Jean-Georges Will Open the Paris Cafe at JFK’s New TWA Hotel This Spring

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Image by Ryan Dorsett

 

When Terminal 5 opened at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1962, Jean-Georges Vongerichten was still just a little boy growing up in Alsace, in Northeastern France. By the time it was “decommissioned” in 2001, JGV was one of New York’s hottest chef-restaurateurs, feeding Midtown expense-accounters at Vong, and trendy MePa downtowners at Spice Market (both are now closed).

Today he runs an empire of 38 restaurants, stretching from Miami to Mexico, Sao Paulo to Shanghai. But what will surely be one of the most buzz-worthy projects of his entire career will be dramatically unveiled this spring: the resurrection of the old Paris Cafe, at the newly revitalized JFK hub (attached to the JetBlue NYC HQ).

Now slyly rebranded as the TWA Terminal, it will unapologetically reach back to airline travel’s “glamorous age,” when arriving at an airport and boarding a plane were more akin to happy hour at your favorite oversexed cocktail lounge. Staff will be appropriately decked out in period fashions, but without any of the, ahem, sexual “boundary” issues of those earlier, less “enlightened” decades. (Indeed, one should strongly reconsider any temptation to resurrect the word “toots” when addressing female servers.)

 

Image by Emily Gilbert 

 

The restaurant will be a part of the hotly anticipated TWA Hotel, which, like the rest of the project, will be organically woven into the optimistic, retro-futuristic aesthetic of a decade when it seemed as though – as current nostalgia would lead some to believe – all we had to worry about was the Soviet Union and nuclear war. The Eero Saarinen designed terminal did indeed represent something of a leaving behind of the fuddy-duddy ’50s, for an era full of hope, high heels, and the promise of space travel. No surprise, it was dedicated literally five months before the network debut of The Jetsons – which was the animated embodiment of the swinging, anything-seemed-possible ethos of the time.

Curiously enough, the new Paris Cafe menu will represent a distinctly old, postwar notion of Continental cuisine, with such Euro-tastic grandad faves as bouef stroganoff, chateaubriand and lobster thermidor. As for attention to period detail? You can actually order a cup of Sanka or a can of Tab.

“As an avid traveler,” Jean-Georges enthuses, “I am very excited to be a part of recreating a culinary destination in this iconic landmark.”

No opening date has been set in stone as of yet – but expect to be knocking back a few rounds of Pink Squirrels by your first flight of the summer.

Up, up…and away!

 

Images from top: Emily Gilbert; Max Touhey; bottom 2, Ryan Dorsett

 

Where to Go in 2019: Tallinn and Graz

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Above: Tallinn Old Town

 

We were plenty busy in 2018, museum-hopping in Paris, flirting in Rome and clubbing in the Berlin Kreuzberg underground. But cultivated Europhiles that we are, we’re always feeling the call of some of our less-trodden, yet still favorite cities on the Continent.

Nothing beckons us to Europa quite like the turning of winter, with its exhilaratingly crisp evenings, stylishly scarfed locals, and those transcendently evocative fragrances that fill the air of each city (the latter a particular treat for those forced to breath the noxious fumes of New York and LA every day).

On our list of fave under-the-radar European cities, we last visited Antwerp and Maastricht. Next we head further east, to the Estonian capital of Tallinn, and to Austria’s second city Graz.

 

Tallinn

 

Clockwise from top left: Hotel St. Petersbourg; Tallinn streets; Kaerajaan restaurant; Kumu Museum

 

There was a moment around say 2005 – 2007, when Tallinn, bolstered by the success of companies like Skype, became sort of the new Prague: a former Soviet satellite which was now drawing young dreamers from the US and Britain. Only this time they were tech geeks rather than boho literary aspirants.

Now, we would probably love the Estonian capital if only for the fact that it’s home to the Depeche Mode Baar (quick, guess the theme). But its Old Town is as strikingly beautiful and symmetrical as any in Europe – and just strolling the streets is reward enough in itself. There’s also a bright, gleaming modern city (the City Centre) right outside the medieval walls.

