Manhattan transfer: The Mexican Habita group has brought its sleek design to New York's hotel scene

Mex luxe goes north to West 27th Street

Waking up at Hôtel Americano, you feel a little like a living artwork. The double bed is enclosed in a wooden frame, elevated on a platform and lit by a sympathetic glow – like a giant Donald Judd box sculpture, but with 400 thread-count sheets. It's fitting when you consider the hotel's location, in West Chelsea, the heart of Manhattan's art district. Gagosian, Pace and Paul Kasmin are among the hundred or so galleries crammed into the warehouses and lock-ups of the neighbouring streets. A former nightclub next door is currently home to Punchdrunk's interactive take on Macbeth – the hottest theatre ticket in town.

The Americano, then, is the perfect hotel for art lovers seeking something a little edgier than the Upper East Side's Museum Mile. Formerly rather unloved, except by aficionados of the warehouse club scene, this part of Chelsea is now buzzily on the up. Were you to indulge in the fickle business of New York neighbourhood trends, you might compare it to the Meatpacking district before the Sex and the City girls tottered in and out, leaving scores of cupcake-toting tourists in their wake.

The hotel, which opened in September, is the first North American outpost of the Mexican Grupo Habita, whose 10 boutique outfits back home combine a Starck eye for design with a laid-back party atmosphere. Like its first hotel, the Habita in Mexico City, this latest addition has been designed by the Mexican architect Enrique Norten.

It's gorgeous to look at – a 10-storey glass structure encased in metal mesh (made from repurposed conveyor belts, apparently) which is lit up at night.

The sleek industrial look continues inside with smooth concrete walls and floors, softened with cork stools and felt mats. You wouldn't call it cosy, but it's the right side of cool not to be chilly either. The door staff – dressed in factory-blue blazers and trainers – are particularly friendly.

It's all very relaxed, but laid-back charm has its limits: returning to my room before dinner to discover that it hadn't been made up all day was a low point.

As well as design, there's a convivial emphasis on eating and drinking. The food in the restaurant is described as "Latin fare with a French flair", which is another way of saying it serves ceviche and steak, quesadillas as well as burgers. Given the wealth of options a cab ride away, brunch is probably the best way to sample the airy dining room.

The menu is split into Healthy and, diplomatically, Americano and Sud Americano sections, depending on whether you prefer an egg-white omelette, eggs Benedict or huevos rancheros.

By day, a narrow coffee shop on the ground floor already throngs with tired gallery schleppers while the bunker bar serves mezcal to the post-Punchdrunk crowds by night.

The real selling point is its unusually roomy rooftop. When I visited, it was covered for winter, allowing guests to lounge in the hot tub or on sheepskin rugs as the snow fell. With summer now on the horizon, the pool, sunbeds and bar with uninterrupted views to the Empire State Building will surely come into their own – a Latin party spot for the arty crowd.


On West 27th Street, between 10th and 11th, the hotel is a few blocks from Penn Station and Midtown; the nearest subway is about 10 minutes' walk away at 23rd Street (served by B and N trains).

Aside from the glut of galleries, the area's star attraction is the High Line, a fabulous "elevated park" that snakes along a reclaimed freight railroad from West 30th down to Meatpacking. Planted with shrubs, wild flowers and strategically positioned benches and coffee stalls, it's a refreshing way to get a bird's-eye view (and great snapshots) of the city without having to cram into a skyscraper's lift. For shoppers, Barneys Co-op is the nearest attraction; the Flatiron district and Macy's are 20 minutes' walk away.


Industrial and stripped back, the 56 rooms feature platform beds and sunken baths. Even the dressing gowns (designed, like the staff uniforms, by hip New York collective Loden Dager) are soft denim, while the slippers are Joseph Beuys-inspired felt.

Apart from Lisa Jack's Obama photograph in the lobby, the art is left to the surrounding streets, with the focus on design – Alessi alarm clocks, Zanotta beanbag chairs and hanging miniature stoves which wouldn't look out of place in a Bond villain's lair. The seven studio suites are roomy with skyline views but, as so often in New York, the cheaper rooms are boxy.

Every room comes with an iPad (chained to the wall, sadly) loaded with an Americano app, which details local attractions and can be used to order from room service. The latter comes in the form of themed Bento boxes (from $14/£9.30) – "French" breakfasts, "Mexican" dinners, etc.

There's no gym: instead guests must buy a day pass ($25/£16.70 instead of the usual $50, but still) to the Chelsea Piers sports complex nearby. However, it's far more fun to borrow one of the hotel's free bicycles – the 11-mile Hudson River Greenway cycle path is one block away and runs all the way down to Battery Park.

The Americano, 518 West 27th Street, New York, NY 10011 (001 212 216 0000;

Rooms ****
Value ***
Service ***

Doubles start at $342 (£228), room only.