When an established hotel chain expands to a new location, there is always a question of what should remain of its existing identity, and what should change. Informed by its position in New York’s Flower District, the Ritz-Carlton, NoMad, looks decidedly unlike other locations. The work of several design studios – Rafael Viñoly Architects, the Rockwell Group, Lázaro Rosa-Violán Studio, Martin Brudnizki, and Susurrus International – a greenhouse’s worth of greenery greets you in the hotel’s entryway, and from there, references to flora continue throughout the hotel. Chandeliers are made to imitate falling petals, extravagant floral installations hang over the lobby bar; and most charmingly, a request for your favourite flower is made before check in, so that you may be greeted by a bouquet of them upon entry to your room (I, myself, request for peonies).
The charms of the interior design only continue, and every effort is required to leave the hotel during my stay. The Madison Suite, where I am checked in, instantly calms upon entry, with bronze and gold details elevating its neutral colour palette. Moving through the rooms however, and calm quickly moves to delight: here, from my bedroom, an unobstructed view of the nearby Empire State Building; and there, from the bath, a postcard image of the city’s skyline, the One World Trade Center perfectly centred.
I share friendly conversation with David Robeano, the warm Food & Beverages Manager, who is quick to laughter and, similarly, to praise his staff, who in the exclusive Club Lounge serve breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and cocktail hour. Anthony Gochal is only several months into his tenure as Director of Restaurants, though by the way his staff engage with him, you would assume much longer. It’s the kind of quick camaraderie that only comes from having been through something as all-encompassing and ambitious as a restaurant opening in a city such as this, and gratefully, be warmly received.
Gochal and my paths have crossed at Nubeluz, affectionately referred to as the hotel’s ‘lightbox in the sky’; almost floating above the city skyline – but for the Empire State Building, whose proximity attracts aspiring influencers and discerning tourists to the restaurant’s balconies – every marbled surface is lit from within. Rather than compete with the 270 degree views, the menu, designed by Michelin-starred José Andrés, reinforces the sky-high location by engaging all senses. Caviar bumps are presented in vessels overflowing with dry ice; my signature drink of choice, the margarita, is mixed from milagro blanco tequila, combier orange, lime, and wonderfully, salt air.
From the first appetiser, it is obvious the care and artistry that has been imparted; oysters are dressed in either escabeche and pickled pear; coconut, caviar and lemon air; or aguachile, cucumber and coriander (each as wonderful as the last). Gochal shares how it’s gratifying to be part of people’s weekly routine – it’s a Friday evening, and tables of colleagues line the interior walls – but even moreso, be chosen for the milestones. Just the other day, an older couple celebrated a wedding anniversary surrounded by their family and friends; and with their blessing, their son’s proposal to his partner.
In contrast to the air-inspired rooftop bar, The Ritz-Carlton, NoMad, Spa New York’s decor grounds, with expansive stone tiles underfoot and wood lining walls and reception desk. Just beyond reception, the hallways inspire quiet; in part, because Spa Director Rita Rroku-Berishaj, chooses a monthly aromatherapy signature scent to fragrance the eight treatment rooms, steam rooms, dry saunas and private relaxation lounges (the month of my stay, the signature scent is named ‘Restorative’, an energising pairing of gardenia and sweet orange. I can’t help but express my admiration; a bottle of body oil with its scent generously waits for me upon return to my room).
After I make use of the spa’s dry sauna and beautifully appointed showers, Courtney Wynne Williams meets me in the relaxation lounge, before leading me to one of the treatment rooms. Among the many treatments available at the spa, including body treatments and massages, is Augustinus Bader’s signature facial, The Method. The brand’s patented TFC8 complex promotes circulation, firms, tones, and rejuvenates the skin; while the facial techniques, including use of micro-currents, sculpting facial massage, and LED light deliver the product most effectively. The hotel’s partnership with the cult beauty brand makes for a new addition – exclusive scents and oils inspired by the New York Flower District are incorporated throughout.
Williams is clearly knowledgeable about skin health (I pepper her with questions on everything from her nutritional to skincare product recommendations), and takes pride in her practice; my skin has never felt more hydrated, ask to book a session with her if you can.
And so, in answer to that which remains of the old Ritz-Carlton; it is the people. In addition to the aforementioned, Kevin Kenyon, Dwayne Nero and Luis Acosta embody this to the fullest. The three guest services associates have worked together for twenty years, first meeting at the now-closed Ritz-Carlton, Battery Park. They are warm and attentive during my short stay, and are fundamental to the experience that has made the hotel chain so inimitable all these decades; to the last moments before I’m escorted to my waiting car, we are laughing. In times where the relevance of luxury is under question, it is in the small details, in the warmth, that everything old is new again.
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