The Style Group’s Top Luxury Hotels of New York

Hotel Gansevoort
New York
Manhattan Suite

It’s only 10 in the morning, already about 90 degrees and I’m melting in the famed meatpacking district of New York to check out one of the city’s trendiest new luxury hotels, the Hotel Gansevoort.

Just a few seconds ago it was so seedy down here you wouldn’t even think to visit this area. Then, McQueen and McCartney (as in fashion icons Alexander and Stella) parked their flagship boutiques here. The masses followed, and now it’s become the coolest, most stylish parts of the city.
I'm here to see if
the Gansevoort is one of The Style Group’s Top Ten Best Luxury Hotels of New York. It’s brand-spanking new, 14 stories tall,

modern, spacious, built of glass and steel…and looks down on a sea of shorter, old brick-and-mortar meatpacking buildings. (With apologies to our
vegetarian readers, I might just dispense with using the word meatpacking from here on out.)

The Gansevoort could qualify as a luxury boutique hotel, although not technically. It has 187 rooms (slightly more than the 150 rooms or fewer required, but who’s counting?). There are 20 suites and one super-spacious rooftop duplex-penthouse.

I spin through the large revolving doors into the two-story lobby, and what’s the first thing I hear echoing around? Remember that catchy 80s tune Jeopardy by the Greg Kihn Band? My head goes déjà vu—not because of the song, but because the Stephen B. Jacobs architecture and modern aesthetic looks, even smells, sort of familiar. Suddenly I’m snapped back to reality by a swarm of well-dressed alpha-male execs who rush the lobby. They buzz about for a second and then fly into the Gansevoort’s very hip Ono restaurant for a little power breakfast (there’ve been some mixed reviews about Ono, but I’ll proffer my judgment on that subject later).

The style of the Gansevoort is sleek and posh. Not the horrible, vacuous, modern design we find (and loathe) at trendy establishments like the Standard in LA. The furnishings are well conceived and constructed. Quality stuff. I park on one of the contemporary leather chairs to absorb the hotel and its inhabitants. At my feet, Joyce (it says so on her nametag), in conventional maid garb, vigorously polishes the aluminum-based, 60-inch round glass coffee table that sits on a large, brightly colored rug with Matisse-inspired organic shapes. There’s an impressive double-sided grey velour chaise lounge and a black polished-lacquer end table.

A faint clickety-click sound catches my attention and I glance down to see one of those really nauseating toy Chihuahuas (sorry Paris) skittering along the marble floor oddly paired with a heavyset, bald man (yes, they have some pet-friendly rooms here, and if allergies bug you, don’t worry, they’ve quarantined all four-legged friends to their very own floor). Meanwhile, a tall, beautiful Persol-speckled couple catwalk through in time to John Mayer’s pop tune No Such Thing as a young, blonde mom rolls her baby in a chic Peg-Perego stroller into the elevator (yes, they’re child-friendly here too).

As I’m watching the people, I suddenly feel like I’m the one being watched. I slowly turn around and in a scene straight out of Laurel and Hardy, I jump at the gaze of the security guard over by the elevator. He quickly looks away and then I catch him eyeing me a few more times before I signal for him to come over so I can introduce myself and defuse his suspicions about my note-taking, terrorist behavior.


Two scruffy, LA-looking creative types with baseball caps turned backwards emerge from the elevator holding videocams—followed by a “director” barking orders to a gaggle of sexy models. Suddenly, like a scene out of a movie, three candy-colored Gallardos obnoxiously scream up in front of the hotel and draw considerable attention to the promotion that Lamborghini is throwing here. Really! Why would anyone want to drive a car that makes that much noise? I’ll bet here in the city, they can rev these monsters up to what, oh, about 28 mph. I'll take the quiet Mercedes SL65 with 600-horsepower bi-turbo motor.

I check in, and the front desk informs me that the gorgeous seven-foot fresh floral bouquet looming over us isn't really fresh at all—wait, you mean it’s fake? She also reveals that Andi Pepper is the hotel's designer. Batabingo! See, I’m not crazy! That explains the déjà vu! Just the other day I was telling you about the Library Hotel and Pepper’s design sagacity. She perspicaciously pulls together tight, tailored looks while juxtaposing hot and cold textures—velour and brushed suede with leather, aluminum and glass—dark, rich woods with light-colored fabrics. She’s also inclined to employ a sophisticated and handsome color palette of black, taupe, brown and cream into her modern/minimalist style.

I snag a seat at Ono next to two 40-something women—also from LA (well, Newport Beach actually)—who appear slightly tipsy from whatever it was they were up to last night. A conversation ensues. They’ve booked the hotel’s High-Roller package—a special promotion that came in through an email. Hold on ladies, before you divulge what’s in that High-Roller deal, please excuse me while I order.

Yes, I’ll have the Eggs Florentine (two poached eggs on a bed of sautéed baby spinach with hollandaise sauce and black truffles served with breakfast potatoes and choice of toast or bagel. Some coffee and OJ, please. The presentation of everything I see passing around is awesome. Large portions and the breakfast is really, really yummy.

The High-Roller gals explain that for 5000 bucks they’re staying in the huge duplex penthouse suite with Jacuzzi. They have car service to/from the airport; chocolate-covered strawberries and Dom Perignon were sitting in their suite upon arrival. Today they’ll enjoy a spa day at Eva Scrivo Salon, and later, dinner for two right here at Ono. They have access to the hotel’s private poolside deck and late, late tonight they’ll have a table for ten and a personalized lifetime membership to Lotus (the hot NY club), plus (something these gals could really use) a bottle of hangover tonic.

