Story by Barbara & Manos Angelakis
Photos by Manos Angelakis
Executive Hotel Le Soleil
38 West 36th Street
New York, NY 10018
From the very beginning the borough of Manhattan has been a collection of neighborhoods with constantly changing personalities. As the neighborhoods change focus “trendy” moves from one area to another. Currently changing is the garment center district which was replete with clothing manufacturing, warehouses and fashion boutiques. Here, at anytime of the day, you could see racks stuffed with hanging clothes being pushed down Seventh Avenue and the side streets of the 30s and trucks loading piles of newly manufactured clothing. But as clothing manufacturing has found new homes abroad, the garment center has taken on a new focus, one more traveler friendly with boutique hotels replacing fashion boutiques.
Executive Hotel Le Soleil is one of the new upscale, centrally located boutique hotels to open at the heart of the garment center between Fifth and Sixth Avenues on 36th Street. This location is perfect for the tourist that wants to sample the renowned shopping emporiums of Macy’s, Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue, or be close to the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center, or the Broadway show scene just a few blocks northwest. Hotel Le Soleil also welcomes your furry friends and there is a popular dog run at Madison Square Park just a short walk away.
The hotel has a long narrow hallway opening into a handsome lobby with several different seating areas along the way and with free Wi-Fi available throughout the hotel you can enjoy the passing scene while still keeping in touch. The day we were there guests were taking advantage of the nooks and crannies to set up their computers or read the newspaper (yes Virginia, people still hold paper in their hands and read from it). The staff is welcoming and friendly, eager to attend to your needs. Décor is understated elegance with beautiful carpets throughout and logo details carried out on elevator doors. The public spaces are handsome and tasteful as are the bedrooms.
Northern European minimalism comes to mind in the bedrooms with soft dove gray walls and blond wood furniture. The carpet and upholstered chairs pick up both colors and augment the color scheme and simple décor. Lighting is wonderful and there are ample mirrors which is terrific for the women traveler. Beds are very comfortable and the pillows are down with fine quality linens. The one drawback was in the bathroom where there is little room at the claustrophobic sink to lay any needed items. The bathroom could benefit from a few well placed hooks or a small table or stool for holding needed cosmetics or items of clothing.
While Executive Hotel Le Soleil is a boutique hotel and does not have a full service restaurant it does have Trademark Taste + Grind, a restaurant and separate coffee bar that is destined to be the new “trendy” hangout for lovers of great coffee and creative small plates.
The menu is small, but what comes out of the kitchen is outstanding.
There were 11 starters in the “To Begin” section: 9 Entrées; 4 Salads that can become full courses by adding chicken, salmon, shrimp or hanger steak; and 5 Sandwiches that include burgers and fried chicken. 5 Sides complete the offerings.
To test the expertise of the kitchen we decided to have 4 small plates from the “To Begin” section. So, we ordered the Smashed Beets, Zucchini Hummus, Meatballs, and Tuna Poké plus a glass of Red Tail Riesling for Barbara and a Kalen Brown Lager for me - which tasted more like an English Ale than a classic lager.
Though the Trademark Taste + Grind touts itself as a “New American” eatery, with burgers, grilled cheese and fried chicken on the menu, for the more adventurous eaters there are exotic treats in store, such as the small plates we experienced.
Jeff Haskell, the culinary director and Adrienne Guttieri, the Executive Chef seem to have decided that North Africa is their source of culinary inspiration for the small plates. Therefore, cumin, cardamom and cilantro are the prominent spices in the dishes; tahini and yoghurt are used in a number of the little plates as well.
From the souks of Tunis to the highlands of the Atlas Mountains, exquisite spice blends grace North African cuisine. Ras-El-Hanout is a piquant spice mix whose name means "top of the shop" in Arabic, it is used in practically every dish from that area including soups, stews and tajines. Its presence is evident in many of the small plates we tasted. Harissa is another North African condiment made from chilies, oil, garlic, and spices. Preserved lemons and watermelon pickles are used in a few of the dishes. All these different and exotic tastes are in the well executed recipes that seemed well received by the twenty- and thirty- something crowd of office workers that jammed the restaurant during the weeknight, having drinks and appetizer plates.
The final reminder that the inspiration for the food is North Africa was the coffees we ordered. They came in small, thick glasses, just as they would have come if we actually were in the famous El Ferida restaurant in Djerba.
© July 2016 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.