España in Springtime: Indulging the Art, Food + Flamenco of Madrid

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A massive sign high up on Madrid’s City Hall read “Refugees Welcome.” A cynic could take it as being a bit glib; but in truth, the statement was genuinely characteristic of Spain, whose citizens have actually held protests urging the government to accept even more immigrants. It was particularly poignant, as our time there coincided with the re-escalation back home of Donald Trump’s spiteful (nay, ridiculous) plan to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

All socio-political machinations aside, we were actually in the Spanish capital to check out the exceedingly cool new Only You Atocha hotel. The brand itself had launched in 2013 with a very different sort of property: the Only You Boutique hotel, in the trendy Chueca district, an aristocratic 19th mansion converted by star designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán into a surreal but drop-dead stunning maze of differently themed public areas and plush guest rooms. He was enlisted again for the Atocha, this time giving a distinctly Spanish context to the lobby-as-hip-playground concept familiar to denizens of hotels like The Ace.

And indeed, everywhere you might turn, there was something to grab your attention. To the right of the entrance, The Bakery by Mama Framboise, which serves decadent Tartaletas MF, a dozen flavors of macarons (goat-cheese-figs-pralines!), and Iberian ham toast all day. To the left was the Latin-Asian Trotamundos restaurant, with its buzzy corner cocktail bar. And just beyond, a dizzyingly dramatic atrium, where nouveau jazz happenings regularly bring in the city’s modern day hepcats.



But probably our favorite part of every day was shuffling off the hangovers while lingering over a lazy breakfast against spectacular views at the 7th floor Séptima – where in the evenings DJs soundtrack the Panoramic Drinks Sessions…thus perpetuating the hangover cycle.

Upstairs the rooms were a great deal more plush and stylish than those in typical hipsterrific hotels, with smartly patterned bedspreads, exposed brick walls and white tiled bathrooms. For a particular splurge, we can’t stress enough the fantabulousness of the sprawling Terrace Suite – whose outdoor space could easily accommodate 10-12 enthusiastically gyrating party people.

Madrid itself – sometimes mistakenly passed over for the more archly hip Barcelona – comes especially to life as winter passes into spring, with its scores of pavement cafes, its teeming plazas for sexy-people watching and its streets that buzz late into the night (really, more like 6am). The food is transcendent, the nightlife is some of the best on the Continent, and its grand boulevards / grandiloquent baroque architectural icons make it a city that gleams in the April-May sunshine.

Here’s what we did.


The PradoThe Reina Sofia

The thing about classical art in Spain…it’s just different. It’s a country that still has a king, after all. And so a great deal of la historia de España is still told in a place like The Prado. It’s indeed a very Spanish museum, and even if you’re a contemporary art geek, you’ll find yourself drawn in to the narrative as told through the dramatic works of Velazquez, Goya and El Greco. The jaw-dropping collection also boasts Rubens, Titian and Hieronymous Bosch’s proto-surrealist masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights. Don’t kill too much time on the stiff royal portraits.
The Reina Sofia, just a short stroll from the hotel, is Spain’s most important museum of 20th Century art, with treasures by Miró, Juan Gris, Pablo Serrano, and, of course, Picasso – whose influence can be appreciated in the current exhibition Telefónica Collection: Cubism(s) and Experiences of Modernity. The museum also holds more contemporary works by the likes of Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, Man Ray, Julian Schnabel and Richard Serra.


Prado Museum 2017

El Prado


Art Gallery Tour

It’s not Berlin, surely – but Madrid’s contemporary art scene has genuinely started to garner international attention, with its annual ARCO fair having become one of Europe’s most important. The Art Gallery Tour people are your best bet for getting an insider’s view, with tours of specific districts like the hip Letras and posh Salamanca. They will also curate private tours to suit your taste. You can add a wine drinking element, should you wish to pontificate on what you’ve seen over a glass or two of Ribera Del Duero.

Barrio de Las Letras

Also a short stroll from the hotel, Las Letras is just that sort of neighborhood that defines Madrid, with atmospheric streets where charming little bars and cool indie boutiques reign – and there’s not a chain outlet in sight. The outdoor cafes on Plaza de Santa Ana and the narrow streets around it are great for lingering and people watching.




