'New York, New York': Archer Hotel and the Garment District13 Jun 2016
The next instalment of our trip to NYC back in May. We had such an ace time, I couldn’t condense it down to a single post, so I’m tackling the city by districts. This one is all about the Garment District and our hotel, Archer Hotel, which is situated at the top of the district on W38th, just below Times Square and Midtown. I’ve also written a review of the hotel over on Trip Advisor - it was a really cool place to stay and I would certainly recommend it.
When we arrived at the Archer Hotel around 3pm on the Thursday, we were sweaty, aching and exhausted. An almost eight hour flight, three hour shuffle around customs, and an hour’s journey into the city (not to mention the fact we’d already been up for five hours prior to all of this), it was all we could do not to fall down at reception and sleep right there. Being greeted by a smiling face and a warm welcome made a great start to our stay. Archer’s New York home away from home is not massive by most hotel standards, but what it lacks in size is made up in every other detail.
A very helpful bellman assisted us to the room - a cosy king size on the fifteenth floor. I’d painstakingly researched which hotel to stay in and had checked out pictures before we booked, so I knew it’d be nice. I wasn’t expecting it to be even swankier than the Archer website showed. Despite being a little on the small size, there was every convenience you could need: a huge bed that almost swallowed you when you laid on it and you could hide your suitcases beneath; a Nespresso* machine that was restocked every day; a personal fridge, which we used for snacks, water and milk, alongside the mini bar/fridge, which we left well alone; a wardrobe that housed a safe, iron and ironing board, space for hanging clothes (obvs) and to put your shoes; and a sliding door bathroom which was super clean (you’d be surprised how not clean some hotels are and I can be a little bit of a clean freak) with Malin + Goetz beauty products for you to use. There were even ‘his and hers’ slippers and robes.
(*Yes, it’s a Nestle product, which I dislike very much, but it did make really good coffee.)
It was the little extra details that made the stay at Archer even better. I keep telling everyone about this, but as well as a ‘turn-down’ service, where someone from housekeeping sorts out your pillows and pj’s every night, they leave their guests bottles of water and a treat, with a little card to explain why they chose them. My favourite was by far the sea salt chocolate chip cookies by Chef Zac from the David Burke restaurant, Fabrick, based at the hotel. The concierge gave us umbrellas to take out with us on the particularly rainy Sunday, wishing us a great day; later, he offered to sort out dinner reservations for us, giving a personal recommendation of the restaurant, which was great. All the staff were incredibly friendly, helpful and made you feel welcome. Service like that really makes a difference.
As well as a bar in the lobby, there is also a restaurant (Fabrick, as mentioned above) and a rooftop bar, Spyglass. We didn’t go to the latter, as it was a little on the expensive side for breakfast and we had other plans for dinner. It’s run/owned(?) by David Burke, a celebrated chef and restauranteur. However, we did find his “Burke in a Box” cafe in Bloomingdales and tried the maple bacon burgers, which were absolutely delicious and super greasy. That’s a cool place for celebrity spotting; although we didn’t see anyone really famous, there were two older gentlemen who were quite well known, one of whom I know I’ve seen on TV before and the other caused a ruckus on his entrance as the staff fawned over him. The Spyglass bar is amazing - the view is unobstructed and looks straight across to the Empire State Building. It’s worth a visit at any time, but night is best, as it’s all lit up beautifully. No time to stop for a drink, but will do next time .
Getting up early on the Saturday, we knew there was a lot to pack into the day. Both Dave and I like to plan ahead - not that we don’t like a bit of spontaneity, but even so - to not miss out on anything, we made a list of places to cover and then mapped our route to make the most of our time. On the Archer Hotel website, they recommended local places to eat, see and shop, one of which was Culture Espresso. Famed for its “world’s best chocolate chip cookies”, it was a definite on the hit list; good coffee and yes, incredible cookies (though, not quite as good as the sea salt choc chip ones), which set us up for a long day ahead.
Both Archer Hotel and Culture Espresso are located in the Garment District, an area just below Midtown. The main aspect of the Garment District is, of course, shopping. There are other areas in Manhattan that boast streets of clothes stores, both designer boutiques and more affordable ‘high street’ style stores (as they’re known in the UK); for example, Soho and Fifth Avenue. However, this is what’s considered the fashion destination for New York. It’s where they host fashion week every year and is the place most designers/fashion houses call home.
As well as all that, it’s also home to Macy’s - an iconic American department store first opened at Herald Square in 1858, it’s a tourist staple. I have to say, I was a little disappointed this time round, as we found that it had changed quite dramatically in the five years or so since I’d been previously. Not that modernisation is a bad thing; in fact, the store as a whole now has a much better layout. No, what I missed was the huge food court area that had taken up half of the basement . A little like Selfridges (only better), as well as lots of nice looking things to buy and take home, there were individual sections where chefs freshly cooked up a wide variety of foods right in front of you. My favourite was the spaghetti bolognese - it was delicious and tasted so fresh, it was like being at an Italian grandmother’s house for dinner. Alas, it’s no longer there. It’s been replaced by the junior girls section - which they’ve made into an “uber cool” space for the discerning teen - and a much smaller cafe known as Chef Street. There are now four stations that serve burgers, tacos, noodles and a sort of deli style sandwich bar. I guess this change reflects their audience, but it’s just not the same.
Despite this, Macy’s is absolutely huge - it occupies a whole city block by itself - and has a lot to offer. There are over five floors just of clothes of all types and styles. Their home section also extends over multiple floors and they even have a rainbow assortment of KitchenAid appliances so pretty that I had to photograph it. If you like to shop and want to grab a bargain, you can normally find some sort of discount or sale going on and there are prices to suit every budget in the day to day. We spent the morning in there on Sunday as it was bucketing down outside and we hadn’t brought anything waterproof; $60 and a thin rain jacket each later and we felt brave enough to venture out in it.
Just down the block is the Empire State Building. We tried multiple times to visit, but every time we got there, the doormen turned us away due to bad weather; I guess it was good that they did that so you weren’t disappointed when you got to the top. They told you straight up if you weren’t going to be able to see anything and it just so happened that whenever we tried, the clouds were so low that they covered the observatory and anything up that high. Definitely worth making a trip, though. I think it’s my favourite touristy thing to do in Manhattan. It’s pretty quiet up there, other than the wind, and you can see so far on a good day: downtown, up to Harlem, across to New Jersey. Feels like you’re looking down on another world.