Opening: Le Grill de Joël Robuchon Transforms Into the Extravagant ‘Le Club’

Photos by Liz Clayman 


The food world was epically rocked in summer of 2018, with Anthony Bourdain‘s suicide in June followed by the death from cancer in August of Joël Robuchon, who many called the greatest chef of his generation.

The latter’s restaurant empire has carried on after his passing, with L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in the Northern reaches of New York’s Meatpacking District continuing its lofty culinary pursuits. But Le Grill de Joël Robuchon, the less formal eatery attached to it, has just been transformed into the uncomplicatedly monikered Le Club.

Intriguingly, an age of a more approachable restaurant culture – as well as crafty more than lofty nightspots – the 15,000 square foot Le Club is a throwback to the glamorous optimism of the early post-Millennium. To be sure, its interiors are by exalted designer Pierre Yves Rochon, with sumptuous velvet banquettes, opulent drapery, a dark marble bar and an all around clubby vibe. A spectacular wine wall makes for particularly dramatic visual effect, in a space that could well pass for a plush Paris hotel bar.



Chef Christophe Bellanca, a protege of Monsieur Robuchon, remains at the helm. And small plates, befitting the loungier vibe, are the order of the day (well, night, really). So the French leaning menu flaunts casual bites like Maine lobster rolls, hamachi, beef tartare, tarte flambée and specialty beignets.

Bellanca enthuses, “We wanted to take the key elements that make L’Atelier successful – partagé [sharing] guest interaction, the showmanship of the open kitchen, meticulous attention to detail – and present them in a new way for guests. Le Club will be lively and chic, while never sacrificing the culinary and hospitality touchpoints needed to be worthy of the Michelin honor.”


First Images: Mama Shelter London Hotel Opens in Hackney



In 2017, Damien Swaby’s film Living in Hackney documented the significant gentrification of a neighborhood once rife with squatters and punks – and a recent Vice article addressing the same subject followed it up.

Into this comes the 11th installment of the French boutique hotel brand Mama Shelter, as high-profile hospitality creeps further into East London. Nearby to the Cambridge Heath and Bethnal Green tube stations, this is definitely not Notting Hill, and most definitely not South Kensington. But then, the MS manifesto isn’t quite directed at the Fortnum & Mason crowd.



But for those who appreciate, say, the cheeky, decidedly mod-Bohemian juxtaposition of bankers lamps and retro Deco chandeliers, Mama Shelter London absolutely wants to be your temporary home in Blighty’s capital. The 194 rooms are divided up between Small Mama, Medium Mama and Large Mama, the latter offering up to 376 square feet of space – a genuine luxury in a city of stylishly cramped quarters. Graphic carpets and quirky art belie the basic 99£ rate.

Still and all, the MS gospel generally urges guests out into the public spaces. And the namesake restaurant, with its mismatched furnishings, and stylistic jumble of lamps and pillows, plays perfectly to the brand’s eccentric visual ideology. Hardly a surprise, there’s also a karaoke room, because…why wouldn’t there be?

Affirming the neighborhood’s idiosyncratic heart, nearby to the Mama Shelter are London Fields, the Broadway Market and the delightfully gothy St. John at Hackney Churchyard Gardens cemetery. Did we mention it’s not South Kensington?


Weekend in The Berkshires: The Elegant New Williams Inn Brings the Farmhouse Chic



When summer’s life-sucking humidity finally lifts, autumn’s crisp air always feels extraordinarily invigorating. And as Mother Nature’s pageantry begins to unfold in a patchwork of golds, reds, and yellows, we always find ourselves yearning for the ideal road trip in which to immerse ourselves in said colors.

Now, while we love the Catskills’ bohemian vibe and Manchester, Vermont’s rustic-coziness, the rolling hills of the Berkshires in western Massachusetts – just a few hours from NYC – offer a more sophisticated getaway, one that seamlessly blends nature with the arts (and a good hike or two, if you’re up for it).



Recently, we were drawn to the just-opened Williams Inn, located in, naturally, Williamstown – since an interesting new hotel always piques our curiosity. Surrounded by the Williams College campus, it reflects the vibrancy of the local community as much as it does its historic academic roots. Indeed, its stately stone-covered / farmhouse-colonial façade has been thoughtfully designed to blend into the college’s mélange of ivy-covered collegiate and increasingly modernist architecture.

