Posts tagged ‘Firmdale Hotels’

On the 12 Days of Christmas the Ham Yard Gave to Me

Ham Yard Hotel was recently named one of London’s funkiest venues. hamyard 3

Like all Firmdale Hotels, it’s five-star and splashy enough for business glad-handing, post West End theater noshing and people watching–especially if you’re partial to young, beautiful, rich people.

I had one of my top two best London dinners within its gilded pillared restaurant. But the reason Ham Yard made the most funky list is the same reason it offers art enthusiasts a two and a half-hour curated tour and the reason I’m nominating it as the #1 London hotel for a 12 Days of Christmas scavenger hunt.

With Kit Kemp-designed wall fabrics, crazy mad colors and art by Turner Prize winners, Ham Yard Hotel gives us inspiring eye candy throughout. But for the sake of the song and my self-designed scavenger hunt, here are the 12 eccentric gifts Ham Yard gave for us to find:

1. A two-story orange juice squeezer. Rube Goldberg would be proud of this fresh juicing machine that, like a marble track, sends 397 oranges spiraling to their destiny in glasses of fresh-squeezed OJ.
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2. An Attack of the 50-Foot Women movie poster. Although the 1958 horror film was made in black and white, this four-color poster hangs in the corridor right outside the Ham Yard’s au courant movie theater.

3. A 50’s Brunswick bowling alley imported all the way from Texas. It’s called the Croc Bowling Alley and not only does it feature old-school hand warmers and solid maple lanes, but it has a bar, dance floor, silver baby grand and two crocodiles made from driftwood. As Kit Kemp says “I’ve never been in a bowling alley I wanted to be in for more than two minutes.” In this one, you could stay all evening.hamyard 2

4. Vintage costume drawings from the Paris Opera. Not to give their location away, but these cleverly-framed drawings provide definite conversation starters over afternoon tea.

5. An African chandelier made from mud beads. This unique chandelier made from sun-dried, kiln-fired clay beads adorns what designer Kit Kemp calls the Dive Bar. Let me just add that the Dive, in this case, means plunging into water and there’s a neon sign to prove it.

6. A Freak Show in neon. Built on a three-quarter-acre site of one of the 60’s most electric basement jazz dives, Ham Yard pay homage to The Scene, as the club was called, with a whole series of bright neon signs.

7. Glowing porcelain pots. These 32-pots were custom designed by Sigmund Freud’s great great granddaughter, Martha Freud.

8. A signature Tony Cragg bronze. You can’t miss it, but hint-hint, it’s in the hotel’s tree-lined courtyard.

9. A grand piano that doubles as an icebox. Ham Yard’s rooftop that unlike many London rooftop bars is open 365 days a year, also has an herb and vegetable garden, bee hives and killer views.

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10. A private screening room with 190 tangerine leather seats. It has silk fuchsia curtains, two bars, two green rooms (for the likes of Taylor Swift, Sir Mick Jagger and other celebs) and Sunday movies sometimes open to the public.

11. A spa that can train Mount Everest-bound mountaineers. With the exception of the London Eye, the elevation of Britain’s capital is about 70-feet above sea level. But at Ham Yard’s Soholistic Spa, there’s a Hypoxic Chamber that stimulates training at high altitudes with limited amounts of oxygen. Or you could just get a massage.

12. Black margaritas. Ham Yard’s extensive cocktail menu features homemade syrups, bitters and tonics. Its signature black margarita is concocted from thyme-infused tequila, blackberry puree and black sea salt.

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Can afternoon tea inspire you to be a better person?

I know. Most people don’t put afternoon tea in the same category as having a life coach or reading a self-help book. But hear me out.

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Anytime, I witness human creativity, innovation and really, any form of great art, I’m inspired to make my own life more beautiful. And that’s exactly what happens at Tim and Kit Kemp’s Firmdale hotels.

The Whitby, the latest in their mad genius collection, opened in upper midtown Manhattan on March 1. And while I suspected the 10th addition to their boutique hotel portfolio would demand to be Instagrammed (Kit’s quirky design sense is just so much fun), I had no idea their afternoon tea would feel like hearing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the first time or like finally seeing Picasso’s Guernica.

Every detail from the collection of 52 British Isle baskets hanging over the 30-foot pewter bar to the mythical creature’s Wedgewood china on which the Brown butter hazelnut cake and Elderberry-Meyer lemon crisp is served screams “wake up! This is what’s possible.”

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Here are four other reasons to have afternoon tea in Manhattan’s new Whitby Hotel.

1. You could potentially win a free night in one of the hotel’s 86 rooms or suites, each with floor to ceiling windows. Although you can indulge in afternoon tea in any number of beautiful spots in the hotel, the Orangery with its dramatic vaulted ceilings and skylight gets my vote.

Not only is it adorned with vintage English platters, but it has 47 illuminated porcelain pots, each etched with the outline of a New York landmark.

They were designed by English artist Martha Freud, great great grandaughter of Sigmund, and Kit told Women’s Wear Daily that anybody who can correctly identify them all scores a free night in the hotel.

2. You can easily forego dinner. Not that I would ever willingly choose to waive any meal when there are this many great restaurants nearby (in a three-block radius alone, you’ll find Nobu, Ma Peche and The Modern), but the goodies that accompany the Whitby’s three choices of afternoon tea include walnut pesto palmier, pretzel bite rarebit, grilled hanger steak tartine with horseradish cream, baby beet salad with saffron-marinated fennel…and that’s just on one tier of the three-tiered tray. There’s also black forest quinoa puffs, bananas foster coconut dream cake, key lime icebox cake and, of course, warm scones, clotted cream and preserves.

3. You might score the new Spider Man’s autograph. Thanks to the Whitby’s oh-la-la screening room (it has 130 leather seats and state-of-the art lighting, sound, digital and 3D technology), the photo call for Spider-Man: Homecoming that debuted July 7 was held at the Whitby…and, yes, Tom Ford, Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr. were all there.

The Whitby’s basement theater has also screened (and held press junkets for) for this year’s The Mummy (Tom Cruise), The Hero (Sam Elliott), Guardians of the Galaxy (Zoe Saldana and J.J. Abrams) and Diane von Furstenberg “Cezanne et Moi.”

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4. You’ll kill two birds with one stone. The Whitby and MoMA are practically neighbors, but why not get your contemporary art fix all in one place? Although the $1.5 million bronze cat by Fernando Botero ended up outside Kit Kemp’s other New York hotel (the Crosby in Soho), the Whitby’s art collection has everything from mosaic reproductions of Boris Anrep to a grandfather clock with an animated 3-D timekeeper who manually changes the time.