Thursday, 21 March 2013 8:49 AM
Laura Caplin discovers the delights of New York in spring and bases herself in Manhattan’s first luxury downtown boutique hotel – Soho Grand.
New York is an amazing place to visit at any time of year, but if you’re looking to see it at its best you can’t beat April.
The temperature is mild and pleasant and whilst you might need to bring an umbrella, it’s worth walking round in the drizzle to see the city getting in its spring-step.
The cherry blossoms are blooming in Brooklyn Botanic Garden (culminating in a truly magnificent display at the Sakura Matsuri Festival at the end of the month), the new baseball season is kicking off at the Yankee Stadium and the delicious Smorgasburg food festival will be opening its doors again.
Another great reason to visit in April is the chance to get involved in the annual Tribeca Film Festival. Running from April 17th – 28th, this legendary event was launched by Robert deNiro back in 2002 and since then they have screened more than 1,400 films from more than 80 countries. Plan a trip this year to catch some great film premieres, attend inspiring talks about the world of movie-making, and take part in some A-list celebrity spotting along the way.
If you are planning on heading to the Festival, there’s no better to place to stay than the Soho Grand.
A stone’s throw from the Tribeca neighbourhood, the Soho Grand is ideally located in the heart of SoHo. Undoubtedly one of the hippest parts of town, this is the place to be for great designer shopping, delicious food and drink, and places to party. Famous restaurants like Nobu and Megu serve up gastronomic treats that will fill your stomach (and empty your wallets) with more fresh sashimi than you can wave your chopsticks at.
If you’re after something a little more informal, head to Spring Street for some falafel and a smoothie at Taim Falafel or you can walk to ‘Eataly’ around the corner, a huge indoor Italian market that includes seven sit-down restaurants. You can shop for pretty much anything in this neighbourhood – affordable designer furniture at Blu Dot, stylish glasses at Silver Lining Opticians, fragrance at Le Labo, unusual books at McNally Jackson Bookstore and of course there are plenty of boutique clothes stores for whiling away a few happy hours. And if it’s just window-shopping you’re after, then don’t miss the chance to explore many of the neighbourhood’s cutting-edge art studios and galleries – a walk down Wooster Street is a must.
So, you’ve wandered the streets, hobnobbed with the stars of cinema, and now you need somewhere to recharge. Here’s where the Soho Grand really comes into its own as this place is about a whole lot more than its slap-bang-in-the-centre-of-things location.
Built in the mid 1990s, this hotel is famous for establishing itself as Manhattan’s first luxury downtown boutique hotel, and as soon as you walk up the stairs into the grand lobby you definitely feel as though you’ve arrived somewhere special.
Celebrated interior designer Bill Sofield has created a warm, rich stylish feel to the whole place. The dim lighting and plush furnishings give the place a sexy, sultry feel and yet the staff and atmosphere are cool without being pretentious. You can see why New York Magazine described the hotel as the ‘top boutique hotel without attitude’.
The emphasis on design is evident throughout the hotel: the beautifully hand-painted elevator doors, the whimsical statues of dogs dotted around, the glass-bottle staircase and intricate cast-iron detailing.
Normally, I’m not a fan of hotel bars, but here, in the Soho Grand, the Salon is a destination in its own right. With its spectacular steel birdcages hanging from the ceilings, plush leather chairs and perfect cocktail list, you can see why it has gained its reputation as ‘SoHo’s living room’. This is a far cry from any chain hotel, and it’s clear to see why it’s a hit with locals as well as out-of-towners.
The hotel is spread over 17 floors with 353 rooms ranging in size from compact (but still generous for Manhattan) through to an 800 square foot grand suite, and two palatial lofts. All the rooms have the luxury amenities you would expect as well as one-off pieces of furniture (cement lamp, anyone?), original black and white photographs showcasing New York in the 1940s and 1950s, and iPods preloaded with music (that in my case was significantly cooler than the ramshackle collection I own).
The style continues in the bathroom, where the towel-racks are inspired by the Paris Metro and the walls are decorated with beautiful illustrations of the Manhattan skyline by famed New York illustrator Saul Steinberg. What’s more, you can even request a goldfish for the duration of your stay.
The lofts, as you can probably imagine, are straight out of a Hollywood movie set. We’re talking 2,500 square feet of what the hotel calls ‘craftsman interiors’ that includes two bedrooms, an entertaining space, a full service wet bar and floor to ceiling windows with jaw-dropping views across downtown. The loft pays homage to the artist lofts that used to exist across SoHo in the 70s, but this time, without so much splattered paint, a bit more marble and larger TVs.
Every guest is given access to the hotel’s insider guide of carefully curated recommendations of where to go and what to do, and the reception staff know the city inside out and are full of advice.
The Soho Grand has certainly gone top of my Manhattan wish list – there can’t be a better place to be than in the Salon with a Manhattan in hand and the city on your doorstep.
By Laura Caplin
Lead-in room rate is from $295 per night.
All images courtesy of GrandLife Hotels.