Just inside, we were greeted by a roaring fire in the stone hearth and invited to relax in plush seating with a view of the hotel’s gardens. Upstairs, our room (there are 64 of them, so yes, it’s a hotel, not a B&B) was surprisingly spacious and almost ridiculously comfortable, with local wood and stone elements, eclectic furnishings and soothing color schemes.



We probably could have relaxed in the hotel all day – but we came also for the nature…and there was really rather a lot to choose from. Williamstown is actually just minutes from Mount Greylock, in the town of Adams. Technically part of the Taconic Mountain range, it’s the highest peak in Massachusetts, and offered panoramic, Instagram-worthy views of five states at its summit (we think we might have even seen Russia from there). The mountain road is only open to autos from late May through November, but its spectacular network of hiking trails, including the Appalachian Trail, is open year round. For those who prefer a more leisurely stroll, there are plenty of easy walking trails within a short drive as well.

Being the cultural sorts that we are, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams is always a must for us – and currently on show are exhibitions of works by the likes of Annie Lennox and Anselm Kiefer. The Clark and Williams College Museum of Art are both top class cultural institutions – and Williams College boasts a highly regarded theater program, which hosts pizza-fueled discussions every Friday at noon.


Williams College Museum of Art


We always love to feed our literary appetites with visits to The Mount, Edith Wharton’s palatial home and extensive gardens in Lenox, and Herman Melville’s house, Arrowhead, in nearby Pittsfield, where he wrote Moby Dick, Israel Potter and The Piazza Tales.

Back at the hotel, we took leisurely cocktails by the inviting fire pit, before heading into The Barn Kitchen + Bar, the rustically stylish farm-to-table restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The kitchen is headed by Chef Kevin DeMarco, formerly of the Forbes Five-Star Relais & Châteaux Castle Inn in Newport, and offers a fresh vision of the region’s culinary traditions.



Menus will change seasonally and are heavily sourced by nearby farms and purveyors such as Maple Brook Farms and Cricket Creek cheeses, and locally sourced produce, meat, and poultry from Red Shirt Farm and Mighty Food Farm. Even the cocktails get their flavor from Berkshire Mountain Distillers (tip: try the unbelievably smooth and flavorful Berkshire Bourbon).

We started by sharing the cornmeal crusted calamari with a slightly spicy pimentón aioli, and the grass fed meatballs served alongside rosemary-laced focaccia. Entrees rose above the standard sylvan New England fare, with standouts including the crispy skin chicken with stone-ground polenta, and the all-natural double cut pork chop with saffron vegetables. We highly recommend adding a side of very on-trend parmesan fries with truffle aioli – they’re truly unforgettable.

As ever, the Berkshires seduced us with their unspeakable beauty, charm, and character – and in the Williams Inn, there’s at last a hotel in which to stay there in style.


BlackBook Rooms w/ a View: The Four Seasons Anguilla



Sometimes confused with its island cousin Antigua, Anguilla has nevertheless long held a certain cache amongst celebrities and savvy travelers. Leonardo DiCaprio, Justin Timberlake, Sandra Bullock, and Beyoncé / Jay Z have all held court here. Even Justin Bieber owned a home on the eel shaped island once upon a time.

It’s not just the electric blue water and diverse culinary scene that set Anguilla apart (although they both serve as major draws), but the prestige that comes with the island’s embargo on cruise ships, casinos and hi-rises. It’s also home to some of the most luxurious resorts in the Caribbean, including The Four Seasons Resort And Residences, where we recently checked in. After changing ownership and names (it was formerly a Viceroy) in 2016, and withstanding the wrath of hurricane Irma a year later, today it is pampering guests anew.

Here’s what we loved about it.


The Location

Anguilla isn’t a big island, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in its bounty of white sand beaches and a raucous beach bar scene. The Four Seasons sits directly in the middle of 35 acres of the best beachfront in Anguilla (we know because we circumnavigated the island via boat to confirm exactly that). With Meads Bay on one side of the hotel and Barnes Bay on the other, we found the latter more to our taste, both scenery and seclusion wise. It also happens to be where the hotel’s private residences are located, as well as the Half Shell Bar and Grill, whose emphasis on speedy rum punch delivery served with a smile and a slice of pineapple could always be counted on.



