Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The James hotel Soho and David Burke Kitchen

While in New York City recently I stayed at the James Hotel in Soho. Its a pretty spunky joint but I have to say that the phrase "style over substance" springs to mind. I won't bore you with  minutiae but it wasn't the most joyous of hotel experiences - it certainly wasn't the worst by any means either. 

Much of my grizzling stems from a lack of clear communication from and between their crew. Some of them were great - but when you are staying in a place for 2 weeks  - one that prides itself on a more intimate, customer friendly level of service, AND you are paying reasonable dollars (not huge by NY standards of course but nothing to sniff at) one can tend to feel a little irritated when:

 - on arrival your booked 2-bed room turns out to be furnished with just one bed and no hint of a chance for promised roll away (2 friends sleeping next to each other for a fortnight when they have busy work focused agendas is not ideal...)

- and the friendly but slightly clueless staff welcome you back to your room saying "hey weren't you here a week or so ago?"  when you never left....  

- and the doormen make a huge fuss over letting you up to the too cool for school (but freaking amazingly gorgeous) bar... 

- and makeup disappears from another friends room (she was compensated) 

- and you couldn't even ask the concierge for rough directions to the cafe around the corner without tipping, not only that - having an inflated amount suggested by an onlooking and interjectory doorman only to have the rather alarmed original staff member quickly imply that was probably right for the doorman if he was lugging bags unto a room but perhaps not for the question I asked which required a 2 second response.... 

 I really started to feel a little bit resentful and as though some of the crew were clearly just out for tips - without feeling any real need to earn them. What is with that? Isn't it the point - you get tipped for actually doing your job well - not just holding out one hand while scratching your arse with the other? Sorry - it was lost on me. We didn't' really experience this anywhere else that we ate/drank etc in NYC and we were happy to tip accordingly. The James had better pull its socks up because they won't gain repeat business with this kind of attitude. Ok, so its probably just a handful of the team - but a bit of mould on a shiny apple can put some people off eating the whole thing. 

There were lots of other small things that I probably wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't been so miffed on discovering the sleeping arrangements on arrival -with no other options offered nor a sense of  care - but as I said - I won't bother you with them. 

Having said all of that, to be fair the place had some good qualities. It is quite gorgeous for one. The rooms are not large but ours, being on the 17th floor I think,  had a stupendous view over manhattan.  The gym on the same floor had an equally spectacular view. 
Wine and cheese  are served in the foyer in the evenings as part of your package and you can choose to indulge in as much as you like, same goes for coffee and decent pastry in the mornings and warm chocolate chip cookies in the afternoon - all lovely - even if I only had the opportunity to take advantage of this on a couple of occasions. 
When you are eventually deemed respectable enough to enter the bar (above) - it is one of the most "NYC moment" scenes you can possibly imagine. Fabulous people watching of fabulous people watching fabulous people. And a view you have to see to believe - see my entry on Jimmy here. 
The outside area of the David Burke Kitchen is perfect for afternoon drinks and delicious snacks (excellent pate!!) especially during happy hour. 
As you can see - we returned several times - and this below wasn't ours but check out the size of this sandwich next to some eggs benedict - my god! 
Plus any food ordered from room service was spot on. Beef rib, mushroom sauce, pasta and mushroom chips - excellent as far as hotel food goes - f&b is clearly where these guys excel. Congrats to this who are working in these areas of the hotel. 
The chocolates left at turn down service (when remembered) were from Kee's chocolates around the corner and they were EXCELLENT. Its also in a great spot for wandering around downtown. Had the crew just been a bit more onto it generally it really could have been a very positive and enjoyable hotel experience.  Sadly I won't be back.   I hear good things about the James in Chicago so hopefully NY isn't letting the team down. 

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