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Hot spots: the Greenwich Hotel, New York

Carol West

 

The Greenwich? Analyze this please: an entertainment and business hotel for the star-struck, this upscale downtown indulgence could double as co-owner Robert De Niro's personal pied-a-terre. Much of the interior features salvaged and pre-loved tiles and timbers, giving the hotel a private members' club vibe. Personal touches include Robert De Niro Snr's Picasso-esque paintings, which hang from walls in the lobby and drawing room (right); mood lighting; and Manhattan's ultimate luxury, a spacious Tuscan-inspired courtyard (top). Lusciously planted, paved in old stones with vines overhead, it's a scene from a Luchino Visconti movie. The Greenwich is a crash pad among the bicoastal celebrity set and, even though discretion keeps staffers' lips sealed, I couldn't avoid running into R&B singer Usher and his entourage heading for a line of black SUVs.

Is the hotel surrounded by mean streets? They may once have been mean but are no longer. Situated in Tribeca, a 'hood De Niro has claimed as his own since establishing the Tribeca Film Festival and a number of restaurants, including Nobu, in the area, the hotel is housed in a sturdy building on the edge of a clutch of SoHo designer boutiques, steps from the Hudson River and a short stroll from the financial district.

Is it a good place for sleepers? I'd say so. Providing the sort of space that most New Yorkers can only dream about, each of the 88 guest rooms, which include 12 suites, are individually styled retreats from the bustling metropolis and, while all are beautiful, those overlooking the courtyard come with a particular cache. Against chalky white walls, French-inspired limed cabinetry, created by Tribeca craftsmen, houses hotel essentials such as wardrobe, safety deposit box and mini bar. Furniture is selected with a set designer's eye while salvaged oak parquetry flooring creaks reassuringly of a previous life. Bathrooms boast bright, vibrant Moroccan tiles or sleek white Italian Carrara marble and fittings are inspired by provincial European homes. Excepting alcohol, everything in the bar fridge is complimentary, as are savoury and sweet treats in a cute mini-wire shopping basket.

Are little Fockers welcome? Depending on your preference, children and one small pet are welcome, yes. And the midday checkout is flexible, subject to availability.

Would I feel awkward if I went down to dinner dressed as a taxi driver? Definitely. Entering the Drawing Room, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, is like walking into a private house party. For dress code, think A-listers at ease. The room's warmth and charm emanate from the lovingly restored pieces that inhabit the space, including mirrors from New York's iconic Flatiron Building, ceiling beams from a Massachusetts farmhouse, well-trod heirloom rugs and iron-framed French doors that lead to the central courtyard. Intimate earth tones and low lighting are carried through to the hotel restaurant, Locanda Verde, where high-end Italian comfort food, such as wood-fired rabe sausage and roasted garlic chicken, is dished up. If you're seeking privacy, request a table in the northwest corner, otherwise join the glitterati and media moguls sipping bellini martinis at the restaurant's Parisian-style bar, where a wine, vodka and grappa menu soon sorts the men from the boys.

And if I want to look flawless? In the basement, beneath massive roof beams that once sheltered a Japanese farmhouse, the Shibui Spa offers treatments that fuse Asian subtlety with European sensibility. Five treatment rooms, one with a wet room, another a couples retreat, are complemented by a pool (top) and a boutique fitness centre designed by De Niro's personal trainer. Timbers are lantern-lit, bathing the space with warmth and well-being, while freshly squeezed fruit juices, light spa meals and sake are always on hand.

Would I have to win big at a casino to pay for it all? The rooms aren't cheap, put it that way. Double rooms start from US$550 plus taxes, and exclude breakfast. For more information, visit www.thegreenwichhotel.com.

What just happened? Ah - I see what you have done, now. All the questions contain De Niro movie titles. You scamp!

 

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