On the culture tip, the Kumu Museum is one of the largest in Northern Europe, showcasing two centuries of Estonian art (with an impressive collection of Socialist Realism), as well as special exhibitions of top international contemporary artists. Cold War enthusiasts should check out the KGB Museum, actually located inside the Hotel Viru.

Tallinn is also a considerable epicurean city, with chefs drawing on the considerable bounty of the Estonian countryside (their local black bread is to die for). Art Priori is the avant-garde choice, focusing on creatively realized (mostly) vegetarian dishes in a stunning, art adorned space; MEKK specializes in inventive seafood plates, and its sophisticated bar is a bit of a scene; for something a bit more…Middle Ages, Olde Hansa cooks up wild boar, elk and venison, in an interior that could only be described as 13th-Century chic.

Stay in Tallinn: Both the Telegraaf Hotel and the Hotel St. Petersbourg combine classical elegance with cool postmodern design, and each has a notable restaurant (Tchaikovsky and Heritage, respectively.) The chic Three Sisters hotel has strikingly theatrical rooms – one even has its own grand piano.

 

Graz

 

Clockwise from top left: Island in the Mur; Graz City Hall; Hotel Wiesler; Kunsthaus Graz

 

After losing its Empire in the wake of WWI, Austria pretty much keeps to itself now, content to have traded influence on the world political stage for more, shall we say, sybaritic concerns. Yet the fact that right wing demagogues have been angling for power there does genuinely matter within the scope of the wider EU situation.

The country’s “second city,” Graz, is actually one of its bastions of left-wing ideology, home to more than 30,000 university students, out of a total population of 270,000. A UNESCO City of Design, its rather imperial looking city center, with its elegant baroque edifices, is complemented by some of Europe’s most radical works of contemporary architecture.

Indeed, the Island in the Mur is literally a steel island in the middle of the river of the same name that splits the city, with a designy cafe and amphitheater; the Chapel of Rest is a stunning minimalist cathedral by Hofrichter-Ritter Architects; and the Dom im Berg is a spectacular performance space carved literally into rock. The Kunsthaus Graz contemporary art museum (by British architects Colin Fournier and Peter Cook) is the city’s showpiece, and looks like a giant blue heart and valves.

Not much of a foodie destination, Graz is more of a cafe town – and you’ll find dozens of boho spots as you stroll the streets, many packed with students. Mitte is one of the artier ones, while Aiola Upstairs has a chic crowd and awe-inspiring views. Design junkies should hit the Kunsthaus museum’s namesake cafe. For nightlife, there’s great bar-hopping around the area nicknamed the Bermuda Triangle.

Stay in Graz: The Augarten Hotel (a member of Design Hotels) has stylish, loft-style rooms, and a pool that doubles as an art gallery. The Hotel Wiesler‘s Philippe Starck designed restaurant hosts a “soul brunch” every Sunday, while the rooms have a cool-minimalism and river views. And Hotel Daniel has affordable rooms, a lobby espresso bar and Vespas available for guests.

 

 

Alpine Apex: The Hide is Switzerland’s Most Stylish New Ski Hotel

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First, yes – there is a town in Switzerland named Flims (to be fair, another in Germany is called Worms). It was referred to by The Telegraph as one of skiing’s best kept secrets – though its relatively low elevation means that sister town Laax is still where some go to do their fashionable whooshing.

But now Flims has its own genuine destination lodging in the Hide Hotel, a stylish but cozy bolthole, and the latest member of the venerable Design Hotels group. It’s part of the boldly contemporary new Stenna Flims complex, which includes retail, a cinema, and the elegant Lieto Italian bar-cafe.

 

 

Smartly designed Baumschlager Eberle, they pretty much did away with all the chalet clichés, instead infusing the the space with a sort of regal-rustic, industrial elegance. So we get lots of bold greens, plush burgundy velvet, warm woods and au courant globe lamps and chandeliers. Understatedly chic rooms come with terraces, to take in those glorious, UNESCO-sanctioned views.

