24-Hour Room Service: Fashion 26, New York City
A hotel to suit the Garment District
Saturday 26 June 2010
Even considering the magnitude of apps available to those with an iPhone, finding out that the hotel you are checking into has one of its own is still surprising, and also something of a puzzle. What could a hotel app do, you wonder – can you use it to order room service? Or select your room before you arrive?
Disappointingly, the app for Fashion 26 – a new upper-mid-range hotel in Manhattan – doesn't do anything quite as nifty, instead helping you find restaurants, galleries, shops and other attractions in the vicinity. It's not the most innovative service, but the hotel's eagerness to join the i-Generation shows it is making an effort to be seen as the up-to-the-minute choice for visitors to the Big Apple.
Sited in the Garment District at the north end of Chelsea – hence the name – Fashion 26 is a matter of metres from the Fashion Institute of Technology. The fashion theme is borne out through a number of stylish touches, such as the lights in the lobby that change colour throughout the day and an art installation formed from spools of thread hanging above the front desk, which incidentally looks like an old-fashioned cutting-room table.
There is always the danger with a theme – especially one as potentially pretentious as fashion – that the result could be crass, but Fashion 26 manages to pull it off. As part of the Wyndham chain (which in the US encompasses upscale resorts to Days Inn and Travelodge sub-brands), it balances homogeneity with personality using touches such as its blog. There, every so often, the hotel chooses a "Best Dressed Guest", with those picked getting upgraded. Fashion 26 also promises a free cupcake from the high-end bakery Crumbs Bake Shop.
The bar and restaurant, Rare, which serves high-class burgers, carries on the high standard of design with a similar modern look to the rest of the hotel, but it did appear that it was suffering from a few teething problems. Two days running, incorrect breakfast charges were added to our room bill, but given that the hotel only opened in April and the mistakes were swiftly rectified by the extremely friendly front-desk staff, this was forgivable.
What was more disappointing was that what will surely become one of Fashion 26's main attractions was not yet open. A rooftop bar in Manhattan is hardly a rarity, but no matter how many times you see it, the island's skyline never fails to be breathtaking.
Less than 10 blocks south from the Empire State Building, Fashion 26's bar will offer a better view than most once opened (probably some time in July) and, at this time of year, is begging for guests to enjoy the vistas al fresco. Here's hoping it's just fashionably late.
Chelsea may not be New York's most picturesque district, but it has its enticements. Comedy fans should visit the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre along the street, which puts on improv shows for as little as $5, often showcasing rising stars – some of the current performances include Zach Woods (The Office/In The Loop) and Bobby Moynihan (Saturday Night Live).
However, the highlight of staying here is being within walking distance of The High Line. This disused railroad, which runs up through Chelsea, has had a renaissance as an elevated park after opening last summer and should be experienced before it becomes one of the city's more popular tourist spots.
In true New York fashion, none of the hotel's 280 rooms could be described as spacious. Although they are nicely put together with a modern luxurious feel (in keeping with the fashion theme each room features nice flourishes such as pinstripe carpets and a herringbone throw) they are the one place in the hotel where various bits of branding offer a reminder that you are staying in a chain hotel. However, free Wi-Fi – ideal for planning a day's sightseeing – is a nice touch.
For views, you have to go at least as high as the 15th floor, but like the rooftop bar they are quite spectacular.
Fashion 26, 152 West 26th Street, New York, US (001 212 858 5888; f26nyc.com )
Double rooms start at $347 (£231), room only.
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