The Suite: A
As is the case with most New York hotels, the Gansevoort suite is physically small (my suite is only 450 square feet) but the smart floor plan divides the space pretty effectively. It is nicely designed. Great style. And functional. There’s a big, 42-inch plasma television in the galley-style living room. The interior design is gorgeous, but the couch might have been one of the most uncomfortable I’ve ever tried to get comfy in. Not enough depth, board-stiff, and rock-hard cylindrical cushions that looked great but functioned like, well, rocks.

Our friend, Gwen Behrstock, in town from Newport Beach, pops over for a visit before we all go out for
dinner and uses the suite’s nice guest bathroom. Perfect! As usual, I’ve made myself at home in the master bathroom, and it's a mess in there. No problem. I just slide—yes, slide—the cool, frosted-glass door closed and voilà! No more mess! The super-comfy, cozy bed is layered in typical luxury-variety, luscious linens and poufy pillows. There’s a nice robe and slippers to shield my body from the elements. I tend not to go barefoot in hotels, so having slippers is a must. The short-pile carpeting is modern and there are no stains. Every area of the suite is clean and tidy. The view from my suite is okay, not great, but I’ve heard the view on the other side of the hotel is spectacular. I’m in a Manhattan suite. Try to get one of the Gansevoort suites—they face the Hudson River.
I have to confess, I did have a giddy hotel moment yesterday. I jumped from soaking in the nice, big, wonderful tub into the big steam-shower, turned on the steam and in about three minutes started feeling so good I was laughing and singing out loud! I'm not sure of the brand, but this thing was really great. Up there with La Valencia’s shower in San Diego. So easy to use, and all the temp controls were actually in the shower. Easily one of the best and most powerful steams I’ve ever sweated in (I used it four times in my two-night stay).

There are two things I loathe: standing in line and being put on hold. I call down to the concierge to inquire about outside dining
choices and I’m put on hold. I wait. And wait some more. And then I wonder if I’ve been disconnected. (The challenge new hotels face is becoming too busy too quickly; consequently, the service burps and blips before they have a chance to ramp up). I’m still on hold to the sound of the Electric Light Orchestra’s Evil Woman. I wait until the song finishes, because I like it, and finally hang up. Okay, one demerit. The Gansevoort could use a little sprucing-up in the expediency department.

The Ono Restaurant – A
It’s so nice to just pop down the hotel elevator and meet friends for a cocktail or dinner without having to hail a cab—or at least try to hail one. The Ono is a good example of a premium restaurant tied to a premium hotel. It’s the creation of culinary master Jeffrey Chodorow of China Grill Management (China Grill, Asia de Cuba, Tuscan and Mix in New York). The large, multilevel space accommodates about 300. The menu includes traditional and modern Japanese cuisine like sushi and Robatayaki (grilling meats and veggies in front of you). The style of
the space is Japan meets mid-century modern.

After being seated at a nice table with comfortable chairs, the first thing I notice is how confusing the menu is! Well, no, the first thing I notice is how dark it is in here. Or rather, how dramatically lit. Then I notice the menu is a like an owner’s manual. Sooo much copy. Sooo many choices! And while the design is gorgeous and nicely organized, the type is so teeny, I can barely make a word out. So my first tip to Ono visitors is to bring a flashlight and a magnifying glass, your bifocals, or at least have 20-year-old eyes with you. Or do what I did—just ask the server what she suggests! Boy, was she helpful. She walked me through the menu and showed me how it all worked (honestly, I was still a little confused). Then she proceeded to make what turned out to be wonderful suggestions.

Ono dishes are fantastic! Where else can you have a parfait with uni (sea urchin), foie gras, tofu and agar-agar for a starter? While I’m not particulary fond of uni, this was a wonderful blend—delicious! The Kumamoto oyster with wasabi tobiko and quail egg shooter was a must-have—mainly because my grandfather was from Kumamoto in Japan. We chowed on a platter of sushi (really fresh with just the right rice consistency). I’m a sushi and rice expert. I consume a ton of it (I’m a guy who buys those 50-pound sacks of rice you’ve seen at the supermarket and always wondered if anyone actually bought them). This was great sushi. But I’ll tell you, the best part of eating at Ono is cooking fresh Kobe beef on top of “hot” rocks—right at your table. There is something special, almost Zen, about cooking your own food on top of these black stones. Then they give you five small dishes filled with mouthwatering sauces to dip your veggies and meats into that quite honestly, would make even wood chips taste good. Nice wine list with plenty of good sake selections complements the evening. My verdict on Ono? Oh yes!

And lastly.

Put the Gansevoort toward the top of our list. Not at the top, but pretty close. This hotel is hip and cool and trendy with a grown-up aesthetic style. Like I said, the style is “rich modern”—not disposable modern. The suites are great for the price. The Ono is one of the best Japanese restaurants in New York, and if you tell your friends to meet you at the Gansevoort, they’ll know you have great taste. Tell them you’re taking them to the rooftop bar on a Thursday night and they’ll think you’re cooler than they thought. The staff is cordial and nice but could use some expediency training. The architecture and design style are top-notch. The bonus? The meatpacking (oops, said it again) district is the area to eat, shop and hang out in New York, and the Gansevoort is right in the thick of it. Please add the Hotel Gansevoort to The Style Group’s Top Ten Best Luxury Hotels in New York.

Stephen Kamifuji
Style Director