Guests can be forgiven for thinking they are calling on a rich New York pal when they check into this most discreet of hotels.
Greenwich Village, New York
In New York's concrete jungle, Greenwich Village stands apart as a quiet, leafy pocket with a neighbourly vibe, distinguished from most of Manhattan by its oddly curving, non-numbered, narrow streets. Yet despite its central location – within walking distance of Union Square, Soho and the Meatpacking District – "the Village" has incredibly few hotels.
Block after tree-lined block, the neighbourhood clings to its cosiness, seeming to tell tourists they can come for brunch or cocktails, but please don't stay all week. So, it was an important consideration when The Jade opened last year that it would blend in with the low-key locals.
Designed to resemble a pre-war apartment building, the hotel is easy to overlook from street level. With simple green doors, flanked by gas lamps and pot plants, the exterior's only hints of opulence are stained glass windows and an ornate portico. Even the uniformed doormen don't give the game away in a city where such staff are found in many residential properties.
Entering The Jade feels like visiting your rich New Yorker friend for the first time. An onyx staircase leads down to a sunken living room and library, where guests relax on sofas as if they own the place.
For a moment, your jet-lagged, luggage-lugging reality is suspended. There's no sign of a check-in desk or a queue for the concierge. Reception is tucked away in a corner behind the stairs, hidden from view for the rest of your stay to uphold that non-touristy illusion.
Adding to the mood change is a shift in time, The Jade's decor is pure Roaring '20s. Designed by Andres Escobar, the art deco interior shines brightest in the suites, where every vintage detail has been covered, from a rotary telephone to a Tivoli radio. Modern necessities are disguised, such as a mirrored armoire instead of a closet and an intricate cabinet covering the flat-screen television.
The outlook is old-school, too, opposite the former Macy's. A red star, the famous symbol of the world's biggest store since it opened in the 1850s, is still visible on the facade.
North-facing rooms have sightlines to the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, while south-facing rooms gaze at the One World Trade Center. My penthouse is one of only two with a small outdoor terrace; others have floor-to-ceiling windows.
WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR
Actually, just step downstairs to the speakeasy-style bistro, the Grape & Vine, which is also open to the locals. Aside from the opportunity to sit at the bar and chat with real New Yorkers, it helps that some of the neighbours are gorgeous celebrities. Cameron Diaz, Marisa Tomei and Ellen Barkin are recent patrons, according to staff.
Diaz, who lives in the bordering West Village, is almost a regular. Or perhaps it was the one visit retold many times. During my stay, a manager mentions twice that the actress came in two weeks ago, and when I drop in for a drink 10 days later, I overhear her telling customers the same thing.
It's that kind of place, where gossip is shared in dimly lit seclusion, which fits perfectly with its heritage. The Grape & Vine is named after the defunct 19th-century Old Grapevine Tavern, a famed New York venue that used to stand on the nearest corner. Regarded as Manhattan's first legendary village bar, the Grapevine was a popular hangout of Union officers and Confederate spies during the Civil War. When the Jefferson Market Courthouse was built two blocks south, lawyers and politicians would also gather to talk business. These days, the bar encourages similar whisperings.
The adjacent restaurant has red velvet banquettes curved around dark tables to create a sensual ambience, and the walls are lined with Fred McDarrah's portraits of Greenwich Village figures including Robert De Niro and Andy Warhol.
The market-driven menu is heavy on regional meats and seafood (Maine scallops, east coast oysters) as well as American comfort food (fried chicken, mac and cheese) and signature flavoured flatbreads.
Sipping on The Gossip cocktail (US$14) served by a retro-styled bartender under a gold ceiling, I forget (and can't hear) the drone of modern life outside. But for all its Great Gatsby glamour and long-standing neighbourhood feel, it turns out the 113-room building was built from scratch in 2012. It must be true – I heard it through the Grape & Vine.
HOW TO GET THERE
United, Qantas, Delta and Virgin Australia fly to the US with connections to New York on various domestic airlines. The Jade Hotel is at 52 West 13th Street, between 5th and 6th avenues, New York.
Rooms start at $340 in the low season and $550 high season, per night, including Wi-Fi and bottled water. Phone +1 212 375 1300; see thejadenyc.com.
The writer was a guest of the Jade Hotel.