The Rooms

The only excuse we had not to leave our room was the fact it was a mini-slice of paradise, meticulously designed by style icon Kelly Wearstler. Defined by its clean lines and cool tones, there was nothing that screamed kitsch or “I’m in the tropics” about it. Tastefully refined and yet endearingly unfussy, we found ourselves consistently back for a post-pool midday nap. The massive bathrooms, private hot tubs on every terrace and ethereal beach views only made us want to linger longer.
Scattered across the property, we also had a chance to check out the Four Seasons residences, which range from one-bedroom deluxe studios to five-bedroom beachfront villas. For $10 million, the latter is sprawled across two levels and features a total of 9,500 square feet, also custom-designed by Wearstler, right down to the furnishings, accessories, infinity pool, and outdoor shower. The villas’ oceanfront terrace overlooking Barnes Bay Beach is the real cherry on top.



The Bars

There are few things capable of taking the breath away of a jaded New York journalist; but watching the pink and purple hues disappear over turquoise waters from the hotel’s Sunset Lounge successfully accomplished just that. The centerpiece of the property, the open-air bar serves up fresh sushi rolls, an assortment of light bites and a killer rum punch, which they say is the best on the island (Who are we to argue?) – never mind the views over the lounge’s infinity pool.
Late night, Sunset Lounge transforms into a full-fledged dance party, with DJs spinning a mix of soca and reggae. It’s a fun vibe that doesn’t feel forced, mostly a mix the unself-conscious and the casually trend-aware. Leave the Gucci swimsuit at home. 


The Pools

The property as a whole is pretty evenly spread out across its 35 acres, which is something of a blessing and a curse, since getting from one place to the next can take a minute. It’s important to note that there’s a more family-friendly section and pool, for those who have decided to reproduce in the face of all odds. But the Sunset Lounge pool, which is a saltwater infinity, is for adults only.
There’s another secret piscine tucked away in the hotel’s gorgeous spa area. We treated ourselves to a swim after signature salt scrubs, double rainbow facials, and a something something sleek and slimming treatment, before taking a steam and day nap in the spa’s outdoor bed swing.



The Restaurants

Anguilla is known as a culinary paradise. However, we found the food on property to be much better than anything we tried elsewhere. The hotel’s signature restaurant Cobá (soon to be called SALT after the hotel reopens for the season in November) hosts a fabulous breakfast and brunch buffet, as well as dinner. Looking for a little local flavor, we ordered the Anguillan breakfast, which comes with salt fish, johnny cakes, plantain chips and sliced avocado and eggs, before making our way over to the self-prep bloody mary station. Both proved effective hangover cures after a long night at the Sunset Lounge.
We also checked out the Half Shell Beach Bar, set directly on Barnes Bay Beach. The mahi tacos were best paired with a frozen moringa: a boozy superfood invented by the hotel’s restaurant manager that combines leaves from the moringa tree, banana, mango and orange juice for the win. Finally, the other lunch spot on the Meads Bay side called Bamboo Bar & Grill offered a full menu of locally sourced seafood, like Caribbean lobster and mixed rice along with a solid catch of the day option, where you can pick whatever fish your heart desires before having it grilled and served to perfection.
Paradise, indeed.


Lisbon’s Palácio Belmonte Opens Dazzling New French Restaurant Grenache



Around about 2003, we started to recognize a fascinating new hospitality trend, whereby enterprising epicures of particularly good taste were creating design-focused new hotels in strikingly historic structures. Most with just 20 rooms or less, we classified them at the time as “the new urban inns.”

One of the first and most spectacular was Lisbon’s Palácio Belmonte, fitted into, as the name hints, a 15th Century palace in the old Alfama district. It won awards for urban regeneration upon its opening just this side of the turning of the Millennium. Still thriving, it currently boasts 11 ethereal suites, all exhibiting a thematic rustic-chic luxe, with wood ceilings, 17th Century tiles, antique wardrobes and private garden spaces.



Now, despite Lisbon still managing to decisively skirt the over-tourism problem of neighboring Spain, attention is at last lately being drawn to the city’s thriving culinary scene. And into that, Palacio Belmonte has just opened Grenache, a 41-seat temple of gastronomy, under the stewardship of Provençal pals Chef Philippe Gelfi and Sommelier Quentin Vedovati.

