Exquisitely manicured, fantastically quiet and unusually secluded: Gramercy Park in New York City. You need a key to get in and out, and in order to get one you must own one of the apartments located on the perimeter, which cost millions of dollars. I have often walked by imagining what it would be like to luxuriate in the sun there, to take quiet strolls and be one of the elite key-holders in the city. It is something, I think, every New Yorker secretly fantasizes about.
I got to sample 90 heavenly minutes in the park recently when I was invited to stay at the Gramercy Park Hotel for a blogger’s weekend. The coolest perk of the very cool hotel (it comes from the mind of Ian Schrager, he, of course, who brought us Studio 54) is by far a key to the park. Tell the concierge and one of the greeters will escort you and let you in for as long as you like. But you have to call the hotel back to get someone to come back and release you.
It was hard extracting myself from the park – and it was equally hard to leave the hotel after a weekend. It is like staying in a hip art gallery, bohemian palace and five-star restaurant rolled into one. Warhols and Basquiats decorate the walls, an enormous Venetian chandelier hangs from the ceiling of the foyer and the shower in our room was so large you could have easily fit five people – if you’re into that sort of thing.
We began the weekend – I naturally brought my Mr Smith along – sipping Prosecco and sampling hors d’oeuvres at GPH’s Private Roof Club and Garden – a verdant hamlet with floor-to-ceiling windows that offers a nice break from the dimly-lit, louche glamour of the rest of the hotel. The sit-down dinner was great, but the highlight was dessert: a tray of apple tartlets and mini red velvet cupcakes with the most heavenly cream-cheese frosting I had ever tasted. We stayed up late chatting in worn-leather chairs and admiring the photographs in our room, from the Magnum Archives. Breakfast at the Garden the next morning was even better, as chef Jeff Seizer served up a mélange of maple-glazed bacon, fluffy scrambled eggs and Belgian waffles topped with bananas and walnuts. We spent the rest of the morning in Gramercy Park and then checked out a couple of exhibits at the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Dinner at the hotel’s Maialino restaurant saw us feast on a variety of cheeses, lightly fried artichokes, tender organic chicken and dark chocolate gelato. Bellies full, we climbed one more time into the hotel’s soft king-sized bed and enjoyed one more night as worldly haute bohemians before retreating back to our little Brooklyn apartment, where a pile of dirty dishes awaited us.