The loft living craze started in Soho, not in someone’s home but rather at the Mercer. When in 1997 it opened (from Andre Balazs), the open-plan streamlined aesthetic at the 75-room luxury hotel had yet to define contemporary living. In fact, it was seen as edgy and unorthodox. Oh how time softens everything. Much like its sister property, Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, The Mercer became the hang, especially in a cleaned-up Soho that then still had a whiff of its artist rebellion. But like Soho, which has gussied up and slicked back over the years, the Mercer has aged gracefully subtly maintaining itself without losing too far from the bastion of elegance and refinement it unleashed unto the world.
The 1980 building itself was built for Jacob Astor II in a Romanesque Revival, leading to its status as a landmark. No walls can come down, and as such, there is a whole hodgepodge of room tiers and orientations. The Christian Liaigre-designed spaces, too, with sharp lines and Iroko wood, are permanent fixtures (by mandate). By and large, the rooms’ square footage is bigger than most in the luxury category. And the amenities are all what a traveler could need, desire or have forgotten. This is a beautiful hotel room.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The amenities the Mercer offers range from dog-walking to staffing chauffeurs. These are some of the most connected concierges in the business.
It would be incorrect to assume the Mercer introduced soaking tubs, but these ceramic boxes of warm water are heavenly nonetheless. The rest of the bathroom complies with this high standard of fabulous. Don't want to spoil the surprise!
It may seem strange that the open space lined with uninterrupted banquets and velvet couches became the scene that it did. The lobby is so exposed and transient. People can’t get enough of being seen anywhere at this destination. Off to the side is a door to Mercer Kitchen that remains a Soho power institution.
None on site, but passes to a private gym down the block.
The chameleon Jean-Georges introduced eclectic American to Soho and set a a frenzy of crunchy tuna rolls everywhere. Oh, and wood-fire pizza. The bi-level restaurant that’s below the sidewalk (yes, you can see people above!) is still the sultry dining experience it’s made for its name. The kitchen also provides in-room 24-hour dining.
The Lobby is frequented by those who love a long-stem drink. Upstairs at the Mercer Kitchen, there are tables for those looking to primarily imbibe (but not without a tuna roll first)!
The Mercer is one block west from the R/W train at Prince Street.
Soho eateries are often too trendy and uninspired. There’s the classic Fanelli Cafe (1-minute walk), a vestige of 1970s artist-starved Soho with pub grub and plonk. Estela (8-minute walk) is a Michelin-star conceptual Spanish small plates establishment that’s flavors never disappoint (even fan Barack Obama). And no Soho mention can be without iconic Balthazar (8-minute walk) that’s so overpriced but still perpetually impossible to get into with ease.
Most classic bars around here have shuttered—like David Bowie-favorite Puck Fair. Still, Lucky Strike (10-minute walk) is an old French bistro from Keith McNally that feels authentically cool (just like its crowd). Pegu Club (5-minutes) is an old establishment serving crafted cocktails in a lounge setting.
WHY WE LIKE IT
There will always be those impossibly cool hotels where beautiful people stay and the rest of us aspire. The Mercer has its place in that pantheon.