The new restaurant offers up a creative take on haute French cuisine based on local Portuguese produce and ingredients, with Vedovati’s influence extending to an exquisite European wine list – including a number of good bottles from Portugal’s Duoro and Alentejo regions.



The menu – changing monthly – is more daring than intimidating, with starters like sea bream carpaccio with orange-curry sorbet, and octopus with avocado, black garlic and lemon; mains feature Portuguese black pig fillet, with textures of potatoes and anchovy juice, as well as a heavenly sounding smoked red pepper risotto with paprika-lemon marinated sardines. Finish with an extravagant dessert of chocolate and lime curd, popcorn/pimento ice cream, and crispy cacao leaves.

“Patrons will find themselves immersed in a sensorial experience far beyond what is expected,” enthuses Palacio Belmonte proprietor Frederic Coustols of his refined but welcoming new culinary venture. “We are elated to usher in a revolution of magnificent French cuisine that will exist as a perfect addition to the fine dining landscape of Lisbon.”

Grenache‘s cool, airy dining room will also host a rotating series of works by international contemporary artists. Yet for as long as the weather allows, we strenuously recommend taking one’s meal outside on the Páteo Dom Fradique, where the bright white and terracotta cityscape stretches out below.



BlackBook Rooms w/ a View: Grand Park Hotel Rovinj, Croatia



Though we love Croatia, we’d have to admit that the overcrowded Dalmatian Coast (thank you Game of Thrones) isn’t quite the respite it once was. So on our most recent visit we ventured north to the authentic oasis that is Rovinj, a still-under-the-radar gem on the Adriatic Sea.

Situated in the northern Istria region, not far from the Italian border, Rovinj might actually be Croatia’s most picturesque destination. The centuries-old fishing village perched on a seaside hilltop was built by the Venetians, and in some ways it feels like a mini version of Venice. And much like that enigmatic city, there is no better way to explore Rovinj than to just get lost in the labyrinth of cobblestoned streets and narrow alleyways, popping into intimate art galleries and charming boutiques selling artisan-made wares along the way.



Idyllic charms aside, Rovinj is home to a burgeoning culinary scene, as the region surrounding it has been recently hyped as the next Tuscany, with its preeminent olive oil, wine, and truffles. Our favorite, rustic-chic harborside café, La Puntulina, served some of the freshest seafood we’ve ever had, and provided the perfect setting to take in the ethereal sunsets that, dare we say, rivaled those of the Greek Islands.

Rovinj also boasts a number of luxurious, design-conscious hotels – none more spectacular than the newly opened Grand Park Hotel Rovinj, where we checked in. From the Maistra Hospitality Group, it’s quickly become a landmark in the city. And located just across the bay from the old town, it offered glorious views – through floor-to-ceiling windows – of the St. Euphemia Church, Katarina Island, and the irresistibly photogenic, pastel-colored facades. Equally impressive was the actual view of the Grand Park cascading down the forested hillside, and blending seamlessly with the surrounding landscape…creating a genuine architectural phenomenon.



The interior design from Milan based Lissoni Associati exuded a low key luxury, abetted by thoughtfully curated artworks that paid homage to the natural surroundings. Impressive indulgences included three rooftop pools, access to a private Katalina Island beach and private yacht service to Venice.

Here’s what we loved.


The Rooms

We could not have felt more at home in our plush accommodations. The corridors are in fact named for trees indigenous to the area, and each guest room reads as an address – for example, we stayed in 251 Cedar Walk. The majority of the 193 rooms and 16 suites (the largest of which top out at more than 500 square feet and come with private plunge pools) offer sea views from private balconies, which allowed us to commune with the serenity of the Adriatic. Minimalist in design, ours was done up in warm wood tones and clean lines.
Still our favorite room amenities were on our nightstand: a Polaroid camera and a small travel journal, which we used to capture and preserve the memories of our stay.



Albaro Wellness & Spa

12,000 square feet and extending over two floors of the hotel, the indoor/outdoor Albaro Welness & Spa featured a thermal circuit complete with two cold plunge pools, two steam rooms, and three saunas; meaning our biggest problem was deciding where to be indulged first. Each treatment began with a shot of local rakija (grappa) and ended with a calming tea drinking ceremony.
The Batana Bodywork treatment is named after the traditional boats of Rovinj that sailed by candlelight at the close of day. For it,  we lay on waterbeds, allowing the gentle waves of the “sea” to wash over us, as the wooden oars moved therapeutically over our bodies, genuinely doing away with our city-life tensions.



