Photographer: JAMES BAIGRIE

The Best New Hotels in New York Are Hiding in Plain Sight

Both the Whitby and the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge are excellent additions to the city’s hospitality offerings. Which should you test out next?

New York’s already stellar hotel scene has gotten some serious upgrades of late. Visiting finance types looking to base themselves in lower Manhattan may be tempted to book into the retro-inspired Beekman hotel or the minimalist Four Seasons Downtown, which looks straight onto Calatrava’s stark-white Oculus—and both would be wise choices. But New York is not the city for all-work, no-play, and way-downtown can still feel quite sleepy once the sun goes down. So let us recommend one of two more appealing newcomers: the Whitby, on a relatively quiet block in Midtown, or the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, a hotspot in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood that boasts a cinematic view of the Manhattan skyline. Both have excellent personal service, easy access to the city’s greatest hits, and a lot of soul.

The Design

Art in the lobby of the Whitby.
Source: Firmdale Hotels

The Whitby: If you’ve ever stayed at a Firmdale hotel—such as the Crosby Street in New York or Ham Yard in London—you’ll recognize owner-designer Kit Kemp’s signature style. It’s full of color, texture, and whimsy. Like those at her other properties, the rooms at the Whitby have quirky British art and upholstered headboards that stretch almost to the 9.5-foot-tall ceilings. They’re also flooded with natural light, thanks to enormous casement windows that run nearly from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, with generous sitting areas and walk-in closets. Work desks run small, though.

The verdant lobby at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge.
Source: 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: This sustainability-focused brand excels at creating spaces that work for you as much as they work for the environment. The lobby has a green wall and tons of communal workspace—it’s among the most inviting places to nest with your laptop in all five boroughs. In the rooms, the eco-friendly philosophy manifests with space-efficient floor plans and in-room water taps that offer you triple-filtered hydration at the push of a button. Everything from room service to spa menus is available via a bedside iPad—reflecting a policy to waste as little paper as possible—and you still get a distinct Brooklyn flavor from subtle industrial details, such as the little iron wheels in place of traditional faucet knobs.

Staying the Night

Each room at the Whitby is individually designed, but all contain Kit Kemp’s line of textiles.
Source: Firmdale Hotels

The Whitby: Supersonically powerful shower heads, ultra-plush bath mats, tons of outlets, and well-placed, full-length mirrors make it a treat to get ready for work here. It’s just hard to wake up: The tall, cushy beds (with those towering headboards) make you feel like the preppy, modern-day princess without the pea. You can even order complimentary movie theater-style popcorn from room service if you just can’t bear to get out from under the covers—but good luck connecting your Netflix to the difficult-to-program Samsung smart TVs. The only design details overlooked by Kemp: towel hooks in the bathroom and a functional workspace.

A typical room at the 1 Hotel is compact, while offering space for tons of storage and greenery.
Source: 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: Windows that open are a rare treat in New York; these, which do, frame one of New York’s most electrifying sights: the lower Manhattan skyline. A work surface that doubles as a dining table is perfectly positioned to take in the view—it’s well suited for early morning emails or in-room cocktails at sunset. And despite a smallish footprint, the rooms offer plenty of storage space and distinct areas to lounge. The gripes? No place to set your razor in the shower, thin towels, and the parade of guests you could hear in the hotel’s hallways.

Grabbing a Bite

The Orangerie, one of the dining spaces at the Whitby.
Source: Firmdale Hotels

The Whitby: The Whitby bucked the trend among posh, new Manhattan hotels by not hiring a household name to run its food and beverage offerings. The sole restaurant on site is helmed by the same talented, purposely anonymous chef who ran the kitchen at Crosby Street, the Whitby’s older downtown sibling. The restaurant consists of adjacent spaces: a handful of wide tables past the bar and an atrium-like “orangerie” that’s perfect for daytime dining and afternoon tea. The menu skews classic, with an A-plus beef tartare, silky butternut squash soup, and fork-tender grilled fish (such as the sole en papillote or dorade with cucumber mint cream).

