A six-storey red-brick Romanesque revival landmark building, New York boutique hotel The Mercer is the perfect fit for its SoHo locale. The property’s exposed brick walls and enclaves, neutral hues and hardwood floors go with the area’s cast-iron and glass sidewalks every bit as well as pastrami does with rye. It’s a modern New York classic, with a very Manhattan air of effortless cool.
Check-out is flexible; arrange a time with the receptionist when you arrive.
Double rooms from £557.75 ($763), including tax at 14.75 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of $3.50 per room per night on check-out.
Breakfast is an additional US$20–US$30 a person.
At the hotel
Library, CD/DVD library, in-room beauty/spa treatments, free access to a local fitness club, free WiFi, laundry service. In rooms: flatscreen TV, CD/DVD player, air-conditioning, minibar, iPod dock, free bottled water, Face Stockholm toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
We adore the Loft Suite, a penthouse-style, street-facing room with gorgeous exposed-brick arched windows, wood-burning fireplaces and oversized furnishings. It also comes with giant mirrors that cover entire walls, ensuring that, when skies are even vaguely clear, the room will be bathed in natural sunlight. Like most rooms, it comes with an absolutely gargantuan marble bathroom that incorporates a tub large enough for at least two families. We also like the Loft Studio, which has French doors that open out onto its own romantic Juliet-style balcony.
Don’t forget your oversized sunglasses. Not only will you want to blend in with the hotel’s impossibly attractive clientele, but they’ll also help cover up a multitude of sins after a night out on the town in this trendy neighbourhood.
Both pets and smoking are allowed at the hotel. There is a one-time cleaning fee of US$100 if you bring your beagle.
Well behaved pups can join for $100 a stay; they’ll need to be kept on leashes in public areas and can’t be left alone in the rooms if they’re prone to barking about it. See more pet-friendly hotels in New York.
Kids are welcome at the Mercer. Baby cots are available free of charge, extra beds cost US$100 a night, and babysitting can be arranged with a local nanny from around US$30 an hour. There’s no children’s menu in the restaurant.
When we were there, a couple in the restaurant told us that they’d met at cosy table 28, returned to the same spot to get engaged and were now here to celebrate their one-year anniversary. Perhaps 28 could be your lucky number, too?
Anything goes, but there’s definitely an understated edgy, fashion-focused vibe among those choosing crustaceons from the lobster and oyster bar. Think 3.1 Philip Lim dresses and Tim Hamilton tailoring.
The Mercer Kitchen is where world-renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten serves up delicious contemporary French cuisine with an Asian twist – steak in a caramelised soy sauce, steamed shrimp salad – in an exposed-brickwork space before a bustling open kitchen and purple-backlit steel bar. The tables situated right underneath SoHo’s iconic iron-and-glass sidewalks are particularly cool – to sit there and eat is like being part of a MOMA light installation.
Situated at street level, the Mercer Kitchen Bar draws in stylish shoppers during the day, and is abuzz with the fashion and media crowd at night. Aluminium glass-topped tables and black-and-white leather seating furnish the joint, while a huge yellow blossom in a giant glass vase makes an attractive statement piece on the small bar. In daylight hours, it opens out onto the street – though curtains prevent over-enthusiastic paps from photographing the cocktail-sippers inside.
Both the restaurant and bar stop serving at 1am on Monday to Thursday, at 2am on Friday and Saturday, and midnight on Sunday.
Drinks and a comprehensive selection from the restaurant menu are available 24 hours a day.
The nearest airport to the hotel is La Guardia – fly from London Heathrow with United Airlines (www.unitedairlines.co.uk). Newark is under an hour away, too.
Grand Central Station and Penn Station are both within driving distance of the hotel. You'll be able to board Amtrak (www.amtrak.com) services to other destinations all over the USA. Penn Station will also get you out to the Hamptons on the Long Island Rail Road (www.lirr.org).
Cross the Williamsburg Bridge over to Manhattan and head for Broadway. Mercer Street is just behind. A valet service is provided when you get there.
Worth getting out of bed for
There’s no spa at the Mercer (though the hotel will happily organise treatments for you), but save time and effort by simply crossing the street and going to boutique spa Haven (150 Mercer Street; +1 212 343 3515), directly opposite the hotel. It will take care of all your beauty needs – ask for Yasmin if it’s waxing you’re after, and we recommend Gabby for a flawless manicure and pedicure. Liberty Helicopters on West 30th Street and 12th Avenue (+1 212 967 6464) will whisk you around the Manhattan skyline and out to the Statue of Liberty. It also offers airport transfers.
The Mercer’s SoHo location means that you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to eating. La Esquina (114 Kenmare Street; +1 646 613 7100) 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 (180 Prince Street; +1 212 966 3518) 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. Café Gitane (242 Mott Street; +1 212 334 9552) 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 (17 Prince Street; +1 212 625 2001) serves excellent Latin American and Mexican cuisine – the corn on the cob is out of this world and it makes one hell of a spicy Bloody Mary. Savour burgers stacked with truffles and topped with giant onion rings, charcuterie and tuna tartar paired with excellent wines at Burger & Barrel (+1 212 334 7320). Sip fine wines and dine on succulent fruits de mer, mushroom-topped hanger steak and crispy fried chicken into the wee hours at Blue Ribbon at 97 Sullivan Street (+1 212 274 0404).