Palacio de Cibeles Restaurant Terrace

Atop the spectacular municipal building on the Plaza de Cibeles is a hidden away 6th floor restaurant and terrace. There’s a full gourmand’s menu – but come for cocktails, views and to soak up the vivid afternoon Madrid sunshine.

YOUnique Restaurant at Only You Boutique Hotel

Just being in this gorgeous hotel is an indescribable aesthetic pleasure. Its signature restaurant is a particular delight for a long, lazy lunch (okay, there’s really no other kind in Madrid), with Valencian paella, oxtail cannelloni, and skipjack carpaccio all beautifully presented. Ask for a table in the verdant, art-adorned garden. Come back in the evening, as the YOUnique Lounge is a stunningly designed setting for fancy cocktails – and the surrounding neighborhood jumps at night.




1862 Dry Bar

Spain’s is a wine-beer-sherry drinking culture. The cocktail thing, mercifully, did not sweep into its major cities and strap all of its bartenders into old-timey suspenders. 1862, for instance, is distinctly Spanish bar, not some awful Brooklyn imitation. A crowd of urbane Madrilenos come to sip updated takes on the classics (Gimlet, Sazerac, Manhattan) by drinks wizard Alberto Martinez. Spread over two floors, it’s one of the city’s buzziest scenes.

Corral de la Morería

Flamenco is way hotter than you might actually think – and five decades after opening, Corral de la Moreria is still one of the hottest tickets in Madrid. In a classical but sensual setting, with Arabic touches, watch some of Spain’s top names in the genre heat up the stage (and the audience) with their visceral, passionate performances. It’s actually quite an intense, even somewhat aphrodisiac experience.


Flamenco Madrid

BlackBook Exclusive: Recipes From Exalted Chef Ruth Rogers’ New ‘River Cafe London’ Book

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After three decades of serving sophisticated Londoners and visitors from its idyllic locale along the Thames Wharf in Hammersmith, the River Cafe has achieved nothing less than mythic status. And on the occasion of its 30th birthday, what better gift could it bestow upon its devoted followers than a particularly stylish cookbook by Co-Founder-Chef-and-celebrity-in-her-own-right Ruth Rogers, affectionately titled River Cafe London: Thirty Years of Recipes and the Story of a Much-Loved Restaurant?

Of course, famous faces have abounded in its elegant dining room and riverside terrace. The book even exhibits how a couple of them – artists Ed Ruscha and Damien Hirst – took to the task of designing bespoke menus for the restaurant. Gwyneth, The Clooneys, Pippa Middleton, Alicia Vikander, have all been drawn to its inimitable charms through the years – but, surely, really came for the food above all.



The aesthetically striking tome – with its Jean Pigozzi photos and Josef Albers inspired typeface –  is, in effect, a tribute the restaurant’s late Co-Founder Rose Gray, who passed away in 2010, and whom Jamie Oliver cites as one of his greatest influences. It’s a culinary treasure trove of 120 recipes, both classic and contemporary – three of which Ms. Rogers was kind enough to share here with BlackBook.
And to fete release of the book, the Shop at the Gagosian Gallery on New York’s Upper East Side will host a book signing with the legendary chef, April 18 at 4:30pm.

Recipes From River Cafe London


Mezze Paccheri, Black Pepper and Langoustine  (pictured top)

Serves 6
1 ¼ pounds (600g) mezze paccheri
¼ cup (60g) unsalted butter
5 ounces (150g) Pecorino, freshly grated, plus extra for grating on top
¾ pound (360g) medium langoustines (4–5 langoustines per person), cooked and peeled
about 4 teaspoons (20g) coarsely ground black pepper
In a world of rules, including the seminal one that you must never put cheese on a fish pasta, this eccentric recipe combining Pecorino and langoustines commits the cardinal sin. It is incredibly delicious and proves that rules are made to be broken.
Cook the mezze paccheri pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. When draining the pasta, reserve some of the cooking water for the sauce.
Melt the butter with the Pecorino in a separate large pan over a low heat, using some of the reserved pasta water to create a sauce.
Cut the langoustines into pieces and add to the Pecorino sauce with black pepper to taste. Add the hot cooked pasta and mix until you have a glossy sauce coating the pasta, adding more reserved pasta water if needed.
Serve with extra Pecorino grated on top.



