Luxury Hotels

And now, a SoHo luxury skyscraper hotel

Spring&Varick, with Frida Kahlo

After The Conrad New York, way down in Battery Park City, the gal moved – slightly – North, to SoHo, to Spring Street, to be exact. Here, at Trump SoHo New York, there were similarly stunning views over the Hudson, partly because the building soars to 46 floors high and also because the owners, CIM Group from Los Angeles, cleverly have all the airspace around too. From two-bedroomed suite 4303, therefore, there were sensational vistas across to New Jersey, though sadly neither sunset nor sunrise was spectacular during this stay. This is a luxury condo hotel, which means all 391 rooms and suites are owned, by people who get 28 days free a year although many of them prefer to take their share of sales.

Restaurant operator Type Social also does mega-events

I wanted to see what has happened since I was last here over two years ago. For a start the restaurant has changed. What was then a new-look Japanese is now an all-purpose American casual restaurant, simply called Spring & Varick, after the corner the hotel is on – Varick is the south extension of 7th Avenue. The operation is leased out, to events and all-purpose organizers Type Social, headed by Rema Jacobs and Shaun Rose (Type Social, which can do mega-gatherings, already handles Trump Soho’s bar, and such freestanding places as Gold Bar and Sweetwater Social). Here, Spring&Varick serves very enjoyable all-American food – and I mean ALL-Americas, because there is a big likeness of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo on one wall. At dinner, for instance, you can start with an arugula salad with Parmesan-truffle balsamic, and go on to a hanger steak, enlivened with pickled red onion chimichurri and a bordelaise sauce spiced up with Szechuan peppercorns (it is becoming very difficult to get any food in the great US of A that is not highlighted with something – Brussels sprouts here come with a Thai chili caramel).

GM and New York boss Suzie Mills..

But, bliss, it was possible to have a simple glass of Pinot, from Carpe Diem Anderson Valley 2013. And later, up in suite 4303, I was able to make a simple cup of coffee in an easy-use Nespresso machine. (I learned long ago that making your own coffee in the room is often not possible in unionized hotels as union powers-that-be prevent not only coffee makers being put into existing hotels but also having coffee stands in lobbies before breakfast starts, or at least until restaurant busboys arrive as only they are allowed to set up coffee stands.) It was bliss, too, to wake up, open my all-wall blinds, quickly activated by a wall-set switch, and check the view, even though the sunrise was missing.

.. with nominees at the Big Apple Stars awards

Another change since my last visit to this luxury hotel is that Suzie Mills, the Brit who oversees the two Trump hotels in New York, has moved her base here. We had such a good talk and she was enthusing about last night’s Big Apple Stars hotel awards, a New York hotels’ initiative that honours line staff, such a reward for them – she had been to the awards’ presentation with some of her 331-strong team, which of course is augmented by those working Spring&Varick. This is another hotel that is strong on weekend staycation business, but every day it attracts fashionistas as Spring Street, to the east of the hotel, has numerous art galleries and restaurants, plus such brands as Cos, at 129 Spring Street; Burberry at 131 and Chanel at 139. NOW SEE SUITE 4303

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Luxury Hotels

Downtown, the New York way

Up the stairs, to the lobby

The gal was in for continual surprises during her short stay in New York. One day the diary included a trip downtown, down so far it seemed like another country, or at least next to Brooklyn. The Conrad New York, soon to be restyled Conrad Downtown (to distinguish it from Hilton-managed The London New York, to become Conrad Midtown), is actually an art gallery that happens to have 463 bedrooms attached. It opened March 2012 as Embassy Suites but the owners, Goldman Sachs, quickly realised it needed a luxury brand. Look at some of its art. Above, says the gal, is Loopy Doopy (Blue and Purple), a mammoth installation over front desk.

Loopy Doopy under construction

This is by Sol LeWitt, 1928-2007, and instantly brings to mind his seven-colour Irregular Wavy Colour Bands piece above the lobby of Park Hyatt Zurich – total area 53 sq m. This one, with two colours, is 100 feet wide by 80 feet high and, as the image on the right shows, it was painstakingly formed from acrylic, in pieces, and then put together here, to dominate the 15-floor open atrium. In front of it hangs a veil, like a sugar-art dessert this is Veil, by Monica Ponce de Leon, and it is formed of 77 tons of aluminium and 16 miles of cable. Yes, this really is a tremendously striking hotel. Architects Kohn Pedersen Fox have made the entrance a carpet-free ‘red carpet’ experience. Take the elevator, or escalator, or 36 stone steps up to the main lobby, and the art scene.

John & Jackie 2000

Another of the many pieces that I especially like is John & Jackie 2000, a 24 by 19 inch lithograph by Elizabeth Peyton (she has also done Prince Harry and Prince William but the likenesses are barely recognisable). Clever Goldman Sachs putting in so much art, here, and clever somebody, too, for giving the complex’s dining scene to restaurateur Danny Meyer. He runs four restaurants down at ground level, outside operations with no signing for hotel guests. He also runs the agreeable all day eating place leading off the lobby, a venue that obviously attracts those who stay here. Interestingly, as well as financial and other business guests, and meetings and other groups during the week, weekends are increasingly popular as staycations, including for New Yorkers who hop on a train south to Rector, tempted by the hotel’s art, and Hudson River views, and bedrooms that are all suites, starting at 560 sq ft,

Marlene & Brian 2017

This is such a thriving part of town and it reminds us of Sydney, say hotel GM Marlene Poynder and her husband Brian Fearnett. They love the downtown for its space, light, water, and fantastic retail. I must say visiting this luxury hotel was an eye-opener and I cannot wait to return.

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Luxury Hotels

Sybaritic Single takes Hamburg by storm

The Westin Hamburg

Earlier this week, the Sybaritic Single’s travels took him to Hamburg and the year-old Westin Hamburg. It is part of the landmark Elbphilharmonie complex which in less than a year since opening has become Germany’s most popular attraction, ahead of Neuschwanstein Castle.

The redevelopment of an old warehouse, originally built in 1963, commenced in 2007 and was estimated at EUR 241 million. The plan was to erect a glass construction on top of the warehouse, which would resemble a hoisted sail, water wave or quartz crystal and would house a 2,100-seat philharmonic hall, a 244-key luxury hotel and 45 residences. After a number of delays and sharp criticism, it was eventually inaugurated a decade later and the final bill reached EUR 870 million.

The Westin Hamburg occupies floors six to 20 and is a brilliant example of how new-age hotels can integrate into the history and cultural life of a destination. Thanks to the uniquely curved panoramic windows, which must cost a fortune due to their über-complicated and long production process that commences in Germany, continues Italy and then each glass is finished in Germany again, every room offers a unique and ever-changing view. Colour is largely absent and instead comes from the light reflected by the Elbe which pours through the fritted windows and projects a range of hues on the white walls, most striking at sunrise and sunset. Everything in the hotel links the city’s maritime past and future with ease and elegance: from the animated steamer on a giant plasma screen in the lobby to the Queen Mary 2 mooring into its docks a few metres away.
The Sybaritic Single also appreciated the flawless service throughout. He discovered that The Bridge Bar on the eighth floor plaza level starts pouring Champagne from 8:00 AM and is also a much better alternative to the main restaurant with its prosecco. It also offers vastly superior views which one can enjoy all day long.
Staying at a luxury landmark has never been so easy. Karl Lagerfeld, a Hamburg native, agrees as he prepares to present the next Chanel Métiers d’Art collection there on December 6th, 2017 (last year was at The Ritz Paris).
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