x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Hotel Insider: The Refinery, New York, US

The Refinery is a hip NYC hangout without the hipster attitude, writes David Whitley.

The Refinery's rooms contain fashion nods. Courtesy of Refinery Hotel New York
The Refinery's rooms contain fashion nods. Courtesy of Refinery Hotel New York

The welcome

The vaulted roof of the long entrance arcade reminds you more of Central Europe than central Manhattan. But a staff comprised almost entirely of beautiful people flitting around and the hip take on a traditional tea salon buzzes with a distinctive New York feel. The details on the carpet - top hats and millinery tools - indicate the building's previous life as a hat-making factory, while the free coffee for guests and visitors is an inviting touch.

The neighbourhood

The Refinery is in the Garment District, and finds itself surrounded by designers' studios and shops with narrow specialisms, whether that's selling buttons, cotton thread or necklaces. It's the working, rather than residential, part of midtown Manhattan, and all the more interesting for it. For the visitor, though, it's what can be strolled to within a few blocks that's important - Penn Station, Times Square, the flagship Macy's department store and the Empire State Building are all very close.

The room

The smallest rooms come in at just over 23 square metres, but they're a decent size for New York, and feel a lot bigger thanks to the high ceilings. The decor pays tribute to the fashion industry - work tables look like giant Singer sewing machines, leather straps hold the bed's headboard to a backing frame and larger rooms have classic fashion photo shoot lamps. Frette robes and large marble-tiled walk-in showers help make the Refinery feel more luxurious.

The scene

The Refinery only opened in May, and is still in its honeymoon period as a hot new hangout. It's the sort of place where New Yorkers come to socialise in the lobby and on the rooftop terrace. It's the latter that suggests longer-term success - it's relaxed rather than try-hard, with plenty of comfy sofas to sink into for sunset views of the Empire State Building. There's an unusually high slant towards overseas guests - mainly from the UK, Scandinavia and Australia - and it doesn't feel the faintest bit corporate.

The service

There's a sassy informality about the whole place, and that extends to the staff. The receptionists are clad in hipster-chic checked shirts and braces, and there's a pervasively chatty disposition. iHome docking stations programmed with nature sounds and "bedtime beats", free Wi-Fi and work desks with built-in plug sockets show that catering for guests' needs is more important than simply looking cool, however.

The food

The Parker and Quinn restaurant has a timeless look - green leather banquettes, art from the owner's mum's garage, and an open kitchen - that defies being placed into any particular decade. It's a lovably casual place, serving up simple dishes that you'd perhaps order from a room-service menu, such as the lamb burger with goat's cheese for $21 (Dh77) and clam chowder for $10 (Dh37). Ingredients are sourced from local farmers, and the quality is good rather than exceptional - but it's not pretending to be fine dining.

Loved

The continual nods to hat-making heritage and the Garment District location, without ever skating near tacky theme-hotel territory.

Hated

The view from the rooms isn't a patch on that from the rooftop terrace - many look out over grimy fire escapes and air conditioning units from neighbouring buildings.

The verdict

Cool, but not arrogantly or self-obsessively so - the Refinery has class and customer service nous to match its superb location.

The bottom line

Studio queen from $277.75 (Dh1,020) including tax, room only. Suites from $426.93 (Dh1,568). 63 West 38th Street, New York (001 646 664 0310, www.refineryhotelnewyork.com).

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