Tagliarini with Asparagus and Herbs

Serves 6
1½ pounds (675g) thin asparagus spears
4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 tablespoons chopped mixed fresh herbs (basil, mint, parsley, oregano) 7 tablespoons (100ml) heavy cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup (50g) unsalted butter
9 ounces (250g) tagliarini or tagliatelle
4 ounces (120g) Parmesan, freshly grated
Trim or snap off the tough ends from the asparagus spears. Finely chop the asparagus all together with one of the garlic cloves and the herbs.
Bring the cream to the boil in a saucepan with the rest of the whole garlic cloves
and simmer until the cloves are soft. Remove from the heat; discard the  garlic.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a separate large saucepan and sauté half of the chopped asparagus for 5 minutes, stirring. Add the rest of the chopped asparagus followed by the flavored cream. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the cream begins to thicken—about 6 minutes. Season. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
Cook the pasta in a generous amount of boiling salted water, then drain thoroughly. Add to the sauce along with about half of the Parmesan and toss together. Serve with the remaining Parmesan.


Slow Roasted Tomatoes w/Thyme

Serves 8
3 1/3 pounds (1.5kg) cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 bunch of fresh thyme sprigs
olive oil
If the tomatoes are particularly juicy, prick them with a fork before roasting.
Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).
Put all the tomatoes in a bowl, season with sea salt and black pepper, and toss with the garlic.
Spread out on a baking sheet without overcrowding. Scatter the thyme sprigs over the tomatoes
and drizzle with some olive oil. Roast for 1—11/2 hours, draining the juice halfway through cooking,
until concentrated and dry.


First Images: Paris’ Legendary Lutetia Hotel Will Reopen This Month

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Dating to 1910, Paris’ glamorous Left Bank legend Lutetia hotel has an absolutely glittering history, including playing host to the likes of Hemingway, James Joyce, Picasso, Matisse, Miles Davis and Serge Gainsbourg. David Lynch even styled his own suite. It was also one of the first “fashion designer” hotels, with Sonia Rykiel having opened an on-site boutique, before dazzlingly revamping the interiors during those so fabulous 1980s.

But closed – and sorely missed – since 2014, the Lutetia is now scheduled for a spring rebirth later this month (as a member of The Set hotels), after a $150 million renovation. We have the first images here.

Heading the makeover was exalted French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte; and gone are Rykiel’s flamboyant flourishes, replaced by something of a more rarefied elegance. Though the historic details are all left gloriously intact – especially the stunning Art Deco glass ceiling above the bar.

What to expect from this new era? A chic new jazz lounge (Parisians love their jazz), an open-air courtyard, and surely most importantly, the rebirth of the Lutetia Brasserie, under the direction of three-Michelin-starred chef Gérald Passedat – of Marseille’s Le Petit Nice. Not to mention brilliant people watching, especially whenever the Paris Fashion Week crowd storms the capital.

Come May, you’ll know where to find us.



Anatomy of a Stylish Campaign: The Cosmopolitan Hotel Vegas’ ‘Behind Closed Doors’

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It was really just a matter of time, surely, that this deep into the age of the boutique hotel, the advertising campaigns created around them would catch up decisively in sophistication. 

To wit, The Cosmopolitan of Las VegasBehind Closed Doors, which brings together industry heavy hitters like hotshot director and Emmy-winner Steve Fuller, of Mad Men and Nurse Jackie fame, together with set designer Susan Linss – who has worked with Kanye, Rihanna and Mariah Carey – and badass Brit photographer Sophy Holland. 

Focusing attention on the property’s chicly remodeled rooms (part of a recent $100 million upgrade), Behind Closed Doors takes us through one highly stylized space after another. Each visually sumptuous scenario – replete with gorgeous humans doing appropriately gorgeous things – draws the viewer deeper into the heart of The Cosmopolitan universe. When asked about the inspiration behind the hotel’s latest, glitter-fueled video, CMO Tom Evans remarks that it’s “still consistent with luxury with a wink and polished without pretense. We haven’t gotten away from that. We aren’t old or stuffy. We want people to be themselves.” Sure, themselves and then some. After all, what happens in Vegas is, as ever, synonymous with what happens behind closed doors.



