Firmdale Hotels' kitsch-but-classy, classic-meets-contemporary English elegance has landed in Manhattan. As you'd expect from Firmdale, as well as Kit Kemp’s special blend of inspired fabrics, textured wallcoverings and colourful artworks, Crosby Street Hotel also has a fabulous bar-restaurant. The socialising spills out of this chic space onto a patio on Lafayette Street and into a foliage-filled, residents-only courtyard. But the fun doesn't stop there: downstairs in the basement, there’s even a state-of-the-art cinema, decked out with zesty orange Poltrona Frau armchairs, that hosts regular film screenings and events.
Noon, but later may be possible. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £480.12 ($602), including tax at 14.75 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional room tax of $3.50 per room per night on check-out.
Rates exclude breakfast, $20 each.
Downstairs in the basement, there’s a screening room available to hire whenever you fancy a private showing.
At the hotel
Screening room, gym, garden, DVD, CD and book library, free WiFi throughout, valet parking. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD/CD player, iPod dock, minibar, free bottled water, Kit Kemp's range of Rik Rak bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Each room is a one of a kind, individually designed with Kit Kemp’s signature style of tactile contemporary colours. We’re loathe to push one room over another, and staff like to make sure that repeat guests get to stay in a different room each time – not a policy we’d quibble with. However, the Junior Suites on the 10th and 11th floors have a winning combination of height and huge warehouse windows, giving them some of the best views in southern Manhattan.
Perhaps ‘forget’ to pack your washbag – the bespoke Le Jardin 10012 bathroom products by London perfumer Miller Harris make fabulous, fragrant souvenirs.
Love movies? Sign up for the Sunday night film club in the 99-seat screening room.
In the courtyard in summer, by the courtyard in winter.
Pattern-free YSL or Calvin Klein – no point competing with the decor.
Oak-floored, pewter-countered and opening onto a lovely courtyard garden, the Crosby Bar is the hotel’s sociable heart, serving Modern American dishes such as cheddar mac and cheese, smoked salmon on sourdough and the Crosby burger made with three cuts of beef. In homage to the hotel’s British roots, the afternoon tea is excellent.
The jaunty, jazzy huge and high-ceilinged space is a something-for-everyone spot, whether you’re after a champagne breakfast, a late-afternoon beer or an early-hours martini. We especially love the Bakelite phone/lamp hybrid artwork.
There’re a 24-hour menu of brasserie-style bites.
The Crosby Bar is open from dawn to dusk and then some, with food served from 7am to 11pm.
Of New York’s three airports, domestic hub La Guardia is the closest, 10 miles from Crosby Street, but most international services touch down at JFK, a $45 cab ride away in southern Queens.
Long-distance Amtrak trains run in and out of Penn Station, 30 blocks north of Crosby Street. Grand Central takes care of rail travel in New York State. Prince Street, on the R and W lines, is the closest Metro station.
The cheap, easy travel combo of the subway and cabs make car hire unnecessary, but if you are bringing wheels, the hotel has plenty of parking space.
Worth getting out of bed for
See what's on at the hotel's cinema; relax with a couple fruit-laden, vodka-splashed Seasonal Goose Smash in the rooftop garden; or pump it up in the gym. But, you're in New York, so don't stay indoors too long. The hotel offers art walks led by painter Lyora Pissaro for a cultured spin around SoHo, and in the neighbourhood there's the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art and the not-for-profit Drawing Center on Wooster Street – plus, curiosity shop De Vera, where it's easy to lose some time. Shopping in SoHo could fill up your entire holiday, with Bloomingdale's and the MoMa Design Store close by and a wide array of hip boutiques. Admire Totokaelo concept store's immaculate taste, buy high-spec adventure wear at Snow Peak, seductive sunglasses at Mykita and colourful sneakers at Superga.
Boutique spa Haven on Mercer Street will take care of all your beauty needs – then put on the finishing touches at elegant nail studio Paintbox. If you prefer your self-care a little more intense, book in for a private boxing class at Gotham G-Box – trainer Rob Piela is an experienced ring-master.
You can’t say you’ve ‘done’ SoHo without having supped on champers and a three-tiered seafood platter at Balthazar on Spring Street. La Esquina is a favourite of grungy-glam New Yorkers in the know; they come here for perfectly executed Mexican food in a restored 1950s diner car. The always-packed Raoul’s is a small, authentic French brasserie. Ask for one of the cosy lamp-lit banquettes for romantic dining à deux and a just a little extra space, or head into the beautiful enclosed garden at the back. Lure Fishbar on Mercer Street has become a SoHo staple, serving beautifully presented seafood and award-winning sushi. The 98-seat,Osteria Morini,on Lafayette Street, has a homey atmosphere and luscious pasta concoctions layered with flavour such as the truffled mascarpone ravioli, drizzled with melted butter and studded with bits of prosciutto. Owner and chef Michael White found his inspiration for the menu in the cuisine of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. Grab a banquette seat in SoHo's sexy Boqueria SoHo, sister restaurant to Boqueria in Flatiron. The classic tapas menu is expertly paired with spicy reds, crisp whites and always-smooth sangria. Savour burgers stacked with truffles and topped with giant onion rings, charcuterie and tuna tartar paired with excellent wines at Burger & Barrel. Or, do dinner at Balaboosta, which is Yiddish for 'the perfect housewife', at 214 Mulberry Street in nearby Nolita. Try the ceviche which changes daily or the grilled lamb chops topped with Persian lime sauce.
Café Gitane at 242 Mott Street offers great French-Moroccan food in a simple café space; its outdoor tables are ideal for people-watching. Almost like a rickety old dining cart, Café Habana at 17 Prince Street serves excellent Latin American and Mexican cuisine – the corn on the cob is out of this world. It makes one hell of a spicy Bloody Mary.
