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LUXURY HOTELS: Crosby Street Hotel, New York, USA
Style: Eclectic home meets big night out
Scene: Centrepoint of SoHo cool
Seen in Lobby: Media mafia and film icons
There had been a lot of buzz about Crosby Street Hotel in SoHo. Its arrival on New York's hotel scene had coincided with a shimmering horde of end-2009 luxury hotel openings and delayed openings - from The Surrey Hotel on Upper East Side to the nearby Trump Tower Soho - yet with remarkable alacrity and discreet charm Crosby Street Hotel had seemingly annihilated any talk about its competition.
I knew of one top New York fashion stylist and her various associates who had dined there twice in its opening week. Other hoteliers - even one, in particular, iconic and doubly expensive - wanted to grill me on anything they could about 'The Crosby' as NYC insiders had begun to dub it.

crosby street hotel   bedroom
crosby street hotel   bedroom
crosby street hotel drawing room
crosby street hotel lobby jaume plensa to dr closer in r
crosby street hotel the crosby bar towards the lobby
crosby street hotel meadow suite bed
crosby street hotel event space

Now, snowboarding through the downtown traffic with a driver trained by 'Mario Cart' at the steering wheel, it seems that the only radar of importance Crosby Street hasn't registered on is the one belonging to New York Cabs. An explanation for this could be put simply: most of Crosby Street's early guests are arriving by limousine.

As a by-product, I suffer the small indignity of being dumped curbside by a cabbie fed up with my inability to remember street numbers. In a gesture of last-second consolation he runs across to a waiting limo and asks the driver for directions. Yes, the limo driver knows the way and I am waved forward.

I trundle along the narrow, cobbled Crosby Street like a discombobulated Sherpa. A smile in hotel uniform spots me. I am thankful for the doorman's welcome because I might otherwise have kept on trundling.

New Yorkers are big on cool. Part of this cool involves pretending not to care about being cool. Oddly enough, there is a trans-Atlantic meeting point here with British don't-make-too-big-a-show-of-yourself reserve that Crosby Street Hotel's entrance seems to be tapping into. For its first international foray, London-based hotel group Firmdale has left the building unsigned. Instead, banks of enormous glass windows and doors allow passers by a peak inside to where the first touches of English eccentricities have been unleashed.

A sculpture of a giant head made up of alphabet letters has been planted in the foyer next to the main doors. More sculptures of life-size dogs stand and crouch across from it. It's a doggie art theme that continues into the spice-coloured guest lounge off the foyer and onto the walls inside lifts. Here photo collages of local pooch identities - from pug to grinning poodle - affectionately plaster the elevator sides.

Anyone familiar with Firmdale's six other hotels - including The Soho Hotel, Haymarket and Covent Garden - will have been in contact with the award-winning interior design work of Kit Kemp (co-owner with husband Tim Kemp). Her courageous clashing of colour, stripes, pattern and textures is injected with original art, custom furniture and antiques and pulled off with a wink and the sort of wonderfully idiosyncratic style that Vivienne Westwood gets hugs on the catwalk for. It thumbs its nose at monochrome minimalism and reclines in the owners' stated belief that "hotels should be living things, not stuffy institutions".

Each of the 86 rooms spread across this boutique hotel's 11 new build storeys (hard to believe it apparently used to be a car park) has been individually decorated. Inside my room the walls are striped wheat and Tiffany blue. I'm told the colour/pattern scheme has been repeated with fabric wallpaper in another.

One constant in the rooms is the grey marble bathrooms - it is as if Kit Kemp had exhausted herself for individual styles. Another is the floor-to-ceiling casement windows. On the LaFayette Street side of the building the views are gloriously New York - warehouse apartments, roof gardens and water towers. Top floors take in the bridges to Brooklyn and newly hip Williamsburg. I make like home and open a large rotating pane of windows that lets in fresh air (a rare privilege in many luxury hotels).

