Stay the night: Hotel Le Bleu, Brooklyn
Go over the Brooklyn Bridge for luxury lodgings
Sunday 22 November 2009
This new boutique hotel is a sure sign that Brooklyn is becoming a tourist destination in its own right. Designed by architect Andres Escobar, the nine-storey chrome and glass structure, which opened last year, sits rather uncomfortably above the garages and low-rise factories of Park Slope's 4th Avenue, the first "full service" hotel in a neighbourhood of scant B&Bs.
It makes the most of its somewhat gritty setting by projecting films (of skateboarders and archive footage of Brooklyn street scenes) on to the hotel's façade. The roof terrace, however, has the main show: stunning views of Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.
One block east, on 5th Avenue, is the start of Park Slope proper, defined by well-kept brownstone houses, indie bookshops and boutiques, organic grocery co-ops, and hipster restaurant hangouts. But Park Slope is more than simply the next New York neighbourhood of note. Like adjacent Brooklyn Heights, it's where affluent Manhattanites migrated to in the 1800s and its public library, art gallery, and academy of music compete with anything Manhattan has to offer.
Then there's Prospect Park, designed by the same architect as Central Park, surrounded by elegant mansion houses and wide boulevards that, at a squint, recall Paris rather than the suburbs of New York.
The 48 guest rooms are spread over seven floors and "bleu" is the theme, with everything from the carpets and cushions to the frosted glass that passes for the loo/shower room wall, in various blue hues. Flos Italian lighting turns this into something approaching a cool Icelandic nightclub in atmosphere, tempered by comfy beds and cosy duvets. In keeping with New York standards, my room was compact but it did have a sizeable balcony.
The food and drink
It all happens on the roof. Vue, the restaurant and lounge bar that occupies the top floor and roof terrace, has absolutely cracking views across the East River to the lights of Manhattan and serves refined American staples (baby back ribs, seared steak, crab cakes) with deft Asian touches courtesy of executive chef Chris Cheung. Two courses with a glass of wine cost about $45 (£27) per person. During our summertime stay this was quickly becoming one of the city's happening rooftop hangouts, complete with DJ and cacophonous crowds. The hotel assured us this was a temporary, noisy blip, but if you don't want to join the party from your bed, book a room on a lower floor and pack earplugs.
The hotel has an agreement with a local gym, should schlepping about New York's five boroughs not be exercise enough. In the rooms: complimentary bottled water, Kettle Chips and chocolate-chip cookies on arrival, free Wi-Fi and local calls, flat-screen televisions, iPod stations, Bose sound system, coffee machines, fluffy bathrobes and slippers. There's also free on-site parking (rarer than liquid gold in New York). The hotel has meeting rooms located in historic neighbourhood buildings, including the beautiful Venetian gothic-style Montauk House, formerly a 19th-century gentlemen's club. For more ideas about the endless things to do in the area, go to heartofbrooklyn.org.
There's a lift to all floors. Four bedrooms have been adapted for people with limited mobility.
Doubles from $229, including taxes and breakfast. The Autumn Promotion (until 30 December 2009) offers 20 per cent off room rates for stays of three nights or more.
Hotel le Bleu, 370 4th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215 (001 718 625 1500; hotellebleu.com).
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