in New York City.
Poynder has been a leader for many and an inspiration for many more, showing how far a career can take you from a quiet suburb in Perth to the bright lights of New York City.
Marlene, congrats on your recent appointment as Managing Director of The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel, in New York City. This is a very exciting time for you in your phenomenal career isn’t it?
Yes, it is very exciting, and I’m honoured to be managing this renowned property.
Managing a property as legendary as The Carlyle carries a certain sense of responsibility, given the property has an incredible history.
Absolutely – The Carlyle has such a wonderful, storied history. We are currently celebrating 92 years which is quite a milestone. I am thrilled to have joined the hotel earlier this year and we are already hard at work to maintain The Carlyle’s incredible legacy while also introducing it to a new generation.
What makes The Carlyle so unique in your opinion, from the suites and bars to the fantastic location?
The Carlyle is an extremely special hotel, but it is so much more than a hotel. It is chic and elegant but also eclectic and whimsical at the same time. From your arrival in the intimate Art Deco lobby, you immediately know you are in New York. It’s old-world glamour but never stuffy and has a wonderful nostalgic feeling.
The hotel has just emerged from a three-year long renovation and the beautiful new guest rooms and suites have been very well-received and for the first time in decades, we debuted a new restaurant called Dowling’s at The Carlyle.
It’s been one of the toughest reservations to get in town – the menu features new interpretations of timeless New York favourites and throwback dishes such as Steak Diane, which is flambéed tableside.
Of course, Bemelmans Bar and Café Carlyle are two iconic locations that should not be missed. And the hotel’s Upper East Side location, just one-block from Central Park, offers the perfect New York experience. And the incredible tenured staff are full of personality and character. They truly feel like “family” to our guests.
As you know, I’m a big fan of Bemelmans Bar and Café Carlyle, two New York institutions. What makes these venues so special to you?
Bemelmans Bar and Café Carlyle are truly such beloved institutions here in the city. At Bemelmans, guests can enjoy our famous cocktails and live music while admiring the whimsical murals by famed author and artist Ludwig Bemelmans.
It’s been amazing to see the resurgence that Bemelmans Bar is currently experiencing since reopening after the pandemic… we have had lines to get in the bar for the first time ever in our 75-year history.
It’s become quite the favourite bar with the Instagram younger crowd. And Café Carlyle has been open since 1955 and offers a classic cabaret experience highlighted by murals that were painted by Oscar-winning French Artist, Marcel Vertes.
You’ve had some amazing performances of late in Café Carlyle, including by fellow Australian expatriate Kylie Minogue. Tell us about that.
Yes – Café Carlyle just reopened this past (northern) spring with Isaac Mizrahi kicking the season off for us. We’ve had many great performers this year including the legendary David Foster & Katharine McPhee and author Candace Bushnell.
Kylie Minogue performed a special event in the Café to celebrate the launch of her rose wine – it was so incredible to see her perform on such an intimate stage.
You’ve managed some amazing hotels across the world in your career. How does this role compare in that mix?
This role is the cherry on top of the icing on the cake for me. It’s The Carlyle, New York! I am incredibly honoured to be a part of this incredible hotel and its’ continuing journey, leading into her first century.
The location is brilliant. What are some of your favourite things to do in the Upper East Side?
I walk in Central Park every day with my dog, Chief – and there are so many wonderful museums and restaurants on the Upper East Side. One of my favourite Japanese restaurants in Manhattan is directly across the street from the hotel, Kappo Masa on Madison.
There is something for everyone up here from a traditional diner experience to fine dining cuisine. Our concierges are a wonderful source of information.
It is just a short cab ride across the park or leisurely stroll to great cafés and restaurants on the upper West Side. Even Bourke Street Bakery (from Sydney) has a location just a walk across the park.
From the MET to the Guggenheim, we have some of the world’s most renowned museums within walking distance.
The roof top terrace bar at the MET is a wonderful way to experience fabulous views of Central Park and the city skyline whilst enjoying a casual cocktail or beer.