It should be noted that the Hide has direct ski-in / ski-out access to the surrounding slopes. But there are also plenty of reasons to stay indoors – including Middle Eastern influenced Swiss eats at The Deli; as well as The Dinner, for a more luxurious setting and cuisine; and a classy lobby bar with a faux-old-fashioned vibe. A 1000 square meter wellness center with a steam room, ice grotto and panoramic Finnish spa is coming in May.

And come spring, you can also hit the on-site bike shop and make for the 250km of nearby hiking and biking trails.

So, yes, tailor made for those not disposed towards all that schmoozy glamour over in St. Moritz.

 

Opening Soon: An Outpost of London’s ‘h Club’ is Coming to Los Angeles

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When we first covered it in early 2018, there weren’t many details yet available. But at last, the much buzzed about h Club will be opening soon in the old Redbury Hotel space at Hollywood and Vine.

The Hospital Club (now also rebranded as h Club) was first opened in Covent Garden in 2004 by founders Dave Stewart – of Eurythmics fame – and the late Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. It slotted nicely into the still burgeoning trend of new-gen private members clubs, flaunting an actual recording studio to set it apart from the pack. It’s since been frequented by the likes of Ellie Goulding, Selena Gomez and Keira Knightley.

The HWood edition will not necessarily do the same rocker strut, though one imagines Stewart’s many famous musical friends will be regularly hanging about the place. And it certainly will be a scene, with a rooftop restaurant, plus two other dining destinations, outdoor pool deck, and co-working spaces, to attract those striving, indie media and PR types. Design is by HKS, whose recent projects include Esperanza Resort in Cabo San Lucas, and the W Bellevue Seattle Hotel.

It will, like London, be a members only club. But the schmoozing opportunities will be aces, to be sure.

 

BlackBook Exclusive: UK Singer-Songwriter Stealth’s Fave Spots in London

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While maybe not quite as dramatic as if, say, DFA starting signing metal bands, UK singer-songwriter Stealth is nevertheless Ultra Music‘s first real departure from its impossibly successful electronic dance music mission.

But Stealth has ironically hardly lived up to his name. Indeed, his haunting, soulful 2016 track “Judgment Day” was featured in an episode of the Meghan Markle starring series Suits, and proceeded to chart in 12 countries – as well as tally more than 10 million streams. (He’s since had songs featured in The Catch and The Royals.)

 

 

And this past November, Ultra released his Chorus EP to significant buzz. In fact, the video for the bluesy, visceral single “Gotta Stop Loving You” – with its absolutely shiver-inducing vocal performance – has been viewed more than 1.5 million times on YouTube.

Though no major tour plans have been announced, Stealth will be coming to the States for a high-profile show at SXSW in March. In the meantime, we asked him to turn us on to his fave places to hang when he’s back home in London.

 

 

Stealth’s Favorite Spots in London

 

Arang Korean BBQ, Mayfair

After being in LA and getting a taste for Korean BBQ, I searched high and low when I got home for somewhere here that was good – and I found Arang in Mayfair. Donʼt let the expensive reputation of the area put you off, it’s super affordable and the food is amazing. I tend to just go in there and let the staff choose what I will like, and they never get it wrong.

Shochu Lounge, Fitzrovia

Linked to the very nice Roka restaurant upstairs, this beautiful bar is a great place for pre- or post-dinner drinks. The whiskey selection is vast, but I would suggest going with a Japanese choice like Yamazaki. And with a fancy Japanese restaurant one floor up, the food and nibbles are great here. It’s a little pricey, but worth a visit.

 

 

Experimental Cocktail Club, Chinatown

London isnʼt known for its speakeasies; however, a few have popped up over here, and my favorite is the ECC – a spinoff of the original in Paris. Hidden behind a pretty beaten up door in the middle of Chinatown is a great secret cocktail bar, that plays great music and serves even better drinks. It’s not cheap, but it’s definitely a great place for a date.

