New York: 3 New Boutique Hotels

photo courtesy of Andaz Wall Street


The Buzz This is the fourth offering from Hyatt’s new boutique brand (another one is slated to open this summer in Midtown Manhattan).

Location At the corner of Wall and Water Streets in New York’s financial district, this is a perfect spot for business travelers. But it also (perhaps unexpectedly) works for those looking to explore a different area away from the usual suspects. Manhattan’s oldest neighborhood offers off-the-grid charm, sites like the Stock Exchange and Fraunces Tavern, a thriving waterfront, and even a TKTS booth for discounted theater tickets.

The Look Guest rooms are studies in blonde wood minimalism, with brushed aluminum and British tan leather accents. They feature high-tech bedside controls that work their magic on lights and curtains, and furniture that does double-duty (spin the armoire on its axis to unveil a mini-bar, then a full-length mirror; walk around the desk that holds a flat-screen tv to discover that its back is mirrored and a vanity bench awaits ).

Bells & Whistles Wall and Water restaurant features a display kitchen and serves a farm-to-table menu. A downstairs spa is small, but gets the job done in speedy — if you so desire: there are 15-minute sessions available — and luxurious fashion.

Extra Mile The soaring lobby offers a tempting presentation of complimentary cookies and soft drinks all day, along with espresso and coffee in the morning, and wines in the early evening. Great breakfast pastries and savory munchies are available here for sale, too. Similarly, guest rooms feature a minibar stocked with free soft drinks, as well as Terra chips and organic chocolate bars.

Needs Work Some flowers or artwork might help the guest rooms feel a little less impersonal. The conceit of a uniform-less and check-in-free experience can lead to delays and confusion. — JoAnn Greco

photo courtesy of Distrikt Hotel


The Buzz As if being located in the heart of midtown weren’t enough, Distrikt Hotel has adopted Gotham as its design theme. Starting with the lobby entrance, touches include a 14-foot “living wall” inspired by Central Park, a sculpture-like wooden art piece at the front desk symbolizing the streets of Manhattan and subway maps at the elevators. Heading upstairs, ten Manhattan neighborhoods (“distrikts” in the hotel’s parlance), from the Financial District to Harlem, are celebrated with photo collages by artist Chris Rubino along the corridors.

Location With views of the Port Authority Bus Terminal parking structure directly across the street, Distrikt couldn’t get much closer to the bus depot without actually being inside. (Fortunately, it’s not.) The block of West 40th Street is a bit seedy at the 8th Avenue end, but improves as you head west and becomes a kind of mini hotel row consisting of mostly budget properties, including a Staybridge Suites and a Fairfield Inn. Penn Station and the theater district are but a five-minute walk away and Chelsea is just a little farther afield.

The Look The skinny 32-story tower is a study in minimalism, inside and out. The 155 guest rooms feature contemporary, dark wood furniture and tufted leather headboards offset by white duvet covers.

Bells & Whistles Distrikt, which is part of Choice Hotels’ Ascend Collection, hits all the right boutique notes, from the Frette linens and bathrobe to the free Wi-Fi and iHome docking station radio and alarm clock. The Simmons Beauty Rest pillow top mattress in my king room was especially comfy. If you feel the need to dine-in or want to have a nightcap, there is a bar-restaurant on the premises.

Extra Mile I didn’t partake, but a free, overnight shoeshine is included.

Needs Work The Wi-Fi in my room went down in the early evening and wasn’t restored until the next morning. The front desk blamed the problem on the Internet provider, and didn’t offer any remedy or timeline for when service might come back. Although I’m not one to complain about a quiet hotel, my room on the 25th floor was so free of noise that I was bothered several times in the middle of the night by housekeeping accessing a closet across the hall. – Robert DiGiacomo

photo courtesy of Fashion 26 Hotel


The Buzz Billed as New York’s first fashion-centric hotel, this 280-room property room also represents a bid by Wyndham to claim some business in the boutique hotel market.

Location The 22-story tower isn’t situated in the most scenic spot, but it is a strategic one: directly across 26th Street is the Fashion Institute of Technology, and a short walk away is Penn Station, Chelsea and the Fashion District.

The Look The design alludes to its Fashion District location with a custom reception desk modeled on a designer’s cutting-room table. Artist Devorah Sperber has created a tactile installation from spools of thread that pays tribute to the work of Piet Mondrian. The guest rooms –– small by most standards, average for New York –– have a spacious vibe, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. The fashion theme continues in the private quarters, where bedside tables sport legs that resemble those of old school sewing machines and the wallpaper pattern is meant to seem like a classic silk tie.

Bells & Whistles Wyndham has covered its bases with the guest rooms and hotel amenities: Frette linens? Check. Powerful, walk-in shower? Yes. Free Wi-Fi? It’s there, too.The bi-level hotel restaurant, RARE, tries hard to not seem too corporate and specializes in the “great American hamburger.” A rooftop lounge, RARE View, does just that by providing a good look at the Empire State Building.

Extra Mile Specially made cupcakes from Crumbs are offered gratis at the front desk. The hotel staff seemed especially friendly and eager to accommodate the smallest request, such as storing bags after check out.

Needs Work The sheets may be Frette, but they sure felt scratchy. Note to housekeeping: Less starch, please. – Robert DiGiacomo