From hard hats to sunhats but NO-one is stupid enough to wear a sun hat in Manhattan (that would be as gauche as wearing dungarees with straw hanging from the corner of your mouth). Noo Yawk is Manhattan-luxury, not the same as Milan, or Paris, or Sydney, but iconic world-class luxury. As the gal buzzed quickly up Fifth Avenue to do errands it immediately felt like home with energy turned up to full volume. It had started on arrival at the genuinely friendly and totally memorable Langham hotel, where somehow the doormen and bellmen feel like a welcome party, at all times.
I felt as if I were coming into an art gallery surrounded by friends. Among the art in the lobby of this hotel are several of the hotel’s 25 original artworks by Alex Katz, the 90-year old New York known for developing a fascinating dialogue between realism and abstract, pop art and contemporary (is it true these two are worth a million dollars between them? Check his prices online). Here, the somewhat intimate lobby space seems full, of Katz’ interpretations of the banking types who do actually work around here – plus, of course, the charming people who run this 214-room hotel. A Tibetan showed me up to the top, 27th, floor, carefully identifying, once we had arrived at 2704, all the rooftops and pinnacles around.
This had once been an office building – what a waste, with such views around. It then became a Setai, masterminded by Günther Richter, but that did not last long. In 2013, the hotel, with interiors by Meyer Davis, was bought by Great Eagle, who put in the art and took over management, via its own Langham brand. GM Richard Bussière is a long-time Langham man whom I first met shortly after Langham converted what had been Le Méridien Boston. He is always coming up with ideas, making sure I had a welcome that made me feel totally in the pink. He has the quality products to make his ideas happen. Everything is the best, say Astor chocolates, and elegant L’Objet china, and, a word I normally never use but it works here, plush towels. Would I like any pressing done? It will be back in an hour. It was, of course, on a hanger and plastic-wrapped.
He also has the advantage of a first class restaurant partnership, with Wisconsin-born Michael White, whose Altamarea Group now has nine restaurants, including the Michelin-starred Ai Fiori here. It is second floor (challenge one, although you can reach here from Fifth Avenue via 30 curved marble steps, up from the lobby), a bar with no windows (challenge two). We arrived at 7.30 p.m. and we only just managed to get a table in the bar – the adjacent restaurant was booked solid. The bar experience was 10/10, from big smile welcome, immediately brought water without having to ask and so on. My glass of Brusco dei Barbi Fattoria Barbi 2015 came as big empty glass, bottle for presentation, small tasting poured, then my purchase amount poured, in front of me, into a glass measure, and elegantly then poured in two stages. My pan-seared sea scallops with artichoke, olives and zucchini were memorable. And 12 hours later, after a night so good I cannot remember it, and yet another workout in the admirable Technogym, there I was, back again in Ai Fiori, this time for an outstanding cup of Colombian coffee The partnership between White and Langham is so seamless that I momentarily forgot they are not the same. AND NOW SEE A VIDEO OF SUITE 2704