NOLA, Shoreditch

A cocktail bar that brings New Orleans over to the UK. The food is fantastic, the drinks are great…but the live music here is what sets it apart. If you like jazz and blues, this is the place to go in London.

 

 

Slim Jim’s Liquor Store, Islington

A dark and dingy dive bar modeled on the types found in the States. They play good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, serve good beer, and have bras hanging from the ceiling. Just a short walk from the Angel tube station, and then youʼll probably want to get a cab home – as I can never walk when I leave here. 

The Piano Works, Farringdon

My guitarist is in the house band here, he took me along for a night – and it was a riot. Again, taking on a speakeasy style, it’s a great hidden gem and the music is amazing. The band play your requests all night. If you’re looking for something different and if you love live music, this place is killer. 

 

 

BlackBook Rooms With a View: Le Meridien Philadelphia

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When Le Meridien first opened its stunningly designed Philadelphia outpost in 2010, the City of (amongst other things) Brotherly Love was still a little light on the noteworthy boutique hotels – something that has finally begun to be rectified these past few years. There’s even a W opening in early 2020.

Le Meridien Philadelphia itself got a makeover recently, mostly to rework the energy flow of the public spaces. But on a recent visit we still felt that same sense of visual awe upon entering the lobby, as the hotel is one of those rare instances of historical architecture and modern design melding in such a flawless manner. Indeed, the respectfully preserved early 20th Century Georgian Revival style building still exudes an understated elegance, with its warm woods, dramatically arched windows (on Arch Street, of all places) and handsome facade.

The Amuse bar still anchors the lobby, but now glows in a strikingly contrasting cobalt blue; and dramatic new chandeliers give the space a bit more dazzle. The restaurant tables have also been moved out of a side room and are now assembled around the bar – which makes for a much greater buzz in the evenings. (Though we would probably turn up the lights a bit.)

 

 

But it’s the rooms that are, in our opinion, stylistic near-perfection – all sophisticated, subdued greys, with brilliant splashes of yellow and red, and luxurious but sleek bathrooms. Best of all? Many have tall windows framing captivating views of the Masonic Temple, JFK Plaza and the awe-inspiring 19th Century, Second Empire style City Hall building. It’s absolutely worth splurging for one of the suites.

Somehow we were able to tear ourselves away from the view long enough to spend an evening flitting between a few of our fave S. 13th Street spots, just a few blocks from the hotel. And so we chatted up the cool, rocker-chick bartenders over happy hour bubbles and mussels at Vintage, before sipping cocktails with names like Penicillin and East of Eden next door at Charlie Was a Sinner – and finished up with to-die-for duck fettuccine and Moroccan spice ribs at Mediterranean hotspot Tredici Enoteca.

Back at Le Meridien, we capped off the night with an alluring cocktail creation called Wishful Drinking. At Amuse, in fact, each drink is named for one of The Muses, in this case, Urania, Muse of Astronomy – and thus inspired, we made our way up to our room to stare at the stars for awhile.

 

 

First Images: The Opulent Marble Courtyard Boutique Opens at Versailles

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If binge-watching all three seasons of Versailles has left you longing for the legendary palace’s gilded halls, a visit to the Sun King’s legendarily extravagant chateau may be in order. And while there, you can now do a spot of equally extravagant shopping, at the newly opened La Boutique Cour de Mabre (or, for the less imaginative visitor, The Marble Courtyard Boutique)

Stocked is a smartly curated selection of French brands that evoke the spirit of court life, while representing a new guard of unique Gallic designers and artisans. And far from your typical museum store, the space was designed by Paris-based interiors firm Supercraft Studio, in collab with members of the renowned artisanal paper and textile design firm (and Gucci collaborator) A Paris chez Antoinette Poisson.

Located at the foot of the Queen’s staircase (where else?), the grandiosely expansive 11,000 square foot space invites Ancien Regime devotees to stroll through four elegant areas. The first room, The Queen’s Apartments, takes as its inspiration Marie-Antoinette’s boudoir at le Petit Trianon. Decorated in soft greys and lined in wallpapers designed by Mlle. Poisson, this ladies’ salon offers everything a self-respecting noblewoman might need: perfume, crèmes, jewelry, and other luxuriant fashion accessories.

