Ah, New York in spring. The never-sleeping city-dwellers have endured a heck of a winter this year – frigid temperatures, wicked winds, hefty snowfalls, and enough Seasonal Affective Disorder to wipe out half the pharmacies' supplies of Zoloft. But like the guy hitting his head with a hammer because it feels so good when he stops, New Yorkers know that the days of short skirts and al fresco happy hours are just around the corner.
I had the pleasure of spending a few nights at buzz-worthy new boutique hotel Ink48 (001 877 843 8869; ink48.com), located in a former printing house at 653 11th Avenue. May I say it's very well done indeed? Set far enough away from the raw nerve that is Times Square, yet right there on West 48th Street and near to all the Broadway shows, cultural happenings, top dining, shopping, and nightlife your heart could desire, Ink48 has a lot going for it, location-wise. Inside, its 222 guest rooms and suites offer striking views of the city or the Hudson River through soaring panoramic windows, while abstract art and a tasteful colour scheme (white, brown and warm red) make you want to climb into bed and just survey the room a while. Frette linens, L'Occitane toiletries, HD flat-screen TVs with 150 cable channels, and a deluxe Fuji soak tub (available in certain rooms) sweeten the deal.
The lobby bar – all plush, colourful banquettes and brushed dark wood floors – is a swish spot to throw back a cocktail or five before venturing out into the mythic city outside. Meanwhile, Ink48's eatery, Print, is not to be missed. Make a reservation when booking your trip, because the foodie set is clamouring to enjoy chef Charles Rodriguez's farm-fresh fare, as well as the pastry creations of his wife, Heather. The menu is constantly changing to reflect fine local flavours of the moment; it's unpretentious, yet elegant. Also, take note: Ink48's open-air rooftop lounge, Press, will soon be open, drawing throngs of Hearst editors and social butterflies to its pretty perch.
One night I needed a drink, as is often the case, so I headed to the striking new Standard Hotel that flanks the elevated High Line park. I was headed for the 18th floor: the Boom Boom Room at 848 Washington Street (001 212 645 4646; standardhotels.com), aka the celebrity hotspot du jour. Thanks to a handsome manager I know from way back, I got in without a hassle.
Standard owner André Balazs bet big that Boom Boom would zoom to the top of everyone's to-do list, and it seems to have paid off. It really is a striking scene, with leather banquettes and dazzling chandeliers, a dark wood bar and floor-to-ceiling windows that peer down on to a city hungry for such decadence. The staff are appropriately gorgeous, and the cocktails understandably pricey. Though I had my share of high-end firewater, I knew better than to dip into the triangle hot tub. Some are calling it the "new Studio 54", if that were possible. All I know is, pretty people sure like to drink, and I felt like one of them.
Having heard about it from everyone, I had to visit the Breslin Bar & Dining Room at rocker-chic Ace Hotel at 20 West 29th Street (001 212 679 1939; thebreslin.com). First thing to know: no reservations. Second, chef April Bloomfield, of Spotted Pig fame, sure knows her way around a suckling pig. Working my way through the many plates strewn across my table – braised shin of beef, char-grilled lamb burger, beef and Stilton pie, Scotch egg – I realised I'd like to die in Bloomfield's kitchen. The gin and tonics were also convincing, so I overindulged a bit there, too.
By the end of my gastro weekend I was ready to expel some calories, so I spent a good four hours at the Equinox gym in the West Village at 97 Greenwich Avenue (001 212 620 0103) – swimming in the slow lane of its basement pool and finishing things up with a divine, 80-minute deep-tissue massage. I'm sure there was booze coming out of my pores, but my vice-gripped massage therapist was polite enough not to let on. I shall return.
I barely skimmed the surface of the bountiful, good-life offerings of Manhattan. Thankfully, it isn't going anywhere, so I can dip back into the fab life whenever I feel inclined. In fact, I'm gearing up for another go of it before the summer heat kicks in...
A Hedonist's Guide to... (Hg2) is a luxury city-guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see hg2.com