In the latest edition of On The Road, we check out the seven best new city hotels:
- Casa Bonay Hotel Entrance. Photograph by Mr Nacho Alegre. Courtesy of Casa Bonay
There’s a time for desert island escapades, and a time for countryside retreats. But the autumn – a new term, a new uniform, a new purpose in our stride – belongs to the city break. And whether you’re in New York this fall or Paris for la rentrée, the options for urban hospitality have never been better.
In town for business or pleasure, sir? Let’s say both, because these days it’s really not delineated like that. The new generation of hotels and residences mixes the professional with the personal, providing not just a base, but a cultural microcosm, a lens through which to see the city. Cookie-cutter amenities no longer cut it with the new, switched-on traveller: with innovative extra services and locally sourced everything, the city comes to you.
Here we round up seven of the very best.
CASA BONAY, BARCELONA
- From left: photograph by Ms Meritxell Arjalaguer. Courtesy of Casa Bonay; photograph by Mr Nacho Alegre. Courtesy of Casa Bonay
In a carefully refurbished 1869 mansion in Dreta de l’Eixample, Casa Bonay is a charming new hotel and a love letter to its local area.
Travel down the wide avenues of this once-grand neighbourhood, past the hotel’s floor-level cold-press juice bar and coffee shop. You’ll find yourself in the lobby, which has the feel of a coworking space and is a world away from the sangria rowdiness of La Rambla. Casa Bonay’s young founder and co-owner, Ms Inés Miró-Sans – herself a Barcelona native fresh from a stint at the Ace Hotel Group in New York – is intent on investing in local brands and promoting homegrown talent. From the natural soapsby Las Lilas and blankets by Catalan bedding company Teixidors, to the lamps by local lighting designers Santa & Cole, a stay here is the fastest way to lift a lid on all that is loveliest about this multifaceted city.
Book this room: all of Casa Bonay’s 67 rooms are upliftingly light-filled, but the Courtyard Large Terrace rooms are the ones to nab; they face a large interior courtyard of residential garden plots, potted plants and laundry lines (that distinctive back-of-house view so typical of Barcelona). They also come with a yoga kit.
OFF PARIS SEINE, PARIS
- Photograph by Ms Céline Demoux. Courtesy of Off Paris Seine
Moored at the Quai d’Austerlitz on the Left Bank, just a quick skip from the increasingly fashionable Cité de la Mode et du Design, Off Paris Seine is the largest boat docked in the French capital – and one of the city’s hottest new hotels. Created by nautical architect Mr Gérard Ronzatti, with interiors by Messrs Maurizio Galante and Tal Lancman, it was built off-site and transported down the river in sections. The result is an unusual, tall affair, which maximises river views over two levels. But waking up to lapping waves is not the only appealing thing: the lounge bar is also a big draw, as is the laid-back dipping pool that curls around the bar. Stylish Parisians flock for sundownerswith the resident inflatable gold swan and those peerless Seine views.
Book this room: there are 58 rooms on Off Paris Seine, and all have views of either the Left or Right Banks of the city, but two are particularly special: the all-orangeDesigner Sunset Suite, which has been totally Tangoed with a mandarin and copper colour scheme meant to pump you full of energy; and the Designer Silver Suite, which is only a little more muted, with multiple mirrors and a bright yellow bath.
THE NEW ROAD RESIDENCE, LONDON
- Photographs courtesy of The New Road Residence
Behind a mysterious wisteria-clad Georgian façade in Whitechapel, 33 New Road houses the latest (and possibly greatest) initiative from Mr James Brown and Ms Christie Fels, founder and creative director respectively of Shoreditch fashion destination Hostem. They scoured the world for treasures with which to furnish it, so a desk from Chandigarh rubs legs with Studio Toogood chairs and a world-class collection of art. The historical three-bedroom townhouse is available to rent in its entirety for long or short stays: it’s a perfect bolthole from which to explore the capital or the surrounding east London conservation area, or just to settle in and enjoy the library (full of recent and classical literature chosen by King’s College philosopher Dr Clayton Littlejohn), wine cellar, working fireplaces (on every floor) and that gigantic copper bath.