Running across digital channels, the splashy campaign can also be seen on billboards in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago. But purposely not choosing to have it appear on broadcast channels – based on today’s viewing habits – the only way you’ll catch the 60-second spot on your TV is with Hulu and Roku digital streaming devices. Evans elaborates that they “create impact through really striking visuals, head turning music and setting the tone through high production quality and beauty.” 

Much of that onscreen beauty emanates from the mind of Fuller. As a director, “I come from the world of graphic design, so when I shoot I often see things in a very ‘graphic’ way. Some of the best photographic imagery is very clean and minimal – more about shape and silhouette than anything else.”

He continues, “There is a bit of that thinking in The Cosmopolitan spot. Creating color-schemes is also important. The colors in each room are very controlled. There are some real gems in there like the cupcake girl’s earrings. The pullback at the end was a last minute idea that probably came from my design background, and my experience doing title sequences. It needed a great ‘wrap-up’ and it wound up being one of the best moments in the spot.” We couldn’t agree more.



And the woman responsible for the look of all those swoon-worthy rooms, Susan Linss, shared her experience in helping shape Behind Closed Doors. She revealed that “the most exciting – and dizzying – part of working on The Cosmopolitan’s new campaign for me was that there were no creative limitations. I felt complete freedom in my creativity and vision. That’s when the best things come to life. I was able push it further.”

And given that The Cosmopolitan is by far the strip’s haute-est hotel experience, the world-renowned set designer says, “I was looking for chic, stylish, seductive imagery and a color palette that would translate [to The Cosmopolitan brand] and create the mood. Color is so important as is lighting. We are creating a mood and emotion.”

We surely concur – the mood is decidedly sultry and the emotion, pure pleasure.



First Images: Stylish New Elizabeth Unique Hotel Opens in Rome

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Rome has very many things to recommend it – but a selection of sleeps worthy of a monumental European capital it arguably does not. And so, with it nevertheless being one of our most unshakeably beloved destinations, we’re always thrilled for a stylish new hotel opening there.

To wit, the intriguingly named Elizabeth Unique Hotel (a member of Design Hotels), which has just opened its doors near the Piazza di Spagna (along the Via delle Colonnette, to be exact). And if the first images are any indication of the Elizabeth’s stylistic allure, you can be sure we’ll be inspired to hastily start booking our next visit to The Eternal City.

Fitted as it is into a stunning 17th Century palazzo – ah, Rome – the 33-room property features striking architectural details (love the neoclassical interior archways). And cool, contemporary color schemes are set against dramatic antique wallpaper print reproductions to dazzling effect. The hotel’s Bar Bachrach & Bistrot (yes, it’s intended as a tribute to Burt Bachrach) opens on to a jasmine-scented terrace, perfect for those ethereal, leisurely springtime aperitivo hours.

Of course, proximity to the Tridente means decadent designer shopping sprees are just a quick stroll away. And just around the corner, long nights of gourmet pasta, plates of prosciutto and endless bottles of Tuscan wine await at ‘Gusto, one of our regular Roman haunts.





Très French Bistrot Leo Opens at NYC’s SIXTY Soho Hotel

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If you need getting up to speed, one of NYC’s original scenester hotels, Jason Pomeranc’s 60 Thompson, became SIXTY SoHo in 2014. A year later, its Asian Kittichai restaurant morphed into Adam Leonti’s chic Italian Sessanta.

But nothing ever really sits still in New York; and Italian has now gone French on Thompson Street (considering the 2017 election of Emmanuel Macron, it’s definitely very cool to be French again) with the opening this week of the hotel’s stylish new Bistrot Leo.

Still under the direction of restaurateur John McDonald, aesthetically, it actually steers clear of the overarching “brasserie-ness” of so many Keith McNally restaurants – instead retaining a bit of the Mediterranean chic of its predecessor. Indeed, a distinctive Medi-blue now permeates the more cozily laid out, smartly checkered-floored space (request a corner booth for maximum snuggling/snogging opportunities).

