If there’s a New York equivalent of the Knowledge, our cab driver didn’t have it – which was unfortunate, because the Manhattan outpost of London media club Soho House is difficult to find. In contrast to the towering Gansevoort Hotel nearby, it has a small, unassuming entrance, with an understated sign. Our random street-by-street tour finally came to an end and we invited the cabbie to ‘get lost’ – advice he no doubt took quite literally.
From the moment we stepped out of our yellow New York City cab in the heart of the Meatpacking District, we knew we were staying in one of the most happening parts of town. It was the first hot weekend of the year; the streets were buzzing with alfresco diners and drinkers spilling out onto the street. The black smoked-glass doors of Soho House opened to reveal a lobby with a simple black desk and distressed leather chairs. Only the exquisite Swarovski chandeliers alluded to the amazing interiors on the floors above.
David, our concierge at this fine boutique hotel, greeted us; he would prove invaluable during our stay. He gave us his personal mobile number, which we could ring at any time of the day or night if we needed anything, including guestlisting at clubs. Even the lift up to the room, with its mirrored and green quilted-leather walls was amazing – perfect for a David LaChapelle photo shoot, we reckoned. We tried, in our own small way, to put this theory to the test a bit later, after a few Nimms cups. At least the theory that the delicious but deadly cocktails of blueberries, raspberries, vodka and Red Bull are ideal for combating jetlag seemed to be spot on.
Our room in this hip city had just the wow factor we’d hoped for. Music started the moment we stepped through the door, activated by motion sensors, and there was an iPod dock hooked up to the surround sound so we could play our own music. A massive wall-mounted plasma screen was on hand, in case we could tear ourselves away from the breathtaking view of Manhattan, which we could enjoy all the more with the ‘very wrong’ chocolate-covered popcorn from the minibar.
The style was understated and chic: an exciting mix of contemporary and retro furniture, surrounding a huge bed covered with ‘jump on me’ pillows. According to David, Gwen Stefani slept here and mentions it on her album: ‘We know how to live, baby. We're luxurious, like Egyptian cotton.’ After a quick dip in the freestanding bath, a power shower in the mini wet room, and a good head-to-toe lathering in the abundant Cowshed products, we could see exactly what she meant.
The next morning, we got out to the shops as fast as we could. SoHo is just a ten-minute cab ride from the hotel (providing your cab driver knows where he’s going). The shopping around Broadway and Bleecker was just too good; incredible vintage thrift stores next to exclusive boutiques. And the exchange rate can convince you that everything you buy is an absolute bargain. By the time we made it back to Soho House it was time to hit the roof terrace.
Cocktails were flowing and well-dressed thirtysomethings were lying on day beds around the pool. The music had a cool British flavour (no doubt inspired by the British owners): Rolling Stones, Smiths, Joy Division. We ate at the restaurant next to the pool, where well-groomed waiters, who certainly knew their Chloé from their Gucci, provided attentive service. The food was serviceable, but nowhere near as impressive as the amazing views.
Night owls make note, the Meatpacking District is the main clubbing area of downtown. The Gansevoort Hotel deserves a visit, if just to experience the 360-degree vista from the huge roof terrace; otherwise we found we needed to venture out to Greenwich Village and SoHo for more bar action. As they say, New York never sleeps. Neither, apparently, did the party people queuing until dawn directly below our window. Soho House isn’t ideal for a quiet night’s sleep.
Having somewhat overdone things, we headed up to the roof for a swim and some breakfast the next morning, sporting huge sunglasses and a pallor as green as the lift’s interior. The breakfast menu offered a good selection of eggs Florentine, Benedict and full English breakfasts. Having breakfast by a pool, on a roof in Manhattan with a view of the Hudson, is hard to beat, although the horde of screaming kids in the pool hardly soothed our throbbing heads.
It would have been nice to avoid the bun fight to get a lounger when the kids were kicked out at 1pm, but once they’d left we could enjoy loungeing around drinking cocktails supplied by the ever-fabulous Ryan. In fact, we found it impossible to leave, despite the unbelievable shopping on the streets below, and the temptation of a helicopter trip from the helipad five minutes away.
We spent so much time sunning ourselves that we didn’t spend as much time as we would have liked in the rest of Soho House: the drawing room; the bar, with its 39-foot Chesterfield sofas; the Cowshed Spa (our fake-tan appointment was cancelled because it was too hot). But it proves that it’s an amazing place to hang out, regardless of the weather. We have a brilliant excuse to go back, and next time we’ll be able to give the cab driver directions.