x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Hotel Insider: The Boxer, Boston

Rosemary Behan checks into the new Boxer hotel in Boston.

The Flatiron Building. Courtesy Independent Collection
The Flatiron Building. Courtesy Independent Collection

The welcome

There isn’t much of one – valet staff are manning their desk at the low-key streetside entrance to the hotel, but I take my own bag inside. I’m early checking in and reception staff are a little impersonal, though I prefer this to forced niceness. My bags are stored and I head out to find lunch, as Finch, the hotel’s only restaurant, is only open for breakfast and dinner. The building itself, a 110-year-old structure in the triangular style of the Flatiron Building, is its best asset.

The neighbourhood

The hotel has a good location between Boston’s North End and Beacon Hill, though it’s closer to North End, a gentrified, historic Italian district. The waterfront and Faneuil Hall are within walking distance, as is Beacon Hill and Boston Common. Immediately opposite the hotel is a vast, ugly, 1970s mental health facility.

The room

My room is on the ninth floor, with a view towards downtown, and it’s properly double glazed, so I don’t hear any traffic noise from Merrimac Street. The room is functional, like a compact studio apartment with an industrial-style open wardrobe and desk frame. The bathroom is small, with a shower cubicle but no bath. The windows don’t open, but the air con is effective and the bed is extremely comfortable. Everything works, including the coffee machine. There’s an attractive, arty doodle painted on the grey wall, one of the things that mark this out as a boutique hotel. The blinds aren’t completely blackout, but suffice.

The service

Pleasantly anonymous at the front desk, appropriately chatty in the restaurant. The bartender, who doubles as a waiter in the evening, seems genuinely concerned whether or not you enjoy your food.

The scene

The fully refurbished hotel has been open just more than a year, so things are new without being shaky. I’m staying midweek, and most of the other guests that I see in the restaurant are business travellers, combined with a few other Americans visiting for baseball matches and family reunions. Because the restaurant is the only shared space, and it’s closed at lunchtime, the hotel isn’t a hive of activity. Yet Finch is cosy, with dark wood floors, exposed brick walls and a wide range of seating styles.

The food

Finch’s menu is short, local and reasonably priced. The house clam chowder is good and $8 (Dh29) for a bowl; the huge plate of spinach and tomato gemelli pasta ($13 [Dh48]) is ideal after a long day of walking around. The boneless chicken wings ($10 [Dh37]) unfortunately came deep-fried, but when I told the waiter that I didn’t want them, he took it off the bill without my asking. Breakfast isn’t included in the room rate and starts to get expensive after the second day (it’s also mostly rather heavy: bagels, eggs, fried meat), though the coffee is good and the green smoothie ($5 [Dh18]) is a good buy.

Loved

The nice balance of service and anonymity, and the location (it’s also only about a seven-minute taxi ride from the airport, though the taxi costs $20 (Dh73). I’d go back.

Hated

The fact that the restaurant isn’t open for lunch makes the location slightly inconvenient if you’re hungry and at the hotel at this time, as there aren’t many options in the immediate area. There’s no toilet on the ground floor, so if you’re in the restaurant or reception, you have to go downstairs and along a corridor to use it. The basement gym is also not very enticing.

The verdict

Because of its low-key nature, this feels more like a private home for a few days, rather than a hotel.

The bottom line

Double rooms at The Boxer, 107 Merrimac Street, Boston (www.theboxerboston.com; 001 617 624 0202) cost from $246 (Dh904) per night, including taxes.

rbehan@thenational.ae

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