Whether it’s outstanding service, impeccable artistry or exquisite manufacture, excellence can take many forms. But what a person defines as excellent also depends on his or her own individual taste. In the Editor’s Picks series, Worth staff members share their favorite products, services and experiences for you to look into this year. Here are editor in chief Richard Bradley’s picks.
THE LEXUS NX
A luxury crossover that dares to be different.
The luxury crossover market is replete with great cars from Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche. Acura, Lincoln and Volvo also offer strong entries. But let’s be honest: Homogeneity has crept into the ranks. It’s getting hard to tell these cars apart.
Which is a big reason why I loved driving the 2016 Lexus NX. Lexus gave its all-new car an edgy, aggressive look; from the side, it reminds me of an arrow. Not everyone will like the treatment—there’s absolutely nothing subtle about it—but it’s refreshing to see a car company take a chance with design. The NX F Sport model I drove continued the theme with a two-tone, red and black leather interior and aluminum racing pedals. But the car’s practical too: It has plenty of room for five reasonably sized passengers, better-than-class gas mileage (22 city, 27 highway) and 235 horsepower. Some reviewers have faulted the car for lacking power—zero to 60 takes seven seconds—but in both highway and country driving I found the NX nimble, responsive and just plain fun. And Lexus excels with amenities; among the ones I like are self-gripping cup holders and wireless phone charging.
The Lexus NX isn’t for everybody. That’s kind of the point.
Price: starting at $37, 065; lexus.com
THE PENTHOUSE AT THE QUIN HOTEL
A soothing, sophisticated indoor space that opens to a stunning one outside.
It’s hard for a midtown hotel to get the attention it deserves. I keep telling fellow New Yorkers about the Quin Hotel, and they keep not knowing about it—even people who walk by its 57th and 6th location every day. But the Quin has spacious, well-designed rooms, outstanding service and a more than respectable restaurant. If you’re in the city for business, adore Central Park or want to stay within walking distance of both the Met and Broadway, the Quin combines downtown cool with midtown centrality.
The Quin also has a penthouse that is one of the city’s great secrets. A 3,400-square-foot triplex, this enormous space still manages to feel intimate and relaxing. It has three bedrooms, three baths, a small but well-equipped kitchen, a dining room table that seats 14, a living area with a massive TV and Bowers & Wilkins speakers, and a hidden kitchen for staff, if you want to go that route. (And, let’s face it, you’re not paying for a 3,400-square-foot penthouse to cook your own dinner.) The Quin also does little things well: I love the hair and skin products from Fresh, the bedding is exquisitely fine and there’s a dedicated hotline to a penthouse-only concierge.
But the real stars of this penthouse are its terraces—three of them, in fact, the largest of which is an enormous 1,300-square-feet and offers a view of Central Park to the north. It’s a stunning space for an event, a cocktail party or just a dinner under the night sky. It’s high enough so that you get a great view of the city, but not so much that you get vertigo, as with some of the soulless, phallic towers now popping up across midtown.
The mark of a great New York hotel is how it not only succeeds on its own terms, but how it integrates into the city, helping visitors better appreciate New York’s magnificence. The Quin—and its penthouse—do those things very well.
101 West 57th Street, New York, sales@thequinhotel, 212.245.7846, thequinhotel.com
DELTA’S PRIVATE JET UPGRADE
Perhaps the best commercial airline perk ever.
2015 was the year that America’s commercial airlines cracked down on their frequent flier programs, making upgrades and free flights considerably harder for leisure travelers to earn while giving abundant rewards to high-fare business travelers. You can’t really blame them—it’s only logical for airlines to reward their highest paying customers—but the process was often confusing, poorly communicated and alienating.
If you do happen to be one of those travelers who is constantly in the air, though, Delta last year introduced a truly singular perk: For a fee ranging from $300 to $800, passengers at the highest Delta award levels can upgrade their commercial seat to one on a private jet. Customers who take advantage of the offer will be given transportation from the commercial terminal to the private one and in-flight catering.
Delta is the only commercial American carrier that also has a private jet division, so this is a great way for the airline to fill empty seats on private flights while introducing their best customers to the joys of flying private. Of course there are plenty of restrictions and qualifications. But this is really a win-win situation: The cost of a private jet flight would typically be significantly higher, and the advantages of private air travel (no security line, no commercial terminal, etc.) are manifest. For a select few business travelers, Delta’s new upgrade plan is a remarkable loyalty reward.
BOWER & WILKINS ZEPPELIN WIRELESS
A wireless listening experience that doesn’t sacrifice quality.
The renowned British audio company Bowers & Wilkins introduced the Zeppelin Air a few years back, and it was good: The distinctively styled, torpedo-shaped speaker had surprisingly good sound for a relatively small enclosure. But it wasn’t perfect. When you inserted an iPhone or iPod into its dock, the purity of the design was ruined; what had looked wonderfully self-contained suddenly looked, well, sort of dorky.
Bowers & Wilkins must have thought so too, because the company recently introduced the Zeppelin Wireless, a significant upgrade from the original. Gone are the clunky steel band and dock that bisected the speaker, in favor of a wireless only device. Suddenly you see what the Zeppelin should always have looked like: a finished, self-contained marvel of design. The Bowers & Wilkins app is simple and easy to use; set-up takes about 30 seconds, and connectivity is, in my experience, flawless.