Hearing a key in the door, I wake with a start. Then I remember where we are, and settle back into bed. The Mercer is only a bridge from my Brooklyn apartment, but this SoHo loft suite might as well be another world. In my New York City, an afternoon nap in the summertime would be unheard of – too hot, too loud, too busy. But here, in this silent spaciousness, it just, well, happens.
Only two hours before, a blue-shirted bellboy had opened the door to the Mercer’s red-brick Romanesque-revival exterior, inviting me into this parallel universe – across the street from Prada, no less. As I unpacked into a closet the size of some boutique hotels’ bedrooms, I imagined myself taking up residence in a Sofia Coppola film like Somewhere, shot at the Mercer’s glamorous West Coast counterpart, the Château Marmont in Los Angeles.
The Mercer’s design perfectly followed script. A window arched across one wall, framing – and lighting – a sitting area with a sage-coloured couch in the room’s centre. At one end, on the dining table, a bottle of pinot noir and a handwritten note welcoming us. At the other, a plush bed beckoned, covered in shades of celery and white. The plan had been to await Mr Smith’s arrival from work in the lobby, curled up with a tome from the hotel’s collection of art books. But leaving this luxury seemed ludicrous. Instead, I filled the vast granite bathtub with bubbles. Now as Mr Smith walks in and puts down his briefcase, whispering ‘wow’, I can barely remember crawling into bed. But here I am.
As we have movie tickets booked, while Mr Smith gets his bearings, I slip into a sundress. Abandoning our cinematic set, we walk to the Film Forum. Then, after watching David Bowie The Man Who Fell to Earth, rather than ducking into one of the neighbourhood’s many eateries for dinner, we retire to our suite and call the Mercer Kitchen. Even with star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten at the helm, the restaurant is more often mentioned for its celebrity sightings. When room service brings the stellar cuisine I’m almost pleasantly surprised; yet so delicious is my burrata and spicy arugula I probably would not have noticed if Stephen Dorff had trotted through our boudoir.
Self-improvement is on the agenda by next morning. It’s Equinox for him, the sleek gym open to the Mercer’s guests, and Spa Belles, a nearby nail salon, for me. Just as my glossy red nails feel dry enough to go, Mr Smith appears in the window, grinning widely in a new pair of Wayfarer sunglasses. Linking arms, we head for brunch at one of Manhattan’s most beloved modern classics, Balthazar.
Inside Keith McNally’s sprawling Paris-style brasserie, families with tiered trays of shellfish laugh loudly in wooden booths, couples canoodle at the zinc bar, and black-tied waiters potter about like distinguished penguins. After a mimosa and half a dozen oysters, we decide we make terrific tourists. Mr Smith floats the idea of a fanny pack (‘bumbags’ to you Brits), which I shoot down in favour of a new calfskin Dopp kit from Il Bisonte or Jack Spade, both nearby. He shakes his head over eggs Benedict, which he deems, ‘perfect’.
After lunch, we stroll through NoLita, the narrow-streeted enclave of boutiques and restaurants betwixt SoHo and LES. As we wander through the afternoon, we eavesdrop on a walking tour of the area’s mafia-tinged history, and come upon St Patrick’s Old Cathedral on Mott Street. The gates are open, and we discretely follow a gaggle of children and their chaperones inside.
Radiant stained-glass windows light the chapel; it is silent, aside from the whir of an electric fan, and children shuffling up the aisle. The moment we sit on a pew, small voices begin to sing. Soon, the soaring cathedral is filled with song. We have happened upon a visiting boys’ choir in rehearsal. Satisfied with their sound-check, they file out of the cathedral, and so do we.
At McNally Jackson, an independent bookstore, we pick up a New Yorker to get the skinny on SoHo’s art shows. In the Seventies and Eighties, intrepid artists occupied the neighbourhood’s lofts. In spite of gentrification, a handful have held onto their spaces. We’ve ogled amazing works by emerging talents on Wooster Street, but today have no such luck: the Drawing Center is closed, and Team Gallery on Grand Street is between exhibitions. So, we sidle between flagship stores. Mr Smith approves of a flowered dress at Opening Ceremony and I give my stamp to a pair of crisp blue trousers for him at APC.
Once the shops have closed, we collapse into that comfy queen-size bed. We stay longer than intended, but no matter – we’ll dine at the original Blue Ribbon, a SoHo staple that serves into the wee hours. On our way out, we stop for an appetiser at the Mercer Kitchen. The basement-level bar – all exposed brick and gleaming glass – is slammed, so instead we settle in the lobby, where votives flicker between soft flax-coloured chairs.
Communal areas are filled with an easy, laid-back atmosphere that’s more in line with cosy domesticity than edgy city scene, and interior designer Christian Liaigre’s colour scheme – neutral tones of ivory white and mushroom brown permeated with splashes of citrus – manages to both soothe and caress the eye while staying at the forefront of design. Here, we order a crostini that comes spread with warm aioli and sweet flakes of crab. ‘It’s like a lobster roll,’ says Mr Smith. ‘A swanky SoHo take on lobster roll.’
Down the street, at Blue Ribbon on Sullivan Street, we share the restaurant’s renowned fried chicken, and chat over well-chilled martinis with the Brazilian bankers seated beside us. They depart to dance in the Meatpacking District, and we head to the red-check tables of Fanelli’s, a former speakeasy, for a final nightcap.
Lox, eggs, and the Mercer’s homemade thyme-infused lemonade takes the edge off having to face Sunday morning. I take a sip of soda, lean back and sigh: ‘I don’t want to go home.’ Mr Smith looks at us in our subterranean banquette, spread out with The New York Times and smiles. ‘Looks like we are home.’