Part of a chain that takes in Portland, Seattle and Palm Springs, Manhattan's Ace Hotel has become the place of refuge for globe-trotting hipsters. Its low-fi elegance and self-consciously retro styling strike a chord with a nostalgically minded but forward-thinking clientele, while sparse and grunge-inspired décor chimes perfectly with the up-and-coming feel of the Ace's Midtown location.
The Ace is supremely hip, from its bearded, lithe doormen to the rock music-themed cocktails (Pablo Honey, Lust for Life, London Calling). The main lounge is an everyday sanctum for Apple Mac users to chill out in; hotel guests and local itinerant freelancers alike combine to make the ground floor feel like a real hub, although jostling for seats can be aggravating. Later in the day, a roster of DJs spin their tunes here.
Still, it's definitely worth staking a claim on one of the sofas or long benches to soak up a bit of the Ace's atmosphere; it's not often that a hotel becomes such a focus for so varied a scene, and people-spotting here can be rewarding.
Happily, there are plenty of other places to pop a squat around the former boarding house, built in 1904. The Ace has two restaurants attached to it, a sandwich bar and an acclaimed coffee shop, Stumptown Roasters, whose rich aromas waft enticingly into the lobby.
The Breslin Bar and Dining Room is the latest Michelin-starred offering from April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman, of Manhattan's ultra-exclusive gastropub The Spotted Pig, specialising in meaty feasts. It's fantastic for dinner but also a brilliant lunch option (adjustable waistband advised), when it's a little quieter and easier to get a table.
On the other side of the building, the John Dory Oyster Bar focuses more on cocktails, devised by Sasha Petraske of trendy members' bar Milk & Honey, and seafood sharing platters masterminded by Bloomfield. If it all sounds a bit name-dropperish, it probably is (and be prepared to queue for a table) but the food, drink and service don't suffer for it.
Also attached to the hotel is a branch of the newly cult and achingly cool department store Opening Ceremony, which stocks labels such as Comme des Garçons, Alexander Wang and numerous in-house collaborations with big name stars, such as Chloë Sevigny. Its wacky and original conceptual interior and installations are worth a visit in their own right.
Ace aficionados can buy tote bags from reception emblazoned with the hotel's locale: West 29th Street and Broadway. The area might not be much to shout about just yet, but the hotel is determined to make it so, and the surroundings are showing signs of improvement.
The allure of the Ace is that it's situated in an area where people live. That's not to say it's far from the tourist attractions (the Empire State Building is a matter of blocks away, as is the Theatre District) but it means there are plenty of good cafés, delis and laid-back restaurants in walking distance. The newly extended High Line – a park built on a former railway – is a few blocks away, too, and provides a pleasant place to stroll.
Despite its highly stylised conceit, the Ace offers rooms catering for a range of budgets, from "cheap", via "small" to "large" and "loft". Some rooms have bunk beds and, since the aesthetic of the place is quite urban vintage anyway, these functional and basic rooms still manage to look fairly chic.
Décor revolves around idiosyncratic, often novelty, touches – many rooms are furnished with electric guitars, mini-bars are encased in rock star-style rider cases, and bathrooms look near-institutional with their white tiles and heavy iron fixtures. In one room, the wall above the bed reads "Play Safe"; in another, the mirror above the sink reads "Love is Meant to Make Us Glad". Elsewhere, there are murals and abstract smearings. This may all sound a little hokey but it works within the starkness of the hotel's interiors.
It all makes for a practical, slick and bohemian setting, entirely in-keeping with the Ace's personality, but devoid of some of the luxuries one might want, or indeed expect, when paying prices towards the top end of the scale – a bunk room goes for about $360 (£240) a night. That said, the rooms are spacious and light, beds are comfy and many windows have a prize view of the lower floors of the Empire State Building.
Ace Hotel, 20 West 29th Street, New York City, US (001 212 679 2222; acehotel.com/newyork)
Doubles start at $415 (£277), room only.Reuse content