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Andaz Wall Street

75 Wall St., New York, N.Y. 10005


There are 253 rooms from $275

If the workboats, tugs and pleasure craft chugging down Lower Manhattan's East River recall New York's Gilded Age, the mood half a block up Wall Street at the just-opened Andaz hotel is decidedly 21st-century. In this new lodging concept, Hyatt places high-end accommodations in a casual package. Without white-glove hovering or boutique posturing, Andaz, the Hindi word for "personal style," offers a picnic basket of services that lets each guest choose what he or she needs. A long common table in the lobby is heaped with free drinks and snacks. Beyond the common table, heartier fare such as sautéed mushrooms and jumbo shrimp packed in homey Mason jars is offered in the grab-and-go area, a high-end takeout concept surfacing at several Hyatt brands. Seamless, nearly invisible service is another Andaz signature. Barely through the door, we're greeted by a host bearing a hand-held PC who rolls through check-in, concierge and bellhop rituals as we sip wine at the common table - just long enough to eavesdrop details on New York's newest nightlife quarter a few blocks away. Stone Street, a 17th-centurycobblestone lane with spots like Adrienne's pizza bar and Stone Street Tavern , is still under the radar.

Design The fluid layout creates a warm, unpretentious atmosphere. Public areas such as the soaring lobby, flanked by the kind of expansive pearl-white staircases last seen in a Busby Berkeley film, have open sightlines to encourage conviviality. Guest rooms are also open-plan, divided by modular furniture instead of walls to create a sense of space that balances the skyscrapers outside.

Amenities Both gym and spa are designed for guests in a hurry. Workout machines are available 24/7 and many spa treatments, such as the neck massage, can be booked in 15-minute sessions. The half-hour Oxygen Facial, a vitamin-infused blast of medical-grade oxygen paired with a hand, arm, foot and scalp massage, is ideal before a morning meeting that starts too close to the night before. Afterward, you're dispatched with a freshly pressed suit, shined shoes, a shot of cold Matcha green tea and a Wall Street Journal, quickly, as the spa has no robes, no locker room and no place to linger.

The Rooms Even the smallest rooms are a generous 345 square feet , expanded by 11-foot ceilings and seven-foot high windows that make Wall Street's stone canyon part of the decor. The aesthetic is manly with dark oak floors and black tile baths - ours had a Japanese-style soaking tub - and the attitude is generous, with free Internet, local phone calls and anything in the minibar, save alcohol. Cleverly designed to maximize space, the "personal valet" is a rotating tower that harbours compartments for hanging clothes, the minibar and a full-length mirror. Mechanicals are mercifully intuitive, including an atmospheric lighting system whose operation doesn't require an engineering degree. Still, with tech options such as the 42-inch LCD TV and an iPod docking station on the sound system, the absence of a CD/DVD player is surprising.

Service Andaz aspires to a subtle service that anticipates guests' needs. Mirroring check-in, a battalion of PC-bearing clerks float near elevators around noon, and we find ourselves checked out with bags stored, headed for the shops inside 10 minutes. Turndown, however, proves elusive. Unaware this requires hanging our service card on the doorknob, we're startled by an 11 p.m. knock from the maid. Let's assume she knew we were awake from the sound of our TV and offer high marks for effort.

Food and Drink At Wall & Water, the Argentine chef puts an imaginative spin on local Hudson Valley products. If foodies in the advanced class will gravitate to dishes such as confit of pork belly and lamb shank in a light cinnamon sauce, for me the menu's highlights are its simplest items - the home-churned prune Armagnac ice cream and the tangy butter with farm bread.

Down half a flight of stairs on an open mezzanine between the restaurant and the lobby, Bar Seven Five does a creditable job reviving pre-Prohibition-era cocktails by pouring them Pullman-style, from shakers and caddies, as on those long-gone trains. Bar snacks here come in Mason jars too, the same sautéed mushrooms and jumbo shrimp found at the high-end takeout station in the lobby were grab-and-go meals sell for $8 to $12.

Still, the hotel meal I enjoy most is our room-service breakfast, largely because I can partake in my pyjamas. Disappointed to find no in-room coffee maker, I do the next best thing: send my husband to forage the lobby common table. Happily for all concerned, he returns with a cup of eye-popping coffee, mini-muffins and a cookie, just enough sustenance to peruse the expansive breakfast menu. Passing on the Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras only because I had sampled it at dinner, we settle on granola, freshly baked jelly doughnuts, smoked applewood bacon, and a generous hunk of brie that is served on a wooden board lined with butcher paper and accompanied by devilish homemade chutney. Promised in less than 30 minutes, it arrives spot on time.

The Verdict Minimalist in attitude and decor, the Andaz Wall Street is as comfortable for financial types on business as for tourists exploring the oldest streets in Manhattan.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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