But the menu by former Daniel and Bar Boulud chef Brian Loiacono is reassuringly classic: foie gras torchons, escargot Bourgogne, lobster Niçoise, poulet a la brique and beef filet au poivre, for example. Though selections like the Atlantic wild cod with chorizo and the spaetzle accompagnement give it a touch of the Continental.

Plan to conclude the evening with cocktails at the hotel’s plush, sexy Gordon Bar, one of our Soho faves.


Food images by Joran Korn for Becca PR


BlackBook Exclusive: Eden Local Chef David Laris on the Hottest Spring Food Trends

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Spring-cleaning is right around the corner and that means long, lingering strolls through local farmers markets. But what to look for?

Quinoa and beets are so last season and while kale may still be lingering, there’s always something new hitting the trendometer. So we to get the scoop on what is seasonally veggie forward, we tapped David Laris, Chef and Chief Creative Officer of Cachet Hospitality Group. With his innovative restaurants like Eden Local specializing in seasonal farm to table eats, he doesn’t really need a crystal ball to let us in on what food trends will also help us to feel fit and fabulous in the coming months.

We sat him down to, um, chew the fat.


What will everyone be eating in 2018?

Super food powders, in particular the emergence of more drinks using them, turmeric and coconut milk chia lattes. More interest in plant based cooking, a lot more interest. Heritage vegetables from hyper local and urban farms. Things like stinging nettles and cardoons will be everywhere.

How are restaurants adapting to different tastes?

Mocktails and tea will be big. People will be drinking less alcohol. Restaurants will be putting a lot more energy into alcohol-free beverages. Also, desserts with alternative sugars and exotic ingredients.



With so many questions about digestive health, Is food getting political?

Local and sustainable will grow in popularity and there will be increased awareness in the concerns around commercial agriculture – transparency will be a big word in food. There will also be a lot of talk around waste in the food industry…especially plastics.
A lot more talk about how Insects fit in our diet, although that will be more towards the latter part of the year and will not heat up in the US for a couple of years yet, as the US has yet to take a firm stance on this topic. An interesting conversation will emerge around sustainable insect production.

How will international foods affect trends?

Authentic ethnic cuisines, in particular interest in Central and Latin American flavors…Peru will be hot.  Middle Eastern and Central Asian cuisines will also be on people’s radars. The importance of fermentation and having a healthy gut will creep into mainstream diets and more restaurants and consumers will want to understand why the gut is so important to complete wellbeing.

How do you feel about burgers and other dishes that taste like meat but are vegetarian?

Plant based meat replacements called Heme are the dawn of a new era beyond corn; although I am not really a fan of making meat substitutes, as I believe the vegetable itself is so glorious. Why try to fake meat? It has always struck me as bizarre – the same way I cringe at vegetarians who say they don’t like vegetables.


BlackBook Exclusive: Art Pop Songsmith Henry Green’s Guide to Bristol, UK

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Manchester and Liverpool (and for synth-heads Sheffield) enjoy mythic status in the English geo-musical pantheon. But Bristol has perhaps been the scrappiest of all the British music scenes (with apologies to Glasgow) – the late-80s-into-mid-90s Wild Bunch / trip hop scene still having left the most vivid imprint on the city’s cultural identity.

Singer and producer Henry Green is one of the newest musical sons of the West Country’s most prominent city. He’s released two EPs – 2015’s Slow and 2017’s Real – before at last birthing a full debut album, Shift, which arrived just this past Friday via Akira Records.

Drawing on more avant-garde influences like Four Tet and Nils Frahm, he deftly layers on a sultry R&B sheen, as well as a distinctive pop sensibility. From the ethereal wondrousness of “Aiir” to the alluring atmospherics of the title track (which strikingly recalls fellow Bristol natives Massive Attack) to the sylvan lushness of “Stay Here” to the haunted enigma of “We,” Shift is one of the most beautifully aesthetically realized creations you’re likely to be privileged to be introduced to in 2018.

