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6 May 2022

‘Packing’ A Post-Pandemic Punch

The pioneering Gansevoort Meatpacking reinvents itself post-pandemic.

Living in WAG country as we do, we all need a New York City hotel every once in a while – for work, for play, to attend a specific event or celebration, for good deeds or perhaps even nefarious ones.

Well, I have just the one. Launched in 2004, Gansevoort Meatpacking was an immediate hit, with its live DJs, rooftop lounge and year-round heated pool. The newly gussied-up Meatpacking District was just coming into its own at the time. The New York annex of London’s too-cool-for-school Soho House had opened the previous year and Diane von Fürstenberg’s flagship West 14th Street store was just about to. Then, hot on its heels, came the Highline, Christian Louboutin and an Apple store. Bohemians, hipsters, tourists — even diehard Upper East Siders — all flocked to the area to see what was going on.

But, a recession and a pandemic later, and the outlook has understandably changed. The Gansevoort’s owners have divested themselves of their sister hotel on Park Avenue as well as a resort in Turks & Caicos. And although the “Gansevoort Hotel Group” styling suggests — and as group-owner Michael Achenbaum himself has more than hinted — new acquisitions or openings for the group may be in the pipeline, the focus is on the original property for the time being.

Gansevoort Meatpacking was always a good bet for its fun, laid-back, vibe, but when I last visited four years ago, it was definitely showing signs of age — more “shabby” than “chic,” you might say. It needed work. Now after a multimillion-dollar renovation and rebrand, which has seen redesigned common parts, spruced-up rooms and new food and beverage outlets, the Gansevoort is once again a serious contender. And here’s something to note: At a time when room rates — not only in our region but as far as I can tell across the entire world — seem to be rising stratospherically, Gansevoort heartwarmingly remains good value for the money. The hotel even welcomes pets.

On the first floor is a new-concept, all-day eatery, Coffee and Cocktails, or C+C as it known, with petrol-blue leather banquettes and a glamorous bar at the far end. It also sports a wide outdoor terrace, with bamboo French bistro chairs, made for wannabe Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre types. All boxes are ticked here: Avocado toast with flax seeds for breakfast, paninis or, perhaps, black truffle tagliatelle for a light lunch. It might be churlish to mention the lady at the table next to me who asked for a dry martini received a sweet vermouth over ice, but she was gracious about it and accepted the drink regardless, so pretty did it look in its cut-glass coupe, complete with edible decoration.

C+C ticks décor boxes, too. A walnut bookcase contains the de rigueur Crossley record player, with a Jimi Hendrix Experience album cover beside it, and heavy tomes of Keith Haring, Peter Lindbergh and Virgil Abloh. And all the while, looking down on the proceedings, is a Banksy original 2003 “Flying Copper,” with its “smiley face” smile, a face that is not, it must be said, without a touch of malevolence. The artwork is Michael Achenbaum’s own. He is in fact a collector of some renown and the hotel is a repository of notable art.

Another Gansevoort F&B outlet, The Chester — which bills itself as an American bistro and also has a street terrace — is open all day and into the evening for casual dining. It’s as popular with residents as with hotel guests.

In the 186 guest rooms, you’ll find blue and gray ombré wallpaper (referencing the Hudson River outside the window) a backlit walnut headboard (inspired by the High Line) and a retro Marshall radio. Each room also features a fitness device by the company Mirror, which is to say an interactive home gym via a free-standing cheval mirror that contains a built-in screen, like a TV in a hotel bathroom mirror. (There is also a regular hotel gym for Luddites who like to keep fit.) I found my northwest- facing corner suite, with its well-appointed bathroom and Juliet balcony, to be superbly comfortable, although to be honest any would-be Romeo would have to shout at the top of his voice to attract Juliet’s attention above the Ninth Avenue traffic. Shakespearean Verona the Meatpacking District is not, although its cobbled streets — retained and restored in the last three years — have always given the area a European flavor.

Fancy a swim? Head to the Gansevoort Rooftop. This urban oasis, with its rather lovely, year-round heated pool and unobstructed, 360-degree views of Manhattan, has also been completely refreshed. A full menu, inspired by the Union Square Green Market, is offered poolside.

A new rooftop addition — and one with special appeal to non-hotel guests, too — is the omakase sushi bar, Saishin, from the highly regarded, Michelin-rated Kissaki Hospitality Group. Settled in at the 16-seat counter, I savored a 12-course omakase dinner that included Long Island fluke with pickled wasabi, Hawaiian amberjack, Hokkaido sea urchin in nori and salmon tempura with crispy rice. True, the special of the day, slow-cooked monkfish liver, was something of an acquired taste, one I’m not sure I have yet fully acquired, but I would race back to Saishin for the yuzu panna cotta alone — and me not a dessert lover.

As if all this were not enough, Gansevoort guests will soon have a further new experience to enjoy, this one underground, when the hotel welcomes a basement karaoke and bowling bar in the fall.

Beyond the Gansevoort’s front door, new luxury brands in the area, including Restoration Hardware, Rolex and Loro Piana, along with Barry Diller and Diane von Fürstenberg’s recently unveiled Little Island of cultural programming are signs that the Meatpacking District generally is coming back to life after the pandemic. And they add yet further appeal to a stay at the hotel, which Achenbaum calls, “Gansevoort Meatpacking, all grown-up.”