Cap Aureo

The hotel has six on-site restaurants and bars, but we were lured by the Michelin-starred status of Cap Aureo. Looking out over the old town and marina, we indulged in a seven-course tasting menu that took us on a culinary exploration of the local cuisine. Notable for being significantly vegetable-forward, it left us sincerely contemplating becoming full-fledged vegetarians.
After dinner, we particularly enjoyed the Viva Eufemia Lobby Bar, named for the patron saint of Rovinj, where we whiled away the night sampling bubbly from the largest selection of champagne anywhere in Croatia.



Lungomare Plaza

The bottom floor of the Grand Park opened directly onto the newly reconstructed Lungomare Plaza, a long coastal promenade that connects the hotel to the city center. With a wealth of restaurants, bars, and high-end boutiques, including the exclusive Park Concept Store (similar to Colette in Paris or Liberty in London), the Plaza truly serves as a cultural extension of the town. We particularly enjoyed scenic promenade rides on the hotel’s complimentary bicycles, the perfect way to take in the scope of the city’s ineffable beauty.


From Cartagena to Portugal to Marrakech: Three Blissed Out Fall Yoga Getaways


Admit it, your recent trips have included tequila binging in Mexico City, underground clubbing in Berlin and Budapest, and champagne-for-breakfast in St Tropez. Your body, mind and soul are all in need of some, let’s call it…spiritual repair.

That being the case, we might just recommend skipping that Loire Valley wine tour this autumn, to get your vinyasa on in somewhere transformationally exotic and inspiring. Being the ardent internationalists that we are, we discovered absolutely glorious yoga/wellness getaways on three different continents, with each destination offering something uncommon and incomparable (as well as distinctly Instagrammable) to go along with all those holistically restorative activities.



Surely one of the BlackBook destinations-of-the-moment – Lonely Planet had already dubbed Colombia “the 2nd best country to visit in 2017” – Cartagena is a city of mystery, discovery, and almost ineffable beauty. And Blue Sky Yoga, led by Marion Mahima Jackson (from Jivamukti and Greenpoint’s Usha Veda Yoga ) and Elissa Marshall, has organized a remarkable five-night-retreat (October 9-14) in a private mansion within the 17th Century walls of the Old City.
The experience will include candlelight yoga and meditation classes, sound baths, Rosario Islands excursions, a walking tour, sound healing and mantras, and healthy, tasty meals. Free time can be used to explore what BlackBook has called “Latin America’s most alluring city.”
And no one will mind if you pull a couple of late nights over a few rounds of aguardiente cocktails.




For something a bit more more plush and luxurious, the Mandarin Oriental Marrakech offers the best of both worlds: luxe pampering, and the possibility for far-flung, life-altering discoveries. And let’s face it – Morocco is one of the ultimate “I need to get there one of these days” destinations. So what better time?
The hotel itself sits on 20 hectares of fragrant gardens, just outside the city center. It offers private yoga sessions which can be taken in the studio or those aforementioned gardens (seriously, is that even a decision?), as well as Zumba and belly-dance classes. There’s a classic hamman for body-cleansing rituals, as well as endemic, traditional treatments like the Moroccan Caracal and the Berber-inspired Mour Akouch.
MOM is currently offering a Detox Break in Marrakech package, including yoga and meditation classes, private training sessions and exercise programs, plus daily healthy menus and detox drinks. One option includes a stay in your own private villa.


If you really, really want to clear the city smog from your lungs while you do the vajrasana, the Vale de Moses yoga retreats, in Portugal’s Serra de Estrela mountains, are serene and secluded, without actually requiring a connecting flight. Indeed, Lisbon is the closest EU capital to America, and it’s just a scenic, three-hour drive from the airport.
Something like an upscale camping excursion (run by husband and wife Andrew and Vonetta Winter, and voted a “Top 25” retreat by the Guardian), it includes silent forest meditation walks, yoga classes and workshops, Tui Na massage, swimming and mud baths in the Zêzere river, lots of healthy, home-cooked feasting, and even a Friday night dance party. The scenery, of course, is beyond breathtaking.
And do consider spending a couple of days in stylish Lisbon, one of Europe’s truly beautiful yet unspoiled cities – with plentiful sunshine, an exciting culinary scene and absolutely electric nightlife.