Room service is especially inviting at the 1 Hotel, considering the flexible space for eating and working.
Source: 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: You don’t lack options at the 1, whether on site or in its immediate vicinity. Those who want to stay in will find an excellent club sandwich on the room service menu (a half-hour of wiggle room is required on either side of your desired delivery time). Downstairs, a café called Neighbors offers Colombian coffee from local roaster Devoción, grab-and-go chia parfaits, and quick-service dishes for any diet, fad, or otherwise. Gluten-free muffins! Vegetarian entrees! Avocado toast! The sit-down restaurant next door, Osprey, hums with locals who gather at brunch for scrambled eggs and thick-cut bacon in soft brioche buns or heirloom corn pancakes with sassafras butter. Day and night, Osprey churns out homey dishes for the slightly health-conscious—the juicy, double-decker burger with paprika gribiche, for instance, is recommended with a salad, rather than fries.

After Hours

The British isles were the inspiration for the Whitby Bar.
Source: Firmdale Hotels

The Whitby: The restaurant and bar are technically one establishment, simply called the Whitby Bar, but the tribal-chic booze counter is undoubtedly the more crowded of the two. It’s not a happy hour crowd, either—it’s a chic, moneyed set descending from the dens of the Upper East Side, here to drink Spiced Plum Gimlets and $50 glasses of Opus One straight through dinner time. Indeed, the by-the-glass list is truly one of the most sophisticated in all Manhattan. Want a quieter place to imbibe? The first-floor library has an honor bar and a fireplace, perfect for curling up with a book or a one-on-one meeting.

The view from the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge rooftop bar.
Source: 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: The rooftop bar at the 1 has become Brooklyn’s most popular outdoor hangout—it opened during the summer season and was packed nightly until temperatures took a nosedive. On warm days it’s ideal for slushy gin drinks with knockout views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, plus the entire financial district. The space gets clubbier as the night goes on and a DJ takes over; whether it’s to your relief or disappointment, there’s no indoor equivalent for balmy winter evenings.

The Neighborhood

This midtown building was completely redesigned, inside and out, by Firmdale’s Kit Kemp.
Source: Firmdale Hotels

The Whitby: If you still believe that midtown is Manhattan’s least desirable corridor, let the Whitby persuade you otherwise. Central Park (with its endless running trails) is just two blocks away, and the arrival of dozens of cool new hotels and restaurants has revived this area in a way that was previously unthinkable. Plus, subway connectivity is practically unrivaled—you can pick up nearly any train line within a few blocks.

A view of the 1 Hotel and the surrounding neighborhood from above.
Source: 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: Dumbo, the thriving neighborhood in 1 Hotel’s back yard, is far more compact and connected to transportation than Williamsburg—the only other Brooklyn neighborhood with quality hotels. But the area around 1 Hotel is more manicured, less gritty: Commuting to the financial district by ferry is charming and quick, and it’s easy to run down the Brooklyn waterfront or explore the borough’s cutest neighborhoods. And Empire Stores, a complex of new restaurants and retail spaces (plus a soon-to-open Soho House) is just around the corner.

Adding it All Up

A private dinner in one of the Whitby’s event spaces—which also include a private screening room.
Source: Firmdale Hotels

The Whitby: The Whitby’s greatest strength is that it’s both fancy and free-spirited: you’ll feel equally comfortable wearing red-soled shoes in the Afro-Caribbean-inspired bar and putting your feet up on the couch in the library, which feels plucked out of a sybarite’s English countryside manor. Just like with the design, the beauty of the Whitby lies in the unexpected details: the staff will brown bag your breakfast on request, they’re extremely accommodating of pets, and invoices are purposely vague so that it’s easy to get your nightcap approved by T&E. (Rooms from $595)

The reception desk at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge.
Source: 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: As much as this concept feeds into seemingly every wellness trend under the sun, nothing about it feels preachy or inauthentic: not the board near the elevator listing fitness classes and cultural events, not the cheeky branded materials in the room, and not the free fruit in the lobby. In fact, it’s all quite welcoming and energizing—and like any health kick, leaves you with a little extra skip in your step. (Rooms from $372)

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.