Work up an appetite for: the original pantry is replenished every day with the delivery of a huge basket of fresh produce from cult local grocery shop Leila’s, while the impressive wine cellar (the responsibility for which fell to Primeur restaurateur Mr Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim) also demands some serious attention.
THE KIMPTON GRAY HOTEL, CHICAGO
- Photographs courtesy of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants
Its design, in a textured grey palette accentuated by powder blue, brass, and gold foil (with the occasional flash of the unexpected) is inspired by fine tailoring of Savile Row, and so it probably won’t surprise you that it is geared more towards the businesstraveller. Situated in the former New York Life Insurance Building, the 293-room Gray Hotel takes its name from the fully restored Georgia Gray marble that featured in the original 1900s architecture. Here, food and drink take priority: there is a plethora of options including Boleo, a South American restaurant under an enormous retractable glass roof, which spans the hotel’s 15th floor; Vol. 39, the lobby bar where the wine and spirits menu is almost as comprehensive as the trove of vintage encyclopedias discovered during renovations; and Steadfast, a seasonal restaurant on the ground floor.
11 HOWARD, NEW YORK
- Photographs courtesy of 11 Howard
Partnering with a range of local businesses and nonprofits, this 221-room boutique property in SoHo has a socially conscious vibe that elsewhere might compromise its comfort. At 11 Howard, however, in part thanks to Ms Anda Andrei and Space Copenhagen’s gorgeous interior design collaboration, this is thoughtful hospitality at its very best. Also in the mix are restaurateur Mr Stephen Starr, and standout contemporary artists, such as Messrs Dan Attoe and Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Ms Katie Yang. A dynamic coworking space, the 11H Collective, makes for one of NY’s sparkiest creative hubs.
Book this room: as is most often the case in this city of skyscrapers, the higher the floor, the better the view. The Terrace Suite, with its wraparound balcony, has the edge over the rest. The rooms on the eighth are also worth requesting, if only for their slightly more perfect proportions and arched ceilings.
- Photographs by Mr Jason Loucas. Courtesy of QT, Melbourne
Before QT opened its Melbourne outpost this summer, it was already making the news – for its unconventional hiring process. At a recruitment day for hotel staff, hundreds of hopefuls were asked to put on their best “blue steel” in a recreation of the walk-off from Zoolander – among other challenges. And the emphasis that QT places on finding charismatic staff is indicative of life at its hotels, where fancy dress and unexpected events are the norm. Housed in the former Great Union cinemas on Russell Street in the Central Business District, the hotel is a riot of fashion and art, from the rugs created by local street artists, through to digital art in the lifts.
Work up an appetite for: the lobby is where the action is at QT – from its famous “Directors of Chaos” who greet guests as they arrive, to the archive fashion footageflashing up on big screens. Take a moment to make sense of it all while you tuck into a cake from the hotel pastry chef Mr Youssef Aderdour, who has worked with Messrs Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon.
AHN LUH ZHUJIAJIAO, SHANGHAI
- Photograph courtesy of The Leading Hotels of the World
One of the most influential men in the world of luxury hospitality, Mr Adrian Zecha, founder of Aman Resorts and cofounder of Regent International Hotels, now has a new project – an urban resort brand for China. Ahn Luh is designed to take on the global luxury chains that have dominated China’s hotel scene for so long and bring the country’s cultural traditions into play in a contemporary context. The Ahn Luh Zhujiajiao is the first in a planned series of seven hotels across China, which will consist of 35 villas in traditional Chinese style built over a suburb of Shanghai. The resort is akin to a small neighbourhood – its low-rise buildings and courtyards bordered by water on two sides. A 600-year-old courthouse from the Ming Dynasty has been turned into the “lobby”, or as it is now known, Wu Feng Lou (court of five phoenixes).
In case of emergencies: the villas here are all extremely spacious (starting at 120 sq m) and come with their own heated outdoor pool and every amenity you’d expect. But it’s with the wellbeing offering where cultural immersion really comes into play – Ahn Luh Zhujiajiao is home to both a tai chi room with resident tai chi master, and a traditional Chinese medicine service desk.