 

 

A second room invites would-be royals to indulge in cake-worthy dinnerware, linens, and other tabletop items from the finest French names, while a third takes a more masculine turn, as it brings to life the King’s Apartments (sans courtesans, bien sûr). Inside, you’ll find richly scented candles, slippers, and high-end men’s leather accessories alongside objet d’art representing games, science, and hunting.

And, we must not forget les petits! Our favorite room offers children’s antique toy reproductions, books, furniture, and authentic-looking princess, marquise, and queen’s costumes – for that special little Francophile aristo in your life.

The boutique is intended to celebrate French culture and illuminate the grandiosity of life at the Court of Versailles – so visitors can continue to bask in the Sun King’s rays long after they’ve returned to la vie quotiedienne.

 

The Standard London Hotel Will Open in King’s Cross This Spring

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When the Standard Hollywood hotel opened in 1999 (has it really been two decades?), it took little time for it to reset the paradigm of the hotel-as-nightlife-destination. Downtown LA, the High Line and East Village in NYC, plus (naturally) Miami Beach followed – all kicking up the same level of energy and fabulosity.

In the hallowed hospitality geographical quintet, only Paris and London were left to conquer. And this spring, the latter will be very much accomplished. Indeed, somewhere on the cusp of the old punk stronghold of Camden and the newly tidied up King’s Cross, a new Standard London will suddenly be looming majestically over Argyle Street.

 

St Pancras Station 

 

Eschewing the cozy charms of other cognoscenti faves in the capital like Dean Street Townhouse and Chiltern Firehouse, the new Standard will flaunt 266 Shawn Hausman designed rooms, some with terraces. Cheeky bonus? Windows in your loo may afford a breath-stopping view to the grandiloquent, Hogwarts-ish St Pancras railway station across the way.

The restaurants haven’t yet been named, but will be lorded over by Adam Rawson, of Marylebone’s chic Pachamama, and Bristol wunderkind Peter Sanchez-Iglesias. It’s a Standard, so also expect the rooftop to be a monu-mental scene – especially as the English summer takes hold.

 

BlackBook Rooms With a View: The Stylish New AC Hotel New York Downtown

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It’s a thing with us: admittedly, we’re sometimes more taken with what we see outside our hotel window than what’s actually there between the four walls. And a recent stay at the new AC Hotel New York Downtown did, indeed, find us pressing nose to glass, taking in the august tableaux of the afternoon sun glinting off the towering edifices of Lower Manhattan.

AC, if you didn’t know, is a Spanish hotel company (partnered up with Marriott in 2011) that has always put design at the center of its singular ethos. Last summer, the jaw-dropping AC Hotel by Marriott New York Times Square debuted across from The New York Times Building, with one of the more fabulous rooftop scenes in the city. Its recently opened, dramatically glass-clad downtown cousin, perched on a low-key corner of Maiden Lane, is a more intimate affair, though hardly less disposed to good looks.

 

 

Indeed, a sprawling, living-room-chic second-floor lounge-bar has the cool residential feel of your Wallpaper*-reading friend’s very smart apartment. It’s a comfy place for work and meetings by day, a very stylish spot for cocktails in the evening.

But the minimalist elegance of the rooms, with their warm woods and sharp, clean lines, also includes impressive floor-to-ceiling windows, even in the bathrooms (so you can shave and primp to a spectacular view). On a clear day, the skyline reflections are literally breathtaking. And with the AC’s reasonable rates, splurging for a King Terrace River View Room will kick that visual dazzle up several notches – especially on a clear day.

With the banks all leaving and the former Financial District going much more residential these last few years, as well as the location just a couple of blocks from the newly fashionable Seaport District, the AC Hotel New York Downtown is definitely our pick for aesthetes traveling on a less-than-five-star budget.