9 Crosby St.; 1-800-6971791; mondriansoho.com; 270 rooms from $299 a night. No eco-rating.
If you've ever stayed at a Morgan's Group hotel, you'll have an idea of what to expect - from the art gallery chic of the Sanderson in London to the modern glam of the Mondrian L.A., there is a definite hip and cool (sometimes even a bit cold) vibe. The brand-new Mondrian SoHo, glittering above what might be the last quiet corner of New York's fun SoHo neighbourhood, is surprisingly softer and more voluptuous than its sisters. But it's a Morgan's hotel nonetheless and that means polish, elegance and, for better or for worse, a scene.
Set back from Crosby Street, and signless (of course), the hotel appears first as a French garden, framed by great metal archways covered in vines. If you ask, you'll be told director Jean Cocteau's 1946 La Belle et la Bête inspired interior designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz and, although this description feels a bit overwrought, you can't argue with the results. The place is simply gorgeous. The lobby stretches over two floors - on ground level, the French-blue walls and whimsical seating vignettes are lit somewhat moodily. Go up a level to check in and the same theme continues in a brighter, lighter tone. The furniture, custom-designed by Noriega-Ortiz, does not exactly shout Beauty and the Beast, but the shaggy feathered lamps and plush settees do create a feeling of fantasy, while the oversized rose motifs on ceilings, walls and carpets feel luxurious and feminine.
Hallways continue the deep French-blue theme, but rooms are wisely toned down to crisp white, great lighting and pretty blue accents. Since this is the only tall building around, rooms have an unobstructed view of Manhattan and floor-to-ceiling glass, but note that the majority are not at all large. Instead, they feature clever design features such as under-the-bed storage, high ceilings and mirrored walls to create a feeling of spaciousness. (Suites and penthouses have terraces.) You will sleep well between Egyptian cotton sheets under a down duvet, unless your neighbours happen to come back drunk at 3 a.m. But hotel security will deal with your complaint quickly and efficiently. It is hard to leave the beautiful marble shower with the big window and the great Malin + Goetz treats, but Manhattan beckons.
In-room electronics include a smorgasbord of TV channels, movie options and even an iPad concierge. You can get room service or help from the concierge around the clock; and you can rent a bike, though the hotel can't make room on the sidewalks for you.
The hotel is staffed by young, energetic and, yes, good-looking people who don't have the attitude you might expect. They truly want to help you hail a cab, find your restaurant, get a decent night's sleep. Occasionally, there's a bit of a gap: Going down to the lobby in a downpour, I asked for an umbrella and was sent up to my room where there was, um, no umbrella. The entire hotel was fresh out.
Imperial No. Nine is the hotel's much heralded dining spot, presided over by Top Chef standout Sam Talbot. The room sparkles with laughter under a huge chandelier, but the atrium feel keeps it from getting too precious. The menu is mostly sustainable seafood - raw fluke with frozen coconut and chili water is memorable, as is the lovely texture and flavour of the slow-cooked octopus. Skirt steak is a nice option for non-seafoodies. Some desserts hit, some miss. For a bit of the Morgan Group's famous nightlife, step into Mister H. It's a heady downtown scene already.
Location might be this hotel's greatest asset - it is SoHo, but far enough away from Broadway to spare you traffic fumes and blaring horns. New hotels in prime locations aren't easy to come by, at least not at $300 a night. The trendy, plush vibe at this latest Mondrian might feel over the top to some; this is definitely not a place to discreetly disappear. But if you like to feel you're staying somewhere with buzz and style, go ahead and book.
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