By Terry Trucco
When a tower is as tall as the Empire State Building, you can see it from a lot of vantage points. Still, the view from roof bar at the new Refinery Hotel is special.
The hotel stands just four blocks north of the once-tallest-building-in-the-world. From the roof it appears so close you feel you could almost leap over in a King Kong moment.
Welcome to the Garment District, rebranded the Fashion District, a nondescript expanse whose one-time factories and warehouses have been repurposed into 21st-century entities like IT offices, restaurants and, well, hotels.
The 197-room Refinery, more stylish than its surroundings, was originally a hat factory. Framed photographs of hats straight out of the black-and-white world of Woman of the Year and Witness for the Prosecution bedeck an alcove near the lobby. The guest room desks perch on ornamental iron legs fashioned after those on classic Singer sewing machines.
But it’s hat offs on the roof where the smartly designed lounge resembles an airy loft – one with an immense terrace, two sizeable seating areas and a retractable glass ceiling for maximum reveling indoors and out, rain or shine.
Or punishing heat, as we discovered on a suffocating summer Sunday. The terrace is
handsome in a relaxed, urban boardwalk way, with swinging loveseats and lots of sofas and club chairs. You see the Emp, even if it sprouts above an assemblage of water towers and rank-and-file office buildings.
We could have had any al fresco table we wanted. Like everyone else that day, we fled inside, where it was igloo cool. A stylish, brick-walled seating area with a fireplace beckoned (the weathered roof boards were harvested from the building’s original water tower). But we couldn’t see what we came for, so we opted for the bar, a large, rough-hewn wood peninsula gifted with an Empire State view.
Scanning the drinks menu, nothing caught our eye. “What do you like?” boomed a well-muscled bartender named Elvis. I decided I liked gin with blackberries and lemon. Into a shaker went all of the above, fruit duly muddled, along with a splash of St. Germain, and I’m not sure what else. Whipping out a stemmed 1950s-style champagne saucer Elvis poured. The instant concoction didn’t have a name, so let’s call it Midnight Magenta ($16). And yes, I’d order it again.
My companion played it straight with a dry Stoli martini and seemed happy. Glasses in hand, we found a spot at a tall communal table aimed squarely to the south and drank in everything, view included.