Touch of celebrity at De Niro’s joint
I AMinside a 250-year-old Kyoto farmhouse, swimming lengths of a lantern-lit pool, but this isn’t Japan.
I’m at the Greenwich Hotel in downtown Manhattan, and the wood and bamboo structure in question has been imported and meticulously reassembled in the basement.
Owner Robert De Niro insisted on the farmhouse’s inclusion when the hotel was designed about five years ago. Asian and European materials — Carrara marble, Siberian oak floorboards, terracotta tiles — feature prominently at the Greenwich, giving it the feel of a cosmopolitan guesthouse in some far-flung locale.
Adjoining the pool is the hushed Shibui Spa, where treatments with crystalline gemstones and bentonite clay provide further respite from the city outside.
But the realities of New York are never far away. On the way back to my room after a massage, I pass the gym, where pop singer Katy Perry is exercising with the hotel’s in-house trainer.
Celebrities are well catered for at the hotel, which was designed by De Niro and his partners with discretion in mind. Photography is forbidden on the premises and areas such as the drawing room and the leafy central courtyard are the exclusive domain of guests. These policies help explain why famous people stay here so regularly.
The other reason? The Greenwich’s 88 bespoke rooms, each of which combines absolute privacy with a wonderful sense of homeliness.
Mine has courtyard views and is full of Italian flourishes, such as an ornate writing table, antique leather armchair and handstuccoed walls. The bathroom is decked out with a marble slab basin, stately brass fixtures and a rain shower. (Some rooms feature deep soaking tubs.)
There is an abundance of complimentary items, including champagne and cookies on arrival and a minibar overflowing with chilled beverages, gourmet potato chips and organic chocolate. The toiletries, by McBride and Red Flower, come in bottles so large that if you take them home you’ll need to pack them in your checked luggage.
This spirit of generosity extends to the concierge, who is happy to provide almost anything you may have forgotten. Oversized umbrellas, tickets to De Niro’s Tribeca Film Centre and iPods pre-loaded with music are all available at short notice. There are more personalised gestures, too. Returning to my room after dinner, I find two current Australian newspapers, delivered without prompting.
Food is served at Locanda Verde, a lively bistro and the only area of the hotel open to the general public. It’s rustic Italian fare, offered up by celebrated New York chef Andrew Carmellini: delicate blue crab crostini, hearty fonduta ravioli with chestnuts, and an imposing, fireroasted garlic chicken, which arrives on a large wooden board heaped with fennel.
In the mornings the restaurant becomes a breezy hangout for the downtown media crowd, serving Mediterranean-themed breakfasts such as sheep’s milk ricotta with truffle honey and burnt orange toast, and a zucchini frittata with roasted tomato and goat’s cheese.
If the restaurant feels too public, room service from Locanda Verde is available 24 hours. Or take your meals in the Greenwich’s private lounge: relax on vintage sofas and browse an extended menu. In winter, a roaring log fire warms the space; in warmer weather, the french doors are opened, allowing access to the courtyard.
There’s a gentle buzz about the lounge that makes spending a few hours here an easy thing to do. You’ll probably see a celebrity or two and, thanks to the attentive butler service, you’ll definitely feel like one.
Relax on the vintage sofas in the Greenwich’s private lounge