It’s summer, and the Long Island Expressway from the airport is packed with New Yorkers crawling home from sunny days on the beach. My flight was delayed, so I’m feeling a little frazzled as I brace myself to be hot in the city. A tad daunted by a two-day schedule of back-to-back meetings, I visualise little time for socialising; although I’ve heard of a new business-and-leisure trip term ‘oblication’ – when travellers mix obligations with a little vacationing – and I’m hoping that’s what this little bleisure stay can be. So there’s my confession. I am staying at Smyth Tribeca for work. Conjuring pinstripes and briefcases is terribly unSmithy of me to when you know it’s sexy sojourns we love most to wax lyrical about, but thought I’d be straight with you. Although I fear some of my editorial colleagues may actually bring physical harm to me for using the words oblication and bleisure in one review.
Arriving in TriBeCa (NY’s famous portmanteau for the triangle below Canal Street) on a Sunday night and the downtown district feels remarkably peaceful. Pulling up at the distinguished mid-rise building on West Broadway at the corner of Chambers Street and it is a slick antidote to the chaos of traffic. Smartly dressed doormen magic away my suitcase and warmly usher me in into the cool, dark, loungey lobby. Instantly I can visualise the interior designers’ mood board: a Mad Men homage of suit-fabric swatches and jetset accessories.
Soft pinstriped walls, sharp-edged coffeetables, midcentury modern leather couches and plaid carpet roar alpha-masculinity. Backdropping the reception desk is a cabinet of boys’ toys. After admiring robots and 1960s clocks, I get in the elevator. It’s a ridiculously long amount of time before I realise we’re not actually going anywhere. I was happily daydreaming and neglected to put in my room keycard when I punched the fifth-floor button. But hey, that’s how smoothly things here roll – even when it is finally moving, I can barely tell.
Discovering I’ve lucked out with a corner room is a boon – super spacious for the city, it feels like I have my own Manhattan pied-à-terre. Even better, a cheese platter and bottle of French red wine awaits on the table. Then: ding-dong. It is my first guest – a friend has been buzzed up. I’ve gone from feeling drained at the exhausted end to a transatlantic commute to hosting my own little cocktail soirée. The scene soon segues from glossy HBO production to slapstick BritCom, though, when both us have a go at opening the bottle of Côtes du Rhône without success. I’m pretty sure the strains of us gruntingly trying to tug out the stubborn cork provide interesting sound effects for the neighbours. If this hotel wasn’t built so as to shut out every peep, I imagine they’d be raising eyebrows. Or blushing.
Our mini-platter of gooey camembert and crumbly goat cheese has our appetites for Plein Sud more than whetted, so we head down to meet more NY friends in the hotel’s restaurant. Reclaimed wood panels, soothing Provençal wheat tones, rough-luxe antique tiles, shabby-chic brocantes-style knick-knacks whisk us from the business district of NYC to a rural pocket of the South of France. Squint your eyes and it’s impossible to believe this is a recently opened new build, so convincing is the charming rustic decor. Because of Smyth Tribeca’s financial-world location I’d heard this part of town can be full of suits although looking around on this Sunday night is more Tribeca hipsters, young couples and relaxed families. It can also be notoriously pricey to dine around here, but our parade of charcuterie, merguez sausages, frites and roast chicken amounts to a modest sum.
Lack of sleep puts paid to checking out the sprawling leather-sofa’d Toro Bar below, and its matador-accessoried interior. But I bank plans to cocktail with hibiscus martinis on a banquette in the sexy candlelit lounge another evening. Instead of a hangover, my old friend jetlag has me up and at ’em early the next day. My request to housekeeping for an iron results in one being delivered quick-smart by a handsome soul who places it in my room with a smile and that all-American service-industry expression ‘Enjoy’. Well, I’ve had room-service deliveries that are more fun but there are worse places to do the ironing than with the news on a huge flat-screen and downtown views through floor-to-ceiling windows.
What I definitely do enjoy is the massive ensuite bathroom, Frette bathrobe and Kiehl’s products. And a perfect French-style breakfast in Plein Sud. Galvanised by croissants, home-made granola and café crème, ready for a long day at the office, I ask the kindly doorman to hail me a cab for the five-minute ride to Smith HQ in SoHo. Tribeca’s sidewalks are already bustling by 8am: New Yorkers are clearly no slouches when it comes to earning a crust. (Triviaphiles: it’s often suggested us Brits work the longest hours in Europe; in fact it’s Turkey who comes out top of the grafters if you look at the stats. American workers on average spend somewhere between us both with their noses to the grindstone around 45 hours a week. But try get away with that in NYC and it’d practically feel part-time.)
Long gone are the heady days of Don Draper and pals’ three-martini lunches and smoke-and-whisky breaks punctuated by a little time at their desks. Still, after a busy day of appointments I’m happy to retreat to Smyth Tribeca for a taste of the good old days: I get back in time for the ground-floor cubby near reception to explode into a hot-pink mock-croc bar. As one would expect from a Thompson Hotel, Smyth Tribeca is geared up for business guests galore, but you’re encouraged to mix any work with a lot of pleasure. I’m quite sure the chaps at Madison Avenue’s Sterling Cooper would thoroughly approve of a spell at Smyth Tribeca.