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Bed Check: A TriBeCa hotel that caters to celebrities

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 10, 2010; 11:58 AM

If it was good enough for the Kardashians, it would be good enough for me.

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That's what I figured when I checked into the Smyth in New York's TriBeCa. The nearly two-year-old, 100-room hotel, part of the Thompson chain, screamed celebrity, and since Us Weekly is my brain candy, I couldn't help answering the call.

The hotel has popped up all over the gossip rags lately, ever since the recent opening of the Plein Sud restaurant off the lobby and the Toro lounge in the basement.

And then there's the Kardashian factor. Two of the reality-TV superstar sisters stayed there while filming a spinoff of their successful show. Actor Ed Westwick was spotted smooching his "Gossip Girl" co-star Jessica Szhor outside the building. Jessica Alba set off a fire alarm in her room. And Ed Cotton, one of the finalists on "Top Chef: D.C.," is executive chef of Plein Sud. Now that's star power.

Alas, I didn't spot any of those celebrities during my recent overnight. Nor did I have a room as big as the Kardashians' penthouse. I'd reserved a standard room, but when I showed up on a Sunday night, the front desk clerk - a young woman in black standing before a whimsical display of colorful toy motorcycles, robots and trains - was kind enough to upgrade me, free, to a deluxe room with a king-size bed.

By New York standards, my room was gigantic. It had not only a desk but also a couch and a coffee table. I lounged in my mini-living room as I watched cable on my flat-screen TV. I could have happily stayed there all night, but I was curious about Plein Sud.

I headed downstairs but never made it to the restaurant. Instead, I parked myself at the lobby bar. With only a handful of bar stools, it seemed more intimate and inviting to a solo traveler. And the bartender, seemingly bored on a slow Sunday night, appeared eager for me to stay and chat.

The menu was the same as Plein Sud's, so I wasn't missing out. The bartender steered me to the Provencal flatbread topped with tomato, goat cheese, fennel and olive tapenade. I couldn't picture it winning a "Top Chef" Quickfire Challenge, but it made for a nice treat.

The bartender also insisted on making up his own libations rather than letting me order off the cocktail menu, which had a creative collection of $13 drinks. (Mintless mojito, anyone?) While I watched, he crushed watermelon slices and mixed the juice with vodka.

"What are the Kardashians like?" I shamelessly inquired as he labored over my drink.

Per hotel policy, he wouldn't disclose what, if anything, he knew, but he did offer a tidbit: "They've ordered a lot of room service."

I took what I could get.

The Smyth didn't make a huge splash when it opened in February 2009, but Plein Sud injected some life into the property when it debuted this past spring. So did the even more recent Toro bar, which - with a decor of black leather, red-cushioned seats and matador caps - pays homage to the town of Arles, in southern France, and its bullfighting tradition.

The hotel's other public spaces are just as swanky and fun. The many lounge areas have dark lighting, warm tones and comfortable chairs. In one, a photography book was open to a picture of the garter-belt-clad lower torso and legs of a woman. Racy, even for the chic, contemporary Thompson brand.

And there was nothing wrong with the service. Peacoat-clad doormen smoothed every exit and entrance. A bellman showed me the elevators and pressed the correct button. My room service breakfast arrived promptly.

But alas, the oversize bagel tasted like cardboard. I'd never known that you could get a bad bagel in New York. Then again, maybe good bagels aren't a high priority. After all, according to Us Weekly, celebrities aren't into carbs.



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