24-Hour Room Service:L Smyth Tribeca, New York
Downtown's hippest hide-out
Saturday 27 March 2010
Smyth is half-hotel, half-luxury apartment block and it sits on the southern periphery of the exotic-sounding TriBeCa – which is, of course, the "Triangle Below Canal Street" and one of downtown New York's hippest neighbourhoods (just ask Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio or Jay-Z, who all have homes there).
But a word of warning: if you're planning on staying at Smyth, be sure to do your homework, because it may be ultra-chic, but it's also pretty tricky to find. It took me and my taxi driver several trips along West Broadway before we spotted the lone chiselled brick bearing Smyth's name outside the building, which looks almost identical to the neighbouring glass-fronted apartment blocks.
This blink-and-you'd-miss-it frontage is a deliberate marketing ploy by owners Thompson Hotels (of 60 Thompson and Thompson Lower East Side fame), who are keen on the theme of secrecy. Staff refuse to divulge names of celebrities who have stayed there ("If anyone ever leaks that sort of information they get terminated," one member grimly informed me.) But no one denies the reports (published a month before my stay) that The Hangover actor Bradley Cooper had used the hotel for romantic trysts with Renée Zellweger. The name of the hotel was chosen as a play on the anonymity of Mr and Mrs Smith.
Smyth opened in February last year in what was an old bank, the latest Manhattan hotel in the Thompson stable.
The TriBeCa location exemplifies the regeneration the area has enjoyed since De Niro launched the internationally renowned TriBeCa Film Festival in 2002 that helped the area recover post-9/11 (TriBeCa borders Ground Zero).
Today, the first residential neighbourhood to be established in New York back in the late 18th-century is also one of its most exclusive; in 2006, Forbes magazine listed its zip code as the city's most expensive.
But discretion is left behind the moment the suited porter ushers you through the glass doors. Inside, Smyth is lavish, and anything but inconspicuous. From the faux-ostrich skin wallpaper (yes, really) in the hallways, to the leather-panelled elevators, the self-assured, masculine decor exudes opulence.
It would be a cliché to say it's like something from a film set, but in this case it is justified. The hotel has also been used by both VH1 and HBO to film television shows including teen comedy-drama How To Make It In America, while the penthouse suite is used regularly for magazine photo shoots. One morning, as I stepped out of the elevator, the "living room" foyer – a large, cosy, dimly-lit space with an abundance of contemporary Chesterfield sofas and pillows – was being used as a set to shoot a handbag advert.
However, when I visited almost a year after opening, Smyth had yet to open its restaurant (although bar snacks and room service were both available). French restaurant Plein Sud is expected to materialise at the end of April. Once everything is fully operational, it is the luxury, combined with the location that Thompson is hoping will persuade people to want to live there full-time.
Smyth has 15 apartments on the upper floors which are on the market for upwards of $1m (£670,000). The most luxurious, naturally, is the penthouse, the lofty position of which reveals the curious spelling of the hotel's name. Looking down from the vast outdoor terrace (which offers a stunning view of Manhattan) you can see West Broadway intersect with Hudson Street to form a 'Y' – thus Smyth.
Bordered by SoHo, Chinatown, the Financial District and the Hudson River, TriBeCa's landscape is similar to neighbouring SoHo. A former hub of the cotton industry, most of the residential blocks are former industrial buildings. While the area is mostly residential, there are plenty of boutiques: one-of-a-kind rather than the chain stores you find elsewhere in the city. Trendy local bars include the Knitting Factory, a hangout of choice for those in the know on the alternative music scene. There is an extensive array of restaurants, including a branch of fashionable Japanese restaurant Nobu on Hudson Street – the neighbourhood's epicentre.
The 84 rooms and 16 suites are restrained in style and form (as with most Manhattan hotels, they're pretty small for what you pay for) with a black/white and red colour scheme. Each room has a bed dressed in white linen with a pinstripe throw and fittings in subtle shades of grey. Each room has a large television, a DVD player and an iPod dock. My king suite had a separate living room with a huge television. It was impressive, but disappointingly the view (or lack of), was not. Opening the curtains I was left staring at a brick wall two feet away from me. With the apartment blocks on the upper floors commandeering the best views of the city skyline, the best you can hope for from your hotel window is a view of the busy streets outside or, if you're lucky, of the Hudson River.
However, there are little touches which make the experience all the better. Each morning a complimentary copy of the New York Post awaits, while the bathroom is stocked with complimentary Kiehl's products, the mini bar comes with (pricey) Dean & Deluca goodies and, for those who are so inclined, an equally expensive Kiki De Montparnasse "pleasure pack" (posh sex toys, essentially).
Smyth Tribeca, 85 West Broadway, New York, US (001 212 587 7000; thompsonhotels.com )
Doubles start at $243 (£162), room only
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