Feb 8, 2023
Inside Virgin’s NYC Hotel, With Spectacular Empire State Building Views
(Bloomberg) -- Sir Richard Branson has wanted to open a hotel in New York for nearly 40 years. “Virgin Atlantic flew its first flight from Gatwick to Newark in 1984, so I think it’s been that long,” the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group said in an email.
This year, Branson is finally opening the doors to his first Big Apple property, in the middle of an expansion sprint for his Virgin Hotels brand. The 39-story, 460-room property in NoMad started welcoming guests this month during a soft opening. Some parts of the hotel are still getting finishing touches in advance of the official spring opening. For example, the 2,800-square foot duplex dubbed “Sir Richard’s Flat,” from which guests will have partial views of the Thanksgiving Day parade and New Year’s Eve ball drop, isn’t yet available to book but will go for around $15,000 per night, plus tax.
As of Wednesday, Virgin Hotel’s website showed rooms available on some nights for as little as $298, before taxes and fees, though the hotel’s suggested opening rate is closer to $600 a night.
The angular, glass-walled property rises more than 500 feet on a rehabbed Broadway block between 29th and 30th streets. It’s one of the tallest buildings in the neighborhood, which has become new-hotel central in New York. Recent openings include the Ritz-Carlton NoMad, whose restaurant Zaytinya, is operated by José Andrés, and the UK transplant the Ned NoMad.
The hotel’s requisite pool club boasts one of the city’s more immediate views of the Empire State Building. The restaurant, Everdene, is a vast indoor and outdoor dining space that takes up the hotel’s entire third floor. The suggestively named Shag Room will be a late-night karaoke spot. Like many new hotels these days, guests can check in, get their room keys, control thermostats and TVs, and leave tips from their phone.
New York is just the start of the Virgin Hotel’s ambitious expansion beyond its existing five hotels in the US and one in Edinburgh, says James Bermingham, Virgin Hotel’s chief executive officer. This year, the company will break ground on properties in Miami and Denver. London is also a priority. The Miami hotel, targeted to open mid-2025, will be a 48-story building in the Brickell financial hub and will include 330 branded residences that will come on the market later this year, Bermingham says.
Virgin also plans to get into the resort business in the US — mountain destinations on the East and West Coasts, as well as Spain and Portugal, Bermingham says. The brand will prioritize locations where sister airline Virgin Atlantic flies or will begin servicing, including the Caribbean and South Africa.
Does that mean a Virgin Galactic hotel is in the cards?
“Right now, we have a lot more we want to open right here on Earth so I’m focused on that for now,” Branson said. (Doesn’t sound like a “no” to us!)
Meanwhile, back on Earth, here are highlights at the new Virgin New York property.
Look and Feel
The rooms, designed by the Brooklyn firm Markzeff, are more neutral than the bright communal spaces. The furniture is largely beige and white furniture, with red accents, and rooms start at a compact 277 square feet. They all feature the brand’s two distinct spaces with a door to separate them: A dressing room, and bedroom, which Virgin calls the “lounge.” There are 39 suites and two penthouse suites, including Sir Richard’s Flat.
The brand’s signature red color is found throughout the hotel. There’s a dramatic, sweeping staircase connecting the third and fourth floors coated in red that you’ll actually want to walk up and down, as long as it’s not blocked by people posing for Instagram photos. In the rooms, red Smeg mini fridges are stocked with reasonably priced items sourced from around the region, like rosé wine from Long Island’s Bedell Cellars and beer from Brooklyn Brewery and Other Half Brewing.
The Pool Club
The plant-lined fourth floor roof deck is well stocked with black-and-white striped cabanas, loungers and day beds, as well as an adjoining pool bar with a seasonal cocktail program that will emphasize all-day, outdoor drinks. Along with the Empire State is the landscape of the NoMad and Gramercy Park neighborhoods. New Yorkers looking for their favorite new pool party space will have to wait; the pool will be open exclusively to hotel guests to start.
The vast, indoor-outdoor Everdene restaurant takes up the entire third floor of the hotel and includes spaces with daybeds and stadium style seating, as well as the coffee shop-oriented Library. At the restaurant, which features floor to ceiling windows, chef Freddy Vargas, an alum of the now-shuttered Scarpetta in Beverly Hills, offers a modern Italian menu. On it: fritto misto, a crispy mix of shrimp, calamari and Montauk blowfish tails, along with whole roasted maitake mushrooms with seaweed butter and parmesan, roasted prime rib with horseradish mayo.
The engaging cocktail list includes the Fast Love, a blue hued mix of gin, lavender and pea flower, and the spicy margarita-esque Who Do You Think You Are which combines blanco tequila, pineapple, agave and serrano. The wines by the glass program highlights female winemakers and winery owners.
In the next two months, Vargas will open a more-ambitious, fine-dining spot on the fourth floor, that will offer a modern American menu with Latin and Italian influences.
The Shag Room
The swanky, red-velvet decorated lounge is a feature of all Virgin Hotels. The New York outpost, on the third floor, is outfitted with a dramatic crimson and charcoal chandelier, and will serve cocktails late night with the option of karaoke. The place is also stocked with cards and board games for an alternate evening’s entertainment.
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