In the second part of her visit to the Big Apple, Estella Shardlow checks out of the Manhattan mayhem and into a serene, lavish retreat where all that glitters is, well, crystal…
Popeye, Michael Jackson, Tweetie Pie, the Easter bunny – the list of pop culture icons immortalized by Jeff Koons in stainless steel is long and diverse. Baccarat, the historic French crystal company, may not seem a natural bedfellow with the above list, but it too received the Koons treatment in 1986.
One of its classic bar sets appeared in the “Luxury and Degradation” series, which re-contextualised liquor paraphernalia as art objects. This piece has ended up resting in MoMA, which happens to be directly opposite Baccarat’s first foray into hospitality, on West 53rd Street.
As if inspired by its famous neighbor, there is a definite gallery feeling to the Baccarat Hotel & Residences. Not only is there an extensive collection of paintings, reflecting key artistic movements since the brand was founded more than 250 years ago, the lobby wall is lined with 1,800 Baccarat archive pieces. Outside each of the guest rooms, meanwhile, is a different glass enshrined in a display case.
There are 15,000 pieces of stemware on display in total, and 17 custom-made chandeliers, including one particularly stunning design featuring 2,000 Harcourt glasses affixed to LED lights. Prismatic crystal glitters at every turn.
Preparing you for all that brilliance and sparkle, first pass through a darkly-lit street-level lobby and board a lift to the second-floor reception. From there, a series of salons befitting of French royalty unfold (King Louis XV was Baccarat’s founder, in fact): all pleated silk walls, parquet oak floors, silver-leafed paneling and accents of ruby red. Guests sip their Champagne or leaf teas in hushed, respectful tones.
Naturally, drinks are served in exquisite signature glassware, with each piece expertly cleaned after use by the hotel’s team of dedicated glass attendants (there’s a term I’d never heard of before). Whether perching on a velvet stool in the bar, with its checkered floor tiling, or mingling out on the garden terrace, the list of handcrafted cocktails is impressive and easily ruinous; a Nolet’s Reserve Gin, Grey Goose VX Lillet Rosé and grapefruit zest, presented in Baccarat’s classic Massena Coupe, has a $375 price tag.
Rooms are surprisingly minimalist, awash with tranquil whites, crisp Mascioni bedding and a vast glass-walled shower. The flat-screen television is cleverly concealed by a mirror, while the eye is drawn to the red enamel ‘minibar’ – something of a misnomer as full-size bottles of premium spirits are lined up inside, along with a tray of crystal barware and Ladurée macarons. Peanuts and crisps simply would not do. Craving some bubbles? Press the “Champagne” button on the bedside tablet and select your favourite bottle from the various houses on offer.
The suites come with even more opulent extras, such as La Mer toiletries worth hundreds of pounds, and gratis in-room blow-dries courtesy of Paul Labrecque Salon.
Given all this, it is no surprise that La Mer should partner with Baccarat for its first and only North American spa. This white Italian marble sanctuary is tucked away on a subterranean level, accompanied by a 55-foot heated lap pool and canopied daybeds. In treatment rooms decked with custom crystal wall sconces and hand-painted sea kelp murals, guests can indulge in a pampering signature facial in which skin is gently exfoliated with pure diamond powder and massaged with a Baccarat crystal.
If Marie Antoinette were reincarnated in modern-day Manhattan, this is surely where you would find her?
For more information, including details of ‘Esprit de Baccarat, visit www.baccarathotels.com.