Opening Visit: The Andaz Vienna am Belvedere Hotel is the Austrian Capital’s New Style Paradigm



We’ve been enthusiastically following Andaz’ European goings on, with stops at their London and Amsterdam hotels during the last year. So with the news of a pair of new openings on the Continent, as discerning, design-minded travelers, we made immediate plans for visits to Vienna and Munich.

Firstly, as opposed to so many hastily thrown together art programs, Andaz actually retains local gallery curators to oversee their eclectic art collections – and it shows. And with so many hotels offering so many forgettable amenities these days, their collaboration with the The Society of Scent, an olfactory collective with their own fragrance laboratory, means each Andaz will ultimately have its own custom scent – with co-founders Frederick Jacques and master perfumer Jean Claude Delville, creating signature experiences inspired by the hotel’s location.

Our first stop was Vienna, where the new Andaz Vienna am Belvedere (the “rock star” of the brand) has decisively raised the bar for the Austrian capital’s slow-to-change hospitality scene. Still often mistaken for a city much stuffier than it actually is, we’ve always loved its fascinating mix of the high and low – which even managed to seduce a jaded Anthony Bourdain in a 2011 episode of No Reservations.

Here’s what we loved.


The Location

Autumn in Vienna promises a vast array of cultural happenings, from art and design fairs to major museum events to world class theatre – and the possibility of spending time in its lush urban vineyards. We prefer to be as near to it all as possible, and the Andaz Vienna Am Belvedere was actually quite ideally located, in the up and coming Quartier Belvedere – with easy access to the Belvedere Palace, and the Belvedere 21 Museum of Contemporary Art, which was just across the street.



The Rooms

Of course, style is big for us. And within its strikingly designed tower by Renzo Piano, the hotel featured interiors by Claudio Cabone and Gabriel Kacerovsky – with 259 rooms and 44 suites of cooly understated chic, done in muted grey-and-blue color palettes, and boasting floor-to-ceiling windows offering magnificent views of the Vienna skyline.
The Andaz Vienna Am Belvedere was also delightfully dog-friendly, so we highly recommend brining along your furriest of friends. Nearby is actually one of the city’s biggest and greenest dog runs, where you can meet local Viennese canine lovers.


The Restaurants

The hotel’s signature restaurant, Eugen21, billed as a modern Austrian tavern, was designed with an airy, open feel, perfect for sunny Viennese breakfasts and moonlit dinners. And we were thrilled to dive into their contemporary take on classics like wiener schnitzel, sheep’s cheese spaetzle, Galloway beef goulash and Viennese fried chicken.
Our favorite sips were the of-the-moment Andaz Spritzer, and the Scofflaw Cocktail, made with Bulleit Bourbon, La Quintinye Extra Dry, grenadine, orange bitters, and lime, which was actually invented in Paris, Prince Eugene of Savoy’s birthplace. But we’ve also been loving Austrian wines these days, and the excellent pan-European wine list included a few memorable regional Gruner Veltliners.
For more casual daytime dining, we loved The Cyclist, the hotel’s bicycle themed eatery, with a healthy buffet that changes daily, and dishes with cycling-minded names. The super cute spot was actually a favorite amongst hotel staff too – and even had its own coffee bean roast for take away.




The Rooftop Bar

Fancying a nightcap, we headed upstairs to Aurora, the Nordic-inspired rooftop bar located on the 16th floor of the hotel. Scandinavian-inspired small plates were complemented by clever cocktails like the Swedish Highball and Huh! The Call of the Vikings (we kid you not). It’s already a hot spot with local style cognoscenti, not just a little because of the views that seem to stretch all the way to Bavaria.



