x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Brooklyn bolt-hole at the heart of hipster central

Many places claim to be cool but the Wythe Hotel is right at the heart of Brooklyn and hipster central.

The Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn, New York. Photo by Adrian Gaut
The Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn, New York. Photo by Adrian Gaut

The welcome

Most visitors to New York head straight to Manhattan and never leave, but they're missing out. Just one stop away on the L-line subway from 14th street, under the East River, and you're in the Big Apple's current borough of cool: Brooklyn. And at the epicentre, in the Williamsburg neighbourhood, is the Wythe Hotel.

This refurbished 1901 barrel-making warehouse has been topped with a three-storey glass and aluminium roof and opened as a 72-room hotel last April. At night it's hard to miss the illuminated 15-metre "Hotel" sign fashioned from scrap tin by artist Tom Fruin.

After walking into the industrial chic, bare-brick lobby, past the buzzy in-house restaurant called Reynard, and various pieces of artwork, the welcome at the reception desk is efficiently businesslike but warm.

The neighbourhood

Williamsburg is hipster central - the look for gents is Canadian fisherman meets internet start-up geek: plaid shirt, thick beard or moustache and beanie hat with retro specs and tattoos. For women, seemingly the same, minus the beard. There's a bowling alley directly opposite, which also often features live music, and plenty of restaurants, cafes and shops within a few blocks, including bohemian second-hand clothes store Beacon's Closet literally 30 seconds away. The nearest subway stop is on Bedford Avenue, a 10-minute walk away.

The room

Room 510 has floor-to-ceiling windows that are four metres high and a wow-factor view of Manhattan, which rather renders the need for the TV obsolete. The floor is radiantly heated concrete, there's a king-size bed, a minibar with Brooklyn products (Mast Brothers chocolate, North Fork potato chips) and a white-tiled bathroom (shower, no bath) with locally produced Goldies toiletries. All in all the look is minimalist but it still manages to avoid feeling cold and bare.

The service

I thought everyone would be too cool for school but the young staff members are surprisingly smiley and helpful. It's worth noting that there's no room service.

The scene

On my visit it's an equal mix of hip Americans and Europeans. There's a top floor bar, again with awesome Manhattan views, as well as a huge patio and DJs on weekends. A small basement cinema is opening soon.

The food

Reynard is packed at night - it's part of a mini Brooklyn empire from Andrew Tarlow that includes Marlow & Sons, Diner and Roman's. Start with white bean soup with turnip greens and pecorino (US$10; Dh37), while mains include chicken with mushrooms, fennel and multi-grain bread ($23; Dh84) and for dessert peanut and banana pie ($10; Dh37). With so much on offer locally, I ate out.

Loved

It's genuinely cool without being in-your-face about it.

Hated

The breakfast choices were underwhelming and my cinnamon toast was possibly the worst US$4 (Dh15) I spent in New York. Luckily, excellent coffee saved the day. Within a 15-minute walk, I would recommend Egg at 135 North 5th St or Pies n Thighs at 166 South 4th St.

The verdict

Worth leaving Manhattan for if you're after a neighbourhood with an arty, grungy-chic feel where you'll probably hear the band that everyone will talk about next year. And the Wythe is at the centre of it.

The bottom line

Bunk-bed rooms for two start from $210 (Dh771) including taxes. There's no pool but in the summer the free, 38,000-square-foot one in McCarren Park is two blocks away. Wythe Hotel, 80 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, New York (www.wythehotel.com; 00 1 718 460 8000).

travel@thenational.ae

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