Start on a high at chic Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, a sultry navy-hued hang out from the Experimental Cocktail Club crew. Then, lower the tone in the best possible way at Spring Lounge, a locally loved dive with shark paraphernalia on the walls, cheap beers and characterful regulars. Visit on Wednesdays for the free hotdogs (from 5pm–7pm), and on Sundays for free bagels with fixings (from noon, while they last).
That Crosby Street Hotel – it has such a big head. Huge in fact. It’s sitting right there in the lobby, an enormous white metal frame of a skull, by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.
Yes, it’s an appalling joke I know, one I’m ashamed to say I serve up several times while staying at the stylish city slicker, but it’s worthy of attention, this giant cranium. Like the hotel that it’s housed in, Plensa’s head is far from discreet; sitting assuredly in a reception area filled with art so playful and so gorgeously arranged that when Mr Smith and I check in we felt compelled to take photos. And then ask whether we can purchase a mini-head to take home. (We cannot.)
Like any of the delightful, riotous Firmdale Hotel group properties lovingly created by interior designer Kit Kemp and her hotelier husband Tim, the Crosby is not short on art, whimsy, stripes, comfort or motifs. Dogs are the keynotes of choice in this, their first American hotel (the hotel logo features a pooch, there are Justine Smith’s papier-mâché hounds on the ground floor, and snapshots of smoosh-faced Soho micro-dogs adorning the lifts as taken by daughter, Willow Kemp).
Our room (bordering on ‘girly’ says Mr Smith) is luxurious, thoughtfully designed, and instantly homey. And it is big. Large-enough-to-swing-a-dog big – and not just a handbag hound. Beautiful loft-style floor-to-roof windows comprise one side of bedrooms, offering us a view east over the gloriously grotty Lower East Side and a rare vista of the Manhattan skyline. It is the perfect contrast to Kit’s fearless, flamboyant use of colour on the bedhead, lounge and dressmaking mannequin; here exploding with juicy apple greens, ochre yellows and musky pink in florals and stripes. The bathroom is cavernous and techy, with anti-mist mirrors, bespoke Miller Harris toiletries, heated towel racks (so British) and a waterproof TV and remote for the bath.
Starving, I snack on chocolate from the perfectly edited minibar, a mischievous space where David Hirsch Wellness Supercharged Greens mingle with Krug and Intimacy Kits; I browse hotel dossier’s razor-sharp list of things to do/see/eat taking notes to pass onto friends, so as to appear hip, cool and utterly in-the-know.
As Mr Smith leaves to spend silly money over at discounted electronics store B&H up and over on Ninth Avenue, I shuffle down to the gym to undo said snacking. Met by faded floorboards, Evian and decorative wallpaper the whole Crosby experience feels akin to staying in a very wealthy, extremely stylish friend’s home. Someone who knows they need to exercise, but recognises it doesn’t have to be in a horrible-looking room. What morons we are for not visiting sooner.
Brandishing a titanic thirst and Mr Smith’s new [insert impressive specifications here] camera lens, we head down for a cocktail in the sculpture garden. It’s one of Crosby’s two outdoor spaces, well three: they also have a rooftop vegetable garden that is plundered for the restaurant (chooks included), just one element of an impressive eco-attitude that saw them win the Leed gold award for the greenest hotel in New York state.
Being a balmy summer’s evening, the main courtyard, feathered with a jungle of boisterous plants and elegant wooden furniture and industrial light-hangings from zigzagging overhead wires; it is littered with attractive creative types, the kind who keep the thick-rimmed glasses trade alive. I thoroughly enjoy overhearing their conversations and it is with indignation and tipsiness Mr Smith shuffles me to dinner in the ground-level restaurant or, as they would prefer you think of it, ‘a great bar that serves great food’.
Despite a meal of many, many small plates in the Crosby Bar 12 hours earlier, I can’t get downstairs quick enough the next morning. Manhattan excels at dinner, lunch, and brunch, but breakfast is the domain of the English, and with its British roots I know we’ll be in for a treat at the Crosby. Just glimpsing a toast-rack amid the colourful interior makes my heart skip. I order the fig French toast and 56 cups of tea to celebrate.
Jittery with caffeine, we set off to unleash our cheeringly strong Aussie dollar onto Soho. Located a few, tourist-saturated steps from both Spring Street and Broadway, the Crosby simply could not be in a better location. Foodies revel in being able to see Balthazar from the front door, and knowing La Esquina, Café Habana, Dutch, Public, Freemans and the Meatball Shop are a block or two away. Art-lovers are amid a mess of galleries, while those who are keen to spend up in Manhattan’s most desirable shopping district.
We love being in the crazy, beating heart of downtown NYC and then walking 50 metres up Crosby Street's cobblestones into immediate calm. Retreating to a luxurious, cool oasis after spending a day rabble-rousing in one of the most energetic cities in the world is pretty unbeatable.
Despondently we drag our swollen luggage down the next day (a little dramatic considering we’d been given a two-hour check-out reprieve without a blink of an eye). We realise, sadly, we’ve forgotten to make use of the Poltrona Frau-seated screening room and the plush guest-only drawing roomwith its famous Firmdale honesty bar, something I couldn’t fathom existed. That I’m astounded by the concept of people drinking what they want and then just writing down how much the owe doesn’t say much about my faith in human beings. It does, however say a lot about the Crosby, and what they think of their stayers-over.
This five-star hotel is neither stuffy or predictable; nor is it an annoyingly hip hotspot devoid of personality. The CSH is a lively, fresh take on hospitality, a design lover’s nirvana with boutique chic and an authentic sense of homeliness.