By Terry Trucco
At a glance: A few years ago, I’d be slack-jawed at the notion of any hotel other than a flophouse thriving in Midtown’s western reaches, better known as Hell’s Kitchen. But Manhattan’s west isn’t as wild as it once was.
Consider Ink48. The hotel looks like a chic outlier amidst the surrounding warehouses and car dealerships, yet appears comfortable in the new urban-industrial-chic skin devised by the Rockwell Group, a wink at the building’s origins as a printing plant.
Perhaps because it shares the block with a Toyota dealership – and Landmark Tavern, the nearest restaurant of note, is two blocks away – Ink48 is a self-contained urban resort, with a restaurant specializing in organic and local market fare, lobby lounge, fitness center and rooftop bar, complete with a reflecting pool. There’s even a spa. But if its location is quirky, its architectural inheritance – high ceilings, spacious dimensions, enormous windows overlooking the Hudson– helps balance the equation.
Following an abrupt entry – no awning, no setback — the lobby envelops, large, clean-lined and colorful (we love the lighted glass wall behind the check-in counter, a feast of lemon, orange and blue). Generous seating awaits, from a trio of aqua velvet sofas with wood-lattice backs to the bar’s romantic sofas with scarlet candy-stripe seats.
There’s also a moody lounge where guests are served comp wine nightly. The printers never had it this good.
Rooms: As SoHo’s pioneer loft-residents knew, industrial buildings clean up nicely, and Ink48 is no exception. Hallways are wide. And even the smallest rooms display king-size beds, high ceilings and space to spare. The king I saw, the smallest offered, had white walls, a full-length mirror near the entry, a smartly dressed platform bed flanked by hanging bedside lamps that looked like a riff on Japanese lanterns, a good desk, a cool geo-print lounger and a pleasing cityscape view from the enormous floor-to-ceiling window. The flatpanel TV sat atop a sleek wood chest that matched the narrow armoire/closet. A frosted glass wall hid the bathroom (large stall rain-head shower instead of a tub, gorgeous pastel-glass tile mosaic framing the sink mirror).
But $125 a night more gets you the Hudson Suite (two on every floor) – a long, narrow configuration whose sitting room and sleeping area command a postcard-perfect view of the river and New Jersey skyline. The open-plan windowless bathroom tucked between has a separate stall shower and soaking tub, a toilet behind a demure frosted glass partition and gorgeous rough-hewn white tile.
Food and drink: Print, the ground-floor restaurant, is bold and contemporary, with metal-edge tables that look like old-fashioned light tables and gigantic floor vases constructed from wine corks. Serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch and room service, the kitchen, overseen by Charles Rodriguez and Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez, a husband and wife team, specializes in organic and locally grown fare. My brunch of poached eggs, braised mustard greens, ham and toast was delicious – and the server, asking how i wanted my eggs poached, produced great results.
A generous bar with a fleet of individual lounges nudges the restaurant. The showpiece, however, is Press, the rooftop bar, open evenings, with jaw-dropping views, a reflecting pool, a light-bite menu and huge crowds that call to mind those old photos of Jones Beach.
Amenities: Complimentary features include morning lobby coffee and tea, evening lobby wine reception, newspapers on request, overnight shoe shine on request. The well-equipped mirrored fitness room features the usual cardio machines, each with an individual TV and headphones, and weights. The full-service InkSpa serves up good-looking treatment rooms. Pets stay free of charge. Aveda bath products. Animal-print bathrobes.
Surroundings: Midtown’s far west, once home to light industry, is gentrifying fast, but the hotel still seems a beached whale. Not much of interest is directly outside the door unless you want to buy a car, but nearby attractions include Javits Convention and Exhibition Center, the Pier 94 exhibition hall, Manhattan’s cruise ship piers and Landmark Tavern, a popular Irish pub in a historic building. Hell’s Kitchen is home to a growing roster of restaurants and clubs, some trendy, some seedy. Due east are Ninth Avenue and its bustling restaurants and bars, the Theater District, Times Square and Rockefeller Center, all walkable if you like to walk.
Lincoln Center is 20 blocks north, Chelsea is 20 blocks south, and the Meatpacking District is a straight 14-block shot south. Subway stations are a four block walk (the long east-west blocks), bus stops are a block, or two, away. (Sadly, due to budget cuts, the nearby crosstown 50 bus no longer runs on weekends.)
Back story: The building was constructed in the 1930s as a printing plant, one of several on 11th Avenue. (Who knew back then the building’s 360-degree unobstructed views of the Hudson River and Midtown Manhattan were ideal for a roof bar?) Owned by Horizon Global, a Manhattan residential building developer, the hotel is viewed as a trailblazer that could smooth the path for other hotels in this once-bleak area – not unlike the Meatpacking District a decade ago.
The property originated as the fourth New York link in the San Francisco-based Kimpton chain, but is no longer affiliated with the group. At the time Troy Furbay, Kimpton’s senior vice president for acquisitions and development, told The New York Times that regret was a factor in choosing the unusual locale. The company had decided against a Meatpacking District site that went on to become the Gansevoort Hotel. “We were worried we’d make the same mistake twice,” he said. Rockwell Group, which has created iconic outposts for the W New York, Andaz Wall Street, Trump SoHo and the Carlton, designed the property and played up the building’s printing plant history (meeting spaces are named Courier, Garamond and Helvetica). Ink48 is now an independent hotel.
Keep in mind: Soundproofing isn’t perfect. I heard phone conversations and TV shows wafting through the front doors when I walked through an upstairs hallway. Service I encountered veered from super-attentive to indifferent.