Our new favourite hotel for a city break is in Chicago.
When we head stateside it’s too much about the Right and Left Coasts. And all that bit in between gets too short shrift. Our loss- a recent stopover in Chicago proved it’s got it all – stellar shopping and cultural opps aside (the Frank Lloyd Wright Tour! The Art Institute! Second City!), the food and accommodation blew us away. Well, they and the gusts off the lake.
Soho House Chicago is off-the-charts wow. It takes the concept of a club hotel stratospheric and refines the concept, which Nick Jones pioneered with the first Soho House premises on Greek Street twenty years ago. Situated in the old meatpacking district aka Skid Row, which was a serious no-go area until twenty years ago when one Oprah Winfrey opened her TV studios nearby, it is now at the epicentre of the coolest part of town aka the West Loop.
Housed in a former belt factory, the six-story brick building is all about space. Space for armies of Mac Air-toting creatives to spread out and pitch in three restaurants/bars, space for them to work out in what is arguably the coolest gym on Earth (with full size boxing ring), space for them to groom at the basement Cowshed Spa. Two floors of rooms are ultra luxurious- antiques, linen velvets and details (like your own private bar stocked with the ingredients for the cocktail of the day and freshly baked treats)- and toasty warm even in a blizzard. Friendly staff are at your beck and call (and will even materialise to make that daily cocktail in your room) but they don’t make a point of trying too hard, which is a skill in itself.
Just guessing, but I’d say the brains behind The Dean here in Dublin did a lot of their moodboard research here. Hopefully, they’ll keep going back for top-ups regularly so we can benefit from their hard work closer to home.
Tables at the House restaurants are hard to secure for non-residents but it’s worth a try just so you can get a peek inside the rest of the gaff. Upstairs, farm-to-table Allis is the poshest and does a mean Benedict at breakfast while the wood-fired pizzas off the lobby in Pizza East are pretty hard to beat for quick and casual. The buzz here and at the Chicken Shop, which like its London counterpart is all about rotisserie, is downright contagious.
If you can bear to leave the premises, a few yards around the corner from the hotel, TV Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard’s Girl & The Goat is one of the most inventive casual restaurants in the US. Artisanal and Asian ingredients are deployed to great effect in sharing dishes that thrive in the company of craft beers and an exceptional wine list. Be sure to book well in advance. Directly across the road, Izard’s Little Goat is easier to get into on the spur and does classic diner fare all day and most of the night; it’s not the same animal but a solid consolation prize. Finally, for some grownup good times, the very, very pretty candlelit speakeasy RM Champagne Salon has 250 fizzes to choose from and is easy staggering distance from the front door of the hotel.