Touch of celebrity at De Niro’s joint

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - DON STA­PLE­TON

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

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