The Standard High Line in New York is a great big bastard of a building, elevated above the Meatpacking District on the banks of the Hudson River. It’s an 18-storey sore thumb and I loved it the second I saw it. It straddles the High Line, an old train route that’s being ingeniously converted into a park on stilts – it stands over it like it’s about to either beat it up or make love to it.
The building sucks you in through a bright-yellow revolving door and pumps you out into the middle of a space-age atrium. Soft music and mesmerising lighting draws you towards check-in, which takes place over marble plinths shimmering in the light of Apple Macs.
I had been unsure about what to expect from the Standard High Line. I was aware of its reputation as an über-cool hangout for white-toothed socialites in Los Angeles. I had also seen the logo, which was written upside down. Krazy! Added to that, the taxi driver on the way there had informed us that the hotel operates a voyeurism hour. Mrs Smith looked horrified; I asked him to elaborate. He said he was hazy about the details, but there was an hour every day when guests are required to open their rooms up to anybody who might care to watch. Quite why anyone would want to watch me unpacking my underpants and clipping my toenails is beyond me but, hey, it’s New York. Anything goes.
Within minutes of arriving, the building was so impressive that all my fears about the Standard High Line had been assuaged – all except the voyeurism hour. So, after checking in, I nervously looked the manager in the eye and said, ‘I understand you operate a voyeurism hour.’ He stared back at me, I mumbled ‘You know… where we open our room up for people to watch.’ You could see his brain working; he was looking for any way of being polite and accommodating without appearing to be too scared. He politely informed me that this was not something the hotel offered. I realised the taxi driver had been lying. Suddenly Mrs Smith and I were a pair of sex people. Probably in town on some sort of shopping trip for leather harnesses and barbed wire.
The giggling porter led us to our room, making constant gags about our blunder. It was mortifying, but any embarrassment I had was soon forgotten the second we stepped into the room. It may have been tiny, but directly in front of us were floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of the Hudson River and skyline that stretched the length of the space. We could even see the Statue of Liberty doing that wave you do when you spot somebody you haven’t seen for ages on the other side of the street.
It didn’t matter that the room was small. We kept using the word ‘pod’. It was a sort of cross between modern Japanese and 1950s European holiday villa. The selection of things in the room were wonderful. The toiletries were all designed like old-fashioned medical supplies and the minibar had trouble written all over it. The bathroom was open to the bedroom, and the full view of the city meant you could wave back to Lady Liberty while washing your pits and parts.
I’ve always felt men get a better deal with these open showers. We get a seductive, soapy view straight out of a 1970s porn movie. Women get to watch men feverishly scrubbing their crevices and picking pubic hairs out the soap.
The hotel is in a fantastic position. I love the Meatpacking District. It feels as though there’s a bit more space than further uptown. The Standard NY is within moseying distance of Pastis, everybody’s favourite French bistro. Likewise, you can literally crawl back from SoHo House, or roll back from the Spice Market after eating far too much. On the Saturday night I took Mrs Smith up the Gansevoort. Something I’d been intending to do for years. She didn’t enjoy it.
There is one anomaly in the area, a bar that sits opposite the hotel called Hogs And Heifers. It is the polar opposite of the Standard High Line – it's an institution apparently. It looks like something out of Mad Max. There’s a row of motorbikes with skulls on them parked outside and, occasionally, a door will fling open as somebody is thrown out, accompanied by screaming and smashing glass. It's a world away from the Standard's own exclusive club – a penthouse cocktail lounge in the skies. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow full-circle views over Manhattan and the Hudson. Cream banquettes, gilded fireplaces and sparkly chandeliers comprise one half of this VIP paradise, the other black-tiled room has a triangular hot tub at its centre. Ladies and gents, welcome to the Top of the Standard.
At some point during our night out, however, somebody must have spiked my drink with a drug that made me think it was acceptable for Mrs Smith and me to go into Hogs and Heifers. It’s the only way I can rationalise that decision. As we walked in, a woman with a megaphone screamed at Mrs Smith to get up on the bar and take her bra off. Behind her hundreds of bras were hung on the wall, suggesting this woman doesn’t take no for an answer. I thought it would be rude to just walk out then, and ordered two beers. It was as if I’d asked the barmaid to pour vinegar into her own eye. She hated me. I ran back to Mrs Smith just in time to watch the evening’s entertainment – a guy being beaten up and thrown out for asking for a piece of lime in his Corona (thank God I ordered Budweiser). We stayed for about 20 minutes, keeping as low a profile as possible. We finally left after a man with a beard down to his shins walked out the toilet cubicle and deliberately flicked liquid into my face. ‘Relax,’ said Mrs Smith. ‘It’s only water.’ I’d been in that cubicle earlier. There wasn’t a sink. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to leave that bar, look up and see the Standard High Line, and pine for martinis on its top floor. The thing is, it was like that every time we got back there from a day out. It felt like we were coming home.