The Belvedere

At only a 5-7 minute walk away, and with classically manicured grounds leading to its entryway doors, this palace-turned-art museum that is The Belvedere was once home to the aforementioned Prince Eugene, one of the leading Austrian developers and art collectors of his time. (You’ll see the Prince with his flowing locks and fancy frocks portrayed more contemporaneously throughout the Andaz Vienna Am Belvedere.)
The Upper Belvedere is home to Klimt’s exalted painting The Kiss – and its fantastical romanticism makes for a transcendent experience when viewed in person. But in addition to Gustav’s masterpieces, the palace as well holds the biggest collection of works by the beloved/maudlin Egon Schiele, who led a tortured existence, and whose expressionist paintings remain powerfully visceral. The museum ingeniously also regularly spotlights a notable contemporary artist, which happened to be American sculptor Kiki Smith when we were there. Set within the palace’s baroque grandeur, her work made for a radically refreshing contrast.
But we especially loved strolling through the Schweizergarten on our way to the Belvedere. A picturesque park in the style of an English garden, we passed by the famous Chopin statue and other such sculptures very much worth seeing.


The Vienna Autumn Hit List

  • viennacontemporary art fair, September 26-29th, 2019, featuring more than a hundred galleries from twenty-five countries.
  • Vienna Design Week, September 27-October 6, 2019, in its 12th year, boasts more then 200 design-oriented events and attractions.
  • Parallel Vienna, hybrid art fair, exhibiiton, platform and artists’ studio, September 24-29th, 2019
  • Viennese ‘stages’, discover local performances, the city’s hidden stages, Vienna State Opera, University of Music and Performing arts, and the Zentralfriedhof (Vienna’s second largest cemetery wilderness).
  • Saint Charles Apotheke, a modern pharmacy with three locations (including a yoga studio), with its own line of exceptional skincare and supplements, also supplying the in-room amenities at Andaz Vienna Am Belvedere.


St. Charles Apotheke


  • Aend, the exquisite Michelin-starred restaurant from rockstar German chef Fabian Gunzel.
  • Glacis Beisl, tucked away in the Museums Quartier, one of the prettiest bistros in town, serving classic Viennese cuisine in a garden oasis
  • Naschmarkt, the largest urban food market in the 6th district, with over 100 stalls selling produce, meat, baked goods, spices. Also Indian and Vietnamese cuisinee, and every Saturday includes a flea market.
  • Fenster Cafe, Vienna’s tiniest and loveliest cafe, in the 1st District, withunique coffee creations – try the cornettoccino served in a waffle!
  • Wiener Weinwandertag, over 180 Vienna wine growers open their orchards to the public. (


BlackBook Rooms w/ A View: The Sagamore Pendry Hotel Baltimore



We have come to just expect it, ego-driven developers and architects building monuments to profligacy, with gold-plated restaurants and $18,000-a-night suites in Las Vegas, Dubai, Shanghai and the like. But how is it possible that humble Baltimore is now home to what we, in our reasonably learned opinion, believe to be one of the most perfectly realized luxury hotel projects of this still young century?

Indeed, the Sagamore Pendry, perched dramatically along the waterfront at Fells Point, is the true labor of love – and personal vision – of Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, whose headquarters just happens to sit directly across the harbor. It opened in 2017, and has already practically reached iconic status, securing the #1 spot in the Conde Nast Traveler Best Hotels list for 2018.

We recently, purposefully made the trip to Baltimore to reconnect with the city, in the wake of the big media firestorm – which hardly needs recounting. Just as eager to explore the hotel itself, no sooner were we traversing the alluring, moodily lit entrance hall of the Pendry, than we were overcome with that rare but familiar feeling that we might never be convinced to leave the premises.

Here’s what we loved.



We’ve never been fans of the “hidden away in a quiet location” urban hotel; rather, we prefer to spill out the front door right into the hurly-burly of any given city. And the Pendry is not only perfectly positioned to act as a genuine social nexus for its historic Fells Point neighborhood, it also seems to be lording over everything around it – like the Blue Mosque over Istanbul. Busy Thames Street lays before it, the majestic Inner Harbor is just behind. And the happening Mount Vernon neighborhood, where we’ve also been known to spend time flitting about, is just a ten minute taxi ride away.



The Architecture

Completed in 1914 as the Recreation Pier, the building that now houses the hotel once nobly served to process thousands of immigrants from the Locust Point immigration center. After first closing in 1937, it proceeded to serve unceremonious time as everything from a maritime radio station headquarters to a parking garage to – not kidding – a filming location for Homicide: Life on the Street, before falling vacant again for a decade and a half previous to its new life.
Plank had stared across at the empty building for years, eventually re-envisioning it as a hotel – and it was at last reborn in 2017 as the Sagamore Pendry. The now protected Beaux-Arts style stunner is restored to its original glory, thanks in large part to the reverential efforts of local firm BHC Architects.




