Unless they suddenly get greedy, the owners of New York’s Cassa Residences should make pretty good money for the next 15 years. Cassa’s smart, not grand. It’s not asking you to pay for some fancy marble – there isn’t any. It’s not asking you to pay for the view – there isn’t one of those either.
What it is asking you to pay for is a solid mid-town location where the glitter of Times Square can occasionally be seen reflected in the windows of buildings down the block, a simple lobby with double-height walls painted white – where the only extravagance is one of those walls being sheathed ceiling to floor in a gauzy curtain – and a bathroom clad in over-sized limestone tiles. But this isn’t too much.
Cassa has avoided falling into the trap of so many big hotel bets where the sophistication of the designer or the aspirations of the owners exceeds the location or budget. When LUSSO visited, a couple of months into an extended soft-opening, it was all clean, all smiles and all good. Not great, but good. And surely we’d all rather pay for guaranteed good on a regular basis than hit-and-miss attempts at greatness?
So, who’s going to go there? As we turned left out of the lobby to wait for a life beside black-painted cinder-block walls, we thought it was the kind of place fashion – and budget – conscious Italians would seek out for shopping missions. The doors of the lift opened and three southern European women in long black coats, complete with elaborate belts and new acquisitions from Tourneau, strode out to get on with the day’s business.
On our way up to the temporary restaurant we add to this the squeezed US middle-classes, who want to be able to show their kids what New York looks like without having to take out a second mortgage. We’re right on the money again. Sitting down to breakfast, the table next to us has a family from the Midwest with their teenage daughters.
The rooms at Cassa are big for New York and the junior suite doesn’t disappoint. It has a sitting room with corner sofa and giant TV. In the bedroom, things differ from most Manhattan gaffs in that you can bring a normal-sized friend and neither of you will have to climb over the bed when going to the loo.
Colours are chocolate brown and cream, with contrasts of white. There are silvered lamps and birch-wood bedside tables. You get the picture – it will photograph well. There are good bathroom supplies too; not lozenges of soap in plastic wrappers but neither did they pretend to be hand-mixed in a small Japanese mountain village.
And that’s about it. There’s a gym that does exactly what it says on the tin. Machines, mirrors and enough space to work up a sweat. What more do you want? Fruit?
You can tell that most of the staff are in their first “proper” hospitality job because they’re still more interested in satisfying your request than your ego. I’ve stayed in hotels twice as expensive with service half as good and since the flesh and blood usually makes more of a difference than the stone and cement, I would choose this place over a number of flashier options.
Cassa should make good money for its owners, but only if they keep investing in it. This kind of place often looks good on the day you take the launch photographs, and for the first month or two afterwards. But it’s what you do with it afterwards that counts. Limestone is hard-wearing and any fool can clean it, but unless you train someone to clean the grouting, after 18 months it looks shonky. You’ll never notice how much those fresh white walls are fading if you’re in there every day; but if you’re coming back for a second stay six months after your last one, you’ll notice every scuff mark and blemish.
This is a place that could easily get 15 years of repeat visits, until the world changes in some significant way. Perhaps Italy will go bust or Midwest parents will become too embarrassing for their offspring. All Cassa has to do now is get the easy bit right. Check back with us in a year and we’ll tell you whether they trained up that grout cleaner properly. CHRIS WEST
70 West 45th Street, New York. Tel + 00 1 212 302 8700, cassahotelny.com.