On our final night, I finally plucked up the courage to strip off and draw back the curtains to give New York a proper eyeful. As I danced there naked, occasionally catching my own grinning reflection, I felt confident that nobody would be looking at me; they’d all be ogling the gorgeous hotel behind.
Anonymously reviewed by Oli Beale (Ad man and complaint-letter creative)
Whenever you book a stay at a Mr & Mrs Smith, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what real-life guests had to say in The Standard High Line's guestbook below.
There's a real buzz, and it's in a great part of town. It has a trendy feel and good places to eat near by.
You probably won't get into the club at the top of the hotel – but you can have a drink on the terrace in the late afternoon so be happy with that.
Phil, BlackSmith stayed on 30 Oct 2013
This hotel was fantastic; having stayed at several Mr & Mrs Smith hotels, I'd say this is the best hotel I've stayed at in a long time (possibly ever). Aside from the amazing views of the Hudson, Downtown (Wall Street) and Midtown (the Empire State Building) this hotel was also sumptuous on the inside with excellent service, as well as the most comfortable bed I've slept in at a hotel. A great extra whilst staying at the hotel allows you access to the two night clubs on the top two floors of the hotel (if this is your kind of thing); having had those clubs recommended to me by friends who live/lived in NYC, it was convenient to have these in the same building and automatically be added to the guest list. All in all, a great stay – my wife is demanding we stay there when next in NYC.
Tom, BlackSmith stayed on 26 Oct 2013
There's an amazing view – we were on the 14th floor facing the Hudson and downtown. The windows are floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall. You are advised not to leave the curtains open but we did just to see the city lit up at night and to watch the dawn rise. The High Line must surely be one of the most beautifully designed, conceived and loved follies in world. It is stunning and worth the visit alone. The location of the hotel, straddling the High Line and in the middle of the Meatpacking District, was excellent. It is beautiful with great shopping and great food. Chelsea Market is great for foodies and well worth visiting early. We read some reviews which said that the rooms were noisy because of the club on the roof and it did make us think twice about booking but we found our room very peaceful.
The lifts: the roof top club is very popular and very busy (and we were there when it was a very warm week) so the lifts took ages to come and were often stuffed with cocktail-wielding clubbers. The roof: there should be a note somewhere in the hotel description that the rooftop is a club at all times and therefore strictly over 21s only. We booked the hotel because we wanted to be able to spend time on the roof during the day but one of our party was only 19. It was a big disappointment. As Londoners, it is easy to forget how strict the club/bar entry restrictions are. The air-con is very noisy.
Sally, BlackSmith stayed on 24 Jun 2013
Perfect location in the Meatpacking District – especially during Fashion Week. Breakfast at the terrace restaurant. Very kind and helpful staff. Cool and original elevators.
The air conditioning is so strong in the corridor that you freeze on the way to your room. Impossible to get in to Le Bain on the rooftop – even for hotel guests – too many private parties and events.
JUAN, BlackSmith stayed on 3 Sep 2012
The Standard is an odd hotel. There's no lobby as such. There's a small lounge that's tucked away to the left but it's strangely lacking any atmosphere. The rooms are tiny. Even the suites are small. If it wasn't for the floor-to-ceiling windows (not a hotel for vertigo sufffers or those enjoying their privacy) then it would feel like a cell. The wetrooms only have net curtains so unless you enjoying showing everyone what you got you'll have to shower in the dark. As for the Boom Boom Room and Le Bains the 2 bars/clubs on the 18th floor, well they're probably not worth the hassle. At the weekend as a guest you can't use them – ridiculous that a guest can't use the hotel bar unless you're on the guest list – and even then it's a problem to arrange it. In fact the MPD becomes a bit rough at the weekends as it's the first stop for the bridge and tunnel crowd and New Yorkers tend to stay away. Overall I actually do like the hotel but it does feel more like a serviced apartment block – it's truly one of the ugliest bit of architecture in NYC but if you want to stay in the MPD then it's not a bad choice as everything you want is all in walking distance.
JM, BlackSmith stayed on 25 Feb 2012