Attaching an enormous steel grille to the front of your hotel might not seem the best way to attract guests. Want to feel like a zoo animal?
Come on in! As it happens, the mesh façade of Hôtel Americano, New York's newest design hotel, is oddly impressive, an eye-catching addition to an otherwise unremarkable glass building. The imposing metal cloak also pulls off the remarkable trick of being almost invisible from the inside, the eye looking instinctively beyond it. This removes any caged-animal concerns, even if it turns the view a little grey.
The Americano, the latest project of the Mexican hotel group Habita, is in Manhattan's Chelsea district, an increasingly fashionable enclave on the West Side. That its nearest commercial neighbours are a minimalist art gallery and a scrap yard tell you a lot about the ongoing tussle between old-school commerce and the arty gentrification of this area.
It's the area's industrial heritage that led Mexican architect Enrique Norten to apply the iron grille, along with an exterior elevator that ferries you to the rooftop bar. Along with adding character to the façade, this prevents the lobby from being crowded with interlopers out for an evening drink (hotel guests use a separate interior lift).
Inside in the restaurant and reception areas, high ceilings, a rough-hewn concrete floor and vast grey pillars make for a boldly brutalist aesthetic. This is softened by beech panelling around the front desk and splashes of lime green in the swanky imported Dutch furniture. The juxtaposition is repeated in an outdoor ground-floor patio, which contrasts stone and metal furniture with luscious green foliage, all expertly backlit.
In the 56 rooms, grey floors and plain white walls are cheered up by brightly coloured desk "cubes" and groovy chaises longues. In some instances, style supersedes comfort, most notably in the black vinyl beanbags that are spectacularly uncomfortable and, at first glance, made me wonder if the hotel's cleaning staff had forgotten to take out the rubbish.
Elsewhere, the wooden platform beds, inspired by Japanese ryokans, make for a far more welcoming sight and they provide you with a glorious night's rest, while the in-room iPads, loaded with music, a guest directory and local information, are a smart extra touch.
The food and drink
The absence of cafés and restaurants in the vicinity means that food is pretty crucial here. Happily, all appetites and budgets are accommodated, from light snacks in the lobby bar to the full three-course fine dining experience in the ground floor restaurant. Showcasing Mexican and French influences, the lunch and dinner menus include chicken quesadillas, steak with chimichurri, and grilled octopus with black beans, rocket and tomato confit. There's even some heat in the breakfast menu in the form of chilaquiles – fried tortillas with green salsa and eggs – alongside the usual pastries and pancakes. Room service comes in neat little bento boxes.
Building work has just finished on a rooftop swimming pool, and on an atmospheric, if dimly lit, basement bar. In location terms, the real USP is the High Line, an old freight railway now paved and surrounded by pretty plants and trees, which skims the rear of the hotel. If you're looking for lunch or foodie presents to take home, head south to Chelsea Market, a pleasant 15-minute stroll away.
Both the reception area and restaurant are at street level and all floors are accessible by lifts, making Hôtel Americano ideally suited to wheelchair users. Children are welcome but pets are not.
Double rooms start at $296 (£197), room only.
Hôtel Americano, 518 West 27th Street, New York, United States (001 212 216 000; hotel-americano.com).
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