Of course, there are many things that aren't just-like-home about Crosby Street. Sometimes it comes in little touches; who has bathroom mirrors heated so they don't fog? At other times it's hard to ignore. Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein having a power breakfast meeting in Crosby Street restaurant is not a quiet affair. A round table buffet shouldering mountains of muesli, compotes, yoghurt and continental bits tempts concentration. An additional hot breakfast menu is worth contemplation. However, Daniel Day-Lewis leaping into the room to say "Hello!" to Harvey is more distraction.

Indeed, the private event rooms and the deep-purple-with-orange-seats screening room have already been embraced by the film industry's 'It' crowd. At night, it is not uncommon to see a clutch of black Schwarznegger-size SUV's blocking the narrow street. Returning 'home', I am trapped in the flashlight frenzy following Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar at their Crosby Street screening of 'Broken Embraces'.

Fortunately, the crowd simultaneously filling The Crosby Bar and dining area is preoccupied. If they've come to spot stars they don't show it. They sit along the back-to-back banks of striped lounge sofas and sip from the expansive cocktail list in earnest. My armchair neighbour points out he is here to review for his 'man' web site. He is overcome by his 'French 75' cocktail. "It has the most perfect balance of gin to champagne," he coos.
A sculpture of a GIANT HEAD made up of alphabet letters has been planted in the FOYER by the main doors.

As I listen, I snaffle up little savoury bar morsels - a mini gruyere and truffle panini - and stick with my red from a wine list that treks extensively through Europe, Oceania and North and South America. His companion goes hunting for flaws. Finally, she flicks her head skywards to the medley of circus caravan coloured glass lights hovering at different heights above our head. "I think that they're spaced too far apart," she says pinching her fingers together mid-air as if trying to push them closer.

If this is the worst blight she can come up with, then Crosby Street Hotel should sleep easily. And this is the case. It is hard to fault. Privately, I might not roll over at the sight of some of the artworks. I may wonder why they went with walk-in showers instead of baths. And do we need a hotel signature glass mannequin torso on our in-room desk that glows fluorescent like a child's nightlight? However, it's hard not to be won by the artful interplay of kook and kink in an often oh-so-serious hotel scene at large. And the experienced thoughtfulness that likely comes with having created boutique hotels many times before is palpable.

At time of stay it was a case of book well ahead to get a table into The Crosby Bar restaurant. I suspect this will continue to be the case with the onset of warmer months. The expansive tree-filled courtyard is set to party.

Check in: Crosby Street Hotel, 79 Crosby Street New York NY 10012. Tel: +1 212 226 6400
Ultimate Luxury: Made-for-you luxury positioned in a 655 feet (200 metres) radius of many of the best things New York is currently offering in restaurants and boutique shops.
Most Indulgent Moment: Plonk yourself at a breakfast dining table by morning and a bar lounge chair at night and indulge your stomach with great food and your eyes with the passing parade - it's never dull.
Insider Secrets: The Meadow Suite, which opens out onto its own private garden courtyard, has already been declared by one shall-not-be-named film icon as the most beautiful luxury hotel suite she has seen. See why for yourself.
The Little Things: We like that this hotel cares: it's going for its Gold Leed environmental certification and has a kitchen garden on its rooftop. It has registered that there are enough coeliacs to warrant wheat free bread and pasta being available. A sticker on your room-delivered New York Times outlines the day's weather forecast with the sort of clarity that penetrates the bleariest hangover. A light comes on when you open your wardrobe.
Junior Luxies: More a couple's getaway. However, if film star tykes wouldn't be entirely out of place here, and you must bring, then why not!
Dress code: Eclectic eccentric if you're comfortable with it, otherwise stick to sleek and shimmering. If in doubt, click on http://www.trendmill.com/ to see what the stars are wearing.
Perfect luggage: See above or anything by Tumi.
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Hotels Link: www.firmdale.com

Prue Rushton 16/3/10

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