Openings: The Swish New Newbury Hotel Debuts in Boston’s Back Bay
It’s certainly demoralizing, that just as Europe began to open back up to American travelers, the Delta Variant wave of this intractable pandemic escalated, leaving many seriously concerned about simply going to an airport and getting on an airplane. This surely makes the notion of spending this fall season traversing the Northeast Corridor by Amtrak more appealing than ever. And splashy new hotels – The Riggs in DC, The Beatrice in Providence – pretty much assure a fabulous stay in every city.
At the posher end of Boston hospitality, the Langham just got a $200 million update – and most intriguingly, the former Taj Hotel has just reopened its doors as the Newbury Boston, after a similarly extensive investment. Located in the high-end shopping mecca that is the city’s Back Bay, it first opened as a Ritz Carlton all the way back in 1927, and now counts the likes of Burberry, Tiffany and Chanel amongst its neighbors.
But perhaps the most notable feature of this fabulous five-star is its culinary pedigree, being a project of the New York based Major Food Group, whose considerable Gotham restaurant collection includes Carbone, Dirty French, Santina and The Grill. And here, the new rooftop eatery Contessa seems certainly poised to soon achieve iconic status in the New England hospitality hierarchy.
Design wise, the team of Jeffrey Beers International, Ken Fulk and Champalimaud Design started by dressing up the hotel’s neoclassical façade, and then kept it all pretty trad in the public spaces, to pay respect the building’s history. This means clubby, dark brown leather chairs bookending a striking chartreuse sofa, plus Nero Donato marble tables, and an opulent Deco-ish chandelier positioned dramatically above the check-in desk. Historical elements were sensitively restored to former glories, including majestic marble columns, the original bannister of the grand staircase (we really do love a grand hotel staircase), and an old fireplace in the private Library Lounge – which has a smartly curated collection of reading material.
Upstairs, Champlimaud took the lead on the 286 rooms, which have a distinctly more contemporary feel, with cool, clean lines, accented with elegant blues, greys and creams. Elsewhere, handcrafted wood, herringbone, marble and limestone elements create a refined atmosphere of low-key luxury. Each room also features an original artwork by New York illustrator Veronica Lawlor, and the best come with serene views onto the Public Garden.
Up at Contessa, things get a little more flamboyant, with Fulk’s interior design employing boldly patterned floors, and furnishings in seemingly clashing color schemes that ultimately harmonize in a kind of whimsical way. The modern/classic Italian menu is distinctly unfussy but rife with temptations, with starters like Octopus Agrodolce, Chianina Beef Carpaccio and Tonnato Crudo giving way to tantalizing pastas (Spicy Lobster Capellini, Macaroni Con Cinghiale), and pizzas (Funghi, Vongole), then leading to the main event of Gamberoni Al Forno Con Fagioli, Vitello Brasato Con Polenta and Butter Chicken Sostanza. It also lists a Signature 40oz Bistescca, though we personally don’t know anyone with that large of an appetite.
For more intimate rendezvous’, the ground floor Street Bar has a sort of heritage English vibe, with lots of dark wood, plush seating and a cracking fireplace.
This is actually quite the perfect hotel for Boston, a city that revels in tradition over trends, and it will in no time surely be a worthy competitor to the similarly vibed Langham and XV Beacon. And culturally, late summer / early autumn is a particularly enlightening time to be in the Cradle of Liberty, with Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech” currently showing at the ICA, and Black Histories, Black Futures on at the MFA through January 17. Though you’d surely be forgiven for checking in to the Newbury and never wanting to leave.