24-Hour Room Service: W Washington DC, US
Saturday 20 February 2010
It certainly doesn't disappoint when it comes to location: the windows of my room framed the Washington Monument; my next door neighbours were a certain Mr and Mrs Obama.
The W chain has been on a construction spree of late, opening high-gloss, modern buildings in Barcelona and New Jersey – and there's a new resort in Puerto Rico slated for arrival in spring. But W Washington DC takes an entirely different approach: this Beaux Arts building also has the distinction of being the oldest hotel in the US capital. Previously known as the Hotel Washington, it was taken over, modernised and re-opened last July.
Back in 1970, Elvis stayed here (in room 505) prior to meeting President Nixon, and the building was also used as a location for scenes from the film The Godfather: Part II. But since the re-launch (at which John Legend performed), the hotel has continued to pull in the rich and famous, who enter via a discreet basement VIP entrance. The first thing less exalted guests will marvel at is the spacious "Living Room". In most W hotels, this signature lounge-lobby is a set-piece of contemporary cool, but here the 1917 building's grand, historical fabric is to the fore, albeit complemented by modern touches. The salon's original characteristics – the high ceilings and elegant chandeliers – have been interspersed with features such as plasma screens and projections which splash the hotel's brand name on to the walls.
With a bar at one end and various wing-backed sofas and chairs scattered around the room, guests are encouraged to drink in comfort. And dance, too. I arrived on a Friday night, when the Living Room was more of a funky free-for-all than a foyer.
But all this is just a preamble to the POV Bar and Lounge. Next to the elevator that takes guests to their room is a separate lift which goes only to this rooftop nightclub, one of the hottest tickets in town (admission appears to be at the discretion of a hostess). Happily, a flash of a room key ensures that guests not only get up to the roof, but are saved the hassle of queuing.
The POV is a modern and moody affair, with live music and a host of exotic cocktails on offer. Clubbers can spills onto a rooftop terrace, which provides stunning views across the city.
The W prides itself on being the closest hotel to the Presidential residence: it's just two blocks from the White House. Nearby lie Seaton and President's parks, the US Treasury and the museums and galleries of the National Mall.
There are 317 rooms (rated "Wonderful", "Spectacular" and "Fabulous") and 31 suites ("Fantastic", "Marvellous", "Wow" and, er, "Extreme Wow"). My Fantastic suite included a living room furnished with a semi-circular blue-fabric sofa and a separate study area complete with "the box" – an assortment of electric gadget chargers. All the rooms have a pale blue/cream/purple colour scheme with flock wallpaper in the bedroom and a modern aquatic green and white theme in the bathroom. The bedrooms feature the trademark W bed, (the mattress of which can be bought by satisfied customers for $1,000/£670).
Meanwhile, downstairs there is a cellar wine bar and a steakhouse restaurant branded by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the US's own Gordon Ramsay. Here, the dining room has been made over with crisp white linen and crimson and cream upholstery. As well as an extensive grill menu, you can graze on salmon with mash and truffle vinaigrette (£$26/£17.30) while gazing at the White House garden through the soaring arched windows.
W Washington DC, 515 15th Street NW, Washington DC, US (001 202 661 2400; starwoodhotels.com )
Double rooms start at $399 (£267), room only
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