The Greenwich Hotel
I’m excited. Having been in New York on business with my wife, my one-year-old son and my wife’s mum excitement isn’t necessarily the obvious sentiment attached to a break which involves toddlers, mother-in-laws and back-to-back meetings – even if it is at a romantic boutique hotel. After a hard week of work, our payback is for Granny Smith to look after baby Tom while we stay at Robert de Niro’s new hotel for two nights. We are pressing pause on parenthood and once again becoming a real Mr & Mrs Smith. Setting off with just one piece of luggage between us it really does feel like a proper ‘dirty weekend’ or ‘quickie getaway’ as I learn the Americans call it – minus the saucy connotations.
Don’t misunderstand me, I love spending time with my son, but as anyone that has children knows, your time isn’t your own after the little darlings arrive so getting the promise of more than six hours sleep in my favourite city is a real treat. Plus we have carte blanche for a whole weekend of whatever shenanigans we choose based in Manhattan’s south-western swathe, TriBeCa. We can hit Century 21 department store for designer label bargains without having to negotiate the crowds with a cumbersome stroller. We might seek out a SoHo speakeasy and stay out well past our usual bedtime. Or maybe we’ll just stay in bed.
We pull up in our yellow taxi at the understated entrance of this brick mid-rise to be met by a friendly porter who opens the door and wishes us a good afternoon; his smile neatly dovetails into ushering us to a fine-looking receptionist. We are of course anonymous – and anyway, currently ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’ means Angelina and Brad stateside – and although my beautiful wife does have a touch of the Jolies about her, I’m certainly no Pitt.
We’re shown to our room, and our escort gives a quick tour of the ground floor. He points out recovered beams salvaged from a Civil War-era factory; silk rugs sourced from Tibet; each and every brick has been handmade; and the impressive terracotta and marble flooring is 14th-century Italian palazzo inspired. As for that hotel buzzword du jour – it’s super eco thanks to so many hand-sourced recycled furnishings. The overall style is hard to define – rustic Italian villa meets Spanish finca with a whiff of Morocco given the spectacular intricate tiling in the bathrooms.
We heave open heavy wooden door to our bedroom and it’s surprisingly understated; Mrs Smith lunges for an inspection of the bathroom as is her wont. I hear a yelp of delight as she declares there’s a deep, deep tub for two, as well as a choice of rainfall showers. Noted are the requisite big white fluffy towels and robes and sweet-smelling Red Flower products, plus there’s playable-with soft lighting that makes you look good any time day or night (still not quite passing as Brad though).
Our bedroom is a little plainer than I expected but the help-yourself minibar is a nice touch. OK, so they charge for alcohol, but with a huge basket of retro candy and quirky snacks, the sugar high might be enough. There are electric curtains (I know, stop playing with them…), stripped reclaimed lime-wash-look floorboards and an extremely comfortable and particularly large bed with an enormous TV at the end means we barely needed to move. I do think that a bit of art on the walls would liven it up but as we are there during the ‘soft’ opening – perhaps Mr De Niro has yet to pop out and buy the bedroom art in between being the world’s biggest movie star. Interestingly, his father was a painter and some of his work adorns the communal areas but sadly there isn’t enough for all 88 bedrooms.
Most people get excited about going up, up, up in hotels but here it’s the basement that provides the biggest thrill. A 250-year-old pine and bamboo farmhouse was transported from Kyoto and reconstructed by 13 Japanese specialist craftsmen – this is Greenwich Hotel’s hidden treasure and a real treat in an urban hotel. On our visit, the Shibuispa cellar treatment rooms aren’t open yet but the pool was one of the most stunning that I’ve ever seen. The spa director from Georges V in Paris will oversee the individually tailored array of treatments available only to the hotel’s guests. As for the rest of the health and fitness facilities, if you’ve always hankered after perfect buffness as sported by de Niro in ‘Cape Fear’ and ‘Raging Bull’, his personal trainer has dropped his exclusivity and he’s now available through the gym. (Watch out Brad, I could catch you up yet.)
With a restaurant sister to the one that is legendary in LA, deciding where to have dinner that night is a no-brainer. Locanda Verde serves simple Italian fare, but of course with an American accent and in comfortable rustic-inspired surroundings. The atmosphere is buzzing and it’s a great place for our first-night date. A glass of prosecco at the long, sweeping bar is followed by three courses rather than the customary Italian four. If I were to be pressed for a criticism, I never thought I’d complain about service being too speedy but the food did appear and disappear rather quickly; as we don’t want the night to end too soon, we take coffee and digestives from the comfort of a sofa in the vaulted lobby lounge.
There was talk about going out somewhere – perhaps a new trendy bar where you have to call in from a hotdog stand on the corner, or that bonkers transsexual cabaret nightclub that is hip with the in-the-know crowd – but as I spy Mrs Smith sneak in a yawn, with me quickly following, I know the only place we’re going is our big comfortable bed. After all, we’ve never been so excited in the city that never sleeps to get some shut-eye in such an surprisingly peaceful neighbourhood. And there’s always tomorrow night…