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 way-downtown can feel sleepy once the sun goes down, so here are two more appealing newcomers: the Whitby, on a relatively quiet block in Midtown, and the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, 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 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 of color, texture, and whimsy. The rooms have quirky British art and upholstered headboards that stretch almost to the 9 1/2-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.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: The lobby of this sustainability-focused brand 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. The eco-friendly philosophy manifests in the rooms with space-efficient floor plans and in-room water taps that offer 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. A distinct Brooklyn flavor comes from subtle industrial details, such as the little iron wheels in place of traditional faucet knobs.
Staying the Night
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 princess without the pea. You can even order complimentary 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 hard-to-program Samsung smart TVs. The only design details overlooked: towel hooks in the bathroom and a functional workspace.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: Windows that open are a rare treat in New York, and these frame one of New York's most electrifying sights: the lower Manhattan skyline. A work surface doubling 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. Despite a smallish footprint, the rooms offer plenty of storage space and distinct areas to lounge. The gripes? Nowhere to set your razor in the shower, thin towels, and the parade of guests you can hear in the hotel's hallways.
Grabbing a Bite
The Whitby: 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).
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: There's an excellent club sandwich on the room service menu. Downstairs, a café called Neighbors offers Colombian coffee, grab-and-go chia parfaits, and quick-service dishes for any diet. The sit-down restaurant next door, Osprey, hums with locals who gather 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.
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. For a quieter space, the first-floor library has an honor bar and a fireplace, perfect for curling up with a book or a one-on-one meeting.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: The rooftop bar 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. The space gets clubbier as the night goes on and a DJ takes over.
The Whitby: Central Park is 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 you can pick up nearly any subway line within a few blocks.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: The thriving Dumbo neighborhood 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. Empire Stores, a complex of new restaurants and retail spaces, is around the corner.
Adding it All Up
The Whitby: The Whitby is 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. Rooms from $595.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: As much as this concept feeds into seemingly every wellness trend under the sun, nothing about the hotel feels preachy or inauthentic. 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.