Green will be doing live dates in the UK and Europe – from Rotterdam to Budapest – throughout April and May. In the meanwhile, we asked him to take us around to some of his fave spots in his beloved hometown, including a new Rough Trade shop and a boat that is actually a nightclub.



The Gallimaufry

The Galli is a super special place run by James Koch, a good friend of mine. He’s hugely passionate about the amazing food that’s served, the atmosphere and the nights they curate. New night Astral Tusk, starting in April, celebrates improvisation and synthesized sound, and will feature local musicians Snazzback, Waldo’s Gift and Hippo. The menu is consistently incredible and they’ve always got my favorite beer, Wiper & True, on tap.



Pinkmans Bakery

Our go-to coffee spot. It’s always really busy at lunch time, so I’d advise going mid-morning to grab the pastries quickly (or the infamous Sourdough-nuts). The cakes are amazing, the coffee great and the decor stylish. I’d personally also recommend their homemade granola. It’s definitely worth the strenuous walk up Park Street.




Papersmiths is a really stylish magazine/stationary shop in Clifton. I have a weird obsession with really clean, minimalist architecture and design, so this shop is really satisfying to spend some time in. They have an expansive selection of magazines and books, and they stock loads of items by the amazing Danish designers HAY. There are amazing cafés, bars and shops up in Clifton, so you could easily spend a whole day up there exploring. 



Elevator Sound

An amazing shop on Stokes Croft, specializing in music production and modular synthesis. I could spend so much time in Elevator Sound playing with all the new toys they get in and mulling over spending a fortune on new synthesizers. The guys in there are super helpful, and are always happy to run through any questions on gear or just chat about electronic music. I would definitely recommend for any producers with a few hours to spare in Bristol. 



Rough Trade

I’d always buy my records at Rise when it was open, but it’s recently been taken over by the team at Rough Trade – and a new store has opened near the centre. It has a huge array of records and the atmosphere is great, but the inclusion of a new performance area and a café makes it feel even more special. They’ve got a few shows and signing events coming up, so be sure to check their listings.




One of my favorite Bristol venues, I’ve had so many good times aboard this boat, both playing and attending. The most memorable shows that come to mind are Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains with Tamu Massif, Nick Mulvey and Mura Masa. I even enjoyed (reluctantly) being dragged to Pop Confessional by my girlfriend and her friends, a regular night dedicated to the cheesiest pop music. It was simultaneously torturous, and somehow therapeutic at the same time.



Wapping Wharf

Wapping Wharf is a collection of shipping containers converted in to shops, bars and restaurants, sitting on the harbor next to M Shed. There are so many containers to get amazing food and drink. My recommendations would be a meal at Root, a small plate restaurant serving incredible flavors, Mokoko for a cinnamon bun and a great coffee, a pale ale at The Wild Beer Company, and a Greek souvlaki from The Athenian. Everything down there is great! 


First Images: Stylish New W Panama Opens in the Capital

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Already back in 2012, Travel + Leisure was counting Panama amongst its “Hottest Destinations” list. And the arrival a new W hotel usually indicates that said destination has indeed made it to a particular “moment.”

And so it is that the striking new W Panama has opened in Panama City this month, and it’s a smartly referential addition to its sultry surrounds – while also bearing the latest stylistic hallmarks of the brand. Designed by Studio Gaia, in conjunction with the W design team, its industrial-shipping-container chic makes reference to the storied Panama Canal; and Oscar Melgar’s striking, graffiti-style paintings draw on the colorful aesthetic of the local diablos rojos buses.

Considering guests enter at the 15th floor, jaw-dropping views are a central “amenity” of the hotel. The 203 rooms have skyline-framing floor-to-ceiling windows, and a warmly minimalist style set off by bright splashes of color, and gorgeous, open-plan bathrooms. A dazzling pool sits dramatically above the cityscape.

When hunger strikes, La Cajita serves casual street fare, and Moró does elevated local comfort food in a splashy setting. The Cargo bar is dark and sexy, with dramatic curtains contrasted by decidedly playful murals.

The hotel is located near Uruguay Street, home to some of the city’s buzziest nightlife. And the beautifully renewed historic Casco Antiguo neighborhood is not far away.

Go now, before everyone else finds out about it.