24-hour Room Service: Mondrian SoHo, New York City
Manhattan high-rise with a party vibe
Saturday 26 March 2011
The Mondrian SoHo is a hotel for rich people who still wear trainers. Spotless vintage trainers, perhaps, but trainers nonetheless. Happily, everyone else is allowed to stay here, too. The third in the Mondrian line of hip hotels after Los Angeles and Miami, and the fourth Morgan's Group establishment in New York City, this is, however, the first of the firm's ventures to open up in happening Lower Manhattan.
Its Crosby Street location makes the Mondrian a direct competitor for the recently opened Crosby Street Hotel, a couple of blocks north. But it's more brash than its rival, a boutique on a blockbuster scale, with what you'd have to reluctantly describe as "a party vibe".
The lobby seems busy with an entertainment industry crowd: band managers, models, film producers. Alicia Keys supposedly lives nearby in Lenny Kravitz's old apartment; the roof garden is visible from the upper floors. As is most of the rest of Downtown: with 25 storeys of fritted glass, the newly built Mondrian is now the neighbourhood's tallest (and shiniest) building.
The clean white lines of the interior are offset by eclectic custom-designed furniture, all of which feels positively Californian – not surprising, perhaps, since it was designed by Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, the man responsible for the Mondrian Los Angeles. His work for the SoHo site was inspired by Jean Cocteau's 1946 film La Belle et La Bête: the candlelit, topiary-lined entrance tunnel leading to the front door, for instance, and the recurring rose motif that features throughout the building.
Imperial No. Nine, the in-house restaurant, is a destination in itself. The dashing chef Sam Talbot is a minor celebrity thanks to a stint on Top Chef, the US equivalent of Masterchef: The Professionals, and has been running a well-respected restaurant on Long Island until now. His "sustainable seafood" menu at Imperial No. Nine leads with a selection of delicious small plates, while breakfast includes eggs slow-poached for 45 minutes to create, he claims, "the perfect egg". (If it's not perfect, it's pretty darn good.)
Music is a major presence throughout the hotel, perhaps a reflection of its clientele: it's piped into the lobby, the darkened lifts and the restaurant. You may have to raise your voice to conduct a dinner conversation (Imperial No. Nine doubles as a trendy bar), but the waiters seem content to take orders whatever the volume. Whoever compiles the playlists of alternative guitar music has impeccable taste.
SoHo is where New York's most beautiful people waft along the streets between Broadway and Lafayette, their sky-high heels miraculously untroubled by the cobbles. It's at the heart of Downtown and no more than a swift subway ride across the river to Brooklyn. Stick nearby, though, and you'll find Crosby Street clogged with furniture stores, a high-end flea market and designer clothing outlets. Almost next door to the Mondrian is Saturday's Surf, a surf and clothing shop that doubles as a café. Just round the corner is the hipster department store Opening Ceremony, and the hotel is just a short stroll from the shopping and coffee-drinking cluster of Prince and Spring Streets.
McNally Jackson, one of New York's finest independent bookstores, is on Prince Street. And casting its crooked shadow across the Bowery is contemporary art gallery the New Museum – worth the walk if only to see its stacked-white boxes exterior, which rivals the uptown Guggenheim for eccentric institutional architecture. Its Japanese architects were the recipients of last year's Pritzker Architecture Prize.
Nightlife is never far away in Lower Manhattan. The casually super-cool Café Select is around the corner on Lafayette, just opposite the faux-secret Mexican restaurant (and celebrity hotpsot) La Esquina – which also serves fabulous Mexican street food to its less famous lunch crowd. If you'd rather stay within the Mondrian's confines, you could pass a lively evening at the downstairs bar, Mister H: a blood-red prohibition-speakeasy-cum-opium-den straight out of 1920s Chinatown, it's a far cry from the chilled reserve of the rest of the hotel.
The décor is sparing, but far from spartan. Each of the hotel's 270 guestrooms follows the same restrained blue, white and silver colour scheme. Many are cut in two: both the bedroom and the sitting room with its chrome desk and hearty couch come with a large flatscreen television. Four large suites with their own terraces are topped by the vast 25th-floor penthouse.
Even when the rooms aren't especially spacious, they feel it, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. Depending on your room's orientation (and the floor number), you could have a spectacular view of the Empire State Building, or across the West Side to the Hudson river and New Jersey beyond – and that's just from the shower. Alicia Keys could probably see you soaping yourself if she had some decent binoculars. Still, that's a small price to pay.
Not quite so small is the $10-a-day fee (£6.70) for a Wi-Fi connection, but you can swipe some of the complimentary Malin+Goetz toiletries from your bathroom to make up for that.
The writer flew to New York as a guest of Virgin Atlantic (0844 2092 770; virginatlantic.com). Return fares from Heathrow to New York start at £368.
Mondrian SoHo9 Crosby Street,New York City, US (001 212 389 1000; mondriansoho.com)
Double rooms start at $309 (£190), room only; discounts for booking one month ahead.
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