From the moment of check-in, we were vividly reminded that this is a harbor hotel – indeed, just behind the front desk is the first watery vista. Upstairs, we immediately noted the most awesome feature of our room: the view took in the “pirate ships” that rolled in an out of the inlet, courtesy of a company called Urban Pirate. Alas, we came to realize that on board were merely scallywags of the seemingly harmless variety.
And luckily, no maritime kitsch was employed in the rooms to overemphasize a theme. Rather, clubby Chesterfield style sofas, custom-patterned area rugs, elegant dark wood headboards and floor-to-ceiling factory windows ally to imbue each chamber with a singular aesthetic that’s somewhere between Mayfair and Hamburg, if you can imagine – a perfect marriage of the luxurious and the historical.
There’s also not a bad view amongst them, as those that do not face the harbor look out over the verdant, industrial-modern courtyard. There, a vastness of flora surrounds a prodigious Botero horse sculpture, which seems to act as the hotel’s…guardian angel. Fittingly, marriage proposals occur regularly in its shadow.



The Cannon Room

Yes, it is a bar that has a real cannon. As we were told, a trio of the Revolutionary War weapons were found during the dig, left intact since the 18th Century (they just don’t make ordnance like they used to). Two were positioned out back, facing the harbor – perhaps in case Fells Point is ever nautically invaded by Richmond or Philadelphia – but one is preserved in an acrylic “coffin” under the floor of this sophisticated drinkery…which is otherwise designed, and quite handsomely at that, like the inside of a distilling barrel.
The considerable selection of whiskeys at The Cannon Room includes bottles from Scotland to France, India to Japan, Tennessee to Taiwan. But we undertook a tasting of the good stuff from the local Sagamore Distillery.
Also founded by Kevin Plank, Sagamore Spirit opened a new distillery in the city center in 2017 – but we met up at The Cannon Room for full effect. Their Signature Rye Whiskey was actually awarded 95 points by The Tasting Panel, and as we found, it is a singularly autumnal spirit, with prominent notes of nutmeg and orange. And though it is certainly a very smooth sipping whiskey, it has a flavor that veritably reinvents a classic Manhattan cocktail.
But it is the Port Finish rye that had us searching for the proper words. Enigmatic, almost haunting notes of dark fruit underlie an elegantly dry whiskey, which we reckoned to be the equivalent of drinking velvet. An evening sat in a dark corner of The Cannon Room sipping this masterpiece would be difficult to best.



Rec Pier Chop House

These days, we seem to find ourselves much more impressed with the spectacle of the setting than we are with yet another chef’s ability to “innovate” a plate of short-rib risotto. And the hotel’s Rec Pier Chop House is pure theater, making histrionic use of a mammoth, genuinely jaw-dropping brick-walled space. Still and all it is an Andrew Carmellini restaurant; so the refined modern Italian menu includes octopus alla brace, olive oil poached halibut, trofie alla Genovese, and dry-aged steaks from James River, VA and Donnely Ranch, NE. It’s definitely also about the food here.
But we enjoyed nothing so much as lingering over a plate of affetati misti (chef’s selection of cheeses and salumi) and a Rec Pier Espresso Martini – made with Nardini grappa – amidst the almost Old Europe grandiosity of the restaurant’s elegantly styled lounge area, with its plush armchairs and neo-gothic chandeliers. Taking our drinks out into the courtyard, we also discovered a vending machine stocked extravagantly with bottles of Veuve Clicqout champagne – which, as amenities go, we decided is far more fab than bath butlers and in-room cocktail making kits.



The Pool

Installing an infinity pool in a Baltimore luxury hotel is not likely an idea that has crossed all too many of even the greatest minds. Yet there it was, guarded by those aforementioned canons, looking across the harbor to the Under Armour tower – possibly the only pool whose distinguishing feature is the possibility of watching ships come and go as one takes a dip. Naturally, it had to have a bar; but certain historical protections meant that it could not be a permanent fixture. And so drinks, very appropriately, are served from a shipping container dropped onto the site.