The Zeppelin sounds good, too. In fact, it sounds ridiculously good. Listening to music that I thought I knew well on the Zeppelin, I was startled to hear instruments and song parts that I’d simply never noticed before. The bass is tight, the highs are crisp and the sound is strikingly three-dimensional; you can practically visualize the positions of musicians on a stage as you listen. And the Zeppelin can get loud, too; mine sits in an open-living room with a 15-foot ceiling and fills the space comfortably, without any loss of clarity.
At $699, the Zeppelin isn’t cheap. After listening to it, you’ll know why.
THE JEFFERSON WASHINGTON DC
Proof that civility can still be found in Washington.
I love boutique hotels, but sometimes they drive me crazy—the rooms so small you can barely turn around, fitness centers that could double as closets, lighting so fiendishly clever you can’t turn it on and service so lackluster, it’s as if they forget that some of their guests actually have jobs. (At my last stay at the Royalton in New York, I tried to get a cup of coffee at 6:45 a.m. The room service operator provided me the address of a nearby coffee shop.)
Which is why I love the Jefferson, Washington DC. Located just a few blocks from the White House, the hotel is old school without sacrifices. Named after the third American president, the Jefferson is secure in its identity; it does what it does remarkably well, and doesn’t try to woo visitors with its hipness. Instantly responsive without being obsequious or intrusive, service at the Jefferson is impeccable. The rooms aren’t huge—this is an old building—but they are comfortable and astoundingly quiet. While one often wants to leave boutique hotel rooms as quickly as possible—they’re not built for lingering—rooms at the Jefferson feel like places where you could get some serious work done, or order room service and truly savor a bottle of wine. Or you could dine at Plume, one of the city’s best restaurants, whose new American cooking is creative but not pretentious.
Jefferson’s luxury doesn’t come with any sacrificing of important modern touches; the fitness center is actually large enough for a real workout, and I loved a mahogany colonial writing desk in my room that included a bank of electrical sockets so well-hidden I almost didn’t notice it; you can feel distinctly civilized working at such a desk while simultaneously charging a laptop, iPad and iPhone.
That blend of classic luxury incorporating just the right modern amenities typifies the Jefferson, an oasis of civilization in a city that needs one.
THE REDBURY HOLLYWOOD
A young hotel with a sense of history and style.
The best hotels start with a sense of place; they are inspired by their surroundings, but also contribute to them. Few hotels succeed at this as well as the Redbury Hollywood. On Vine Street diagonally across from the iconic Capitol Records Building, the Redbury blends right into an area on the verge of gentrification yet still a little seedy. From the outside, it looks like it could be a gritty rock club or a slightly rundown burlesque theater. (Right around the corner, there actually is a slightly rundown burlesque theater.) Inside, the Redbury is dark, with lots of blacks and reds that lend it the mysterious air of a boudoir. The Redbury isn’t old enough to have such a seductive history, but it does feel as if Pretenders might have stayed there in the ‘80s, or Jerry Lee Lewis in the ‘50s. The rooms are larger than you typically find in a boutique hotel, with big four-poster beds and decades-old record players that actually work (records are provided). I’d recommend the suites, which are bigger than a lot of New York apartments and have better kitchens. If you don’t feel like cooking, the Redbury has a terrific restaurant, Cleo, which specializes in tapas with a Middle Eastern flavor. (It has a long counter, great for business guests traveling solo.) The Redbury isn’t perfect—it lacks a fitness center, and you can’t get room service before 7 a.m. But it is sexy, stylish fun.
1717 Vine Street, Los Angeles; 323.962.1717, theredbury.com
THE JAGUAR F-TYPE
An incredible accomplishment at a surprising price.
In my work as a magazine editor, I get a nice perk; car companies sometimes loan me one of their cars for a few days in the hopes that I’ll like it and assign coverage in Worth. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Not infrequently, I feel a twinge of regret when the time comes to give the car back.
I don’t think I felt that regret more intensely last year than I did with the 2016 Jaguar F-Type Coupe. This is the kind of car that makes you remember how much fun driving can be.
Let’s start with the exterior. The F-Type is gorgeous, with graceful, curving lines and an elegant profile. (Yes, it looks a little bit like an Aston Martin Vanquish. That’s not a bad thing.) The interior is smartly designed so that the controls are all easily within reach and easy to operate, but the cozy interior doesn’t feel cramped. I enjoyed some of the small touches: headlights that can instantly switch from high beams to low when they detect the lights of a car up ahead, then revert to high when those lights are no longer visible; air vents that emerge from the center console when you turn on the climate control.
Of course, the ultimate test of a Jaguar is what it feels like to drive. The F-Type is, simply put, a blast. It’s fast, it hugs the road, it makes beautiful sweeping turns and crisp adroit ones. And as it passes, it attracts the admiring looks of car people who initially think they’re seeing the latest from Italy or England. (In fact, Jaguar is owned by the Indian conglomerate Tata.)
Perhaps the most appealing thing about the F-Type? Its price. The F-Type starts at $65,000. It feels like a car that could easily cost $30,000 to $40,000 more. This is the best kind of luxury—the kind that feels extravagant to own, but not to buy.
KATHRYN SARGENT BESPOKE TAILORING
Something old—British tailoring—from someone new.
I met Kathryn Sargent while she was visiting the U.S. on a client tour—she happened to be hosting an exhibit of her clothing at the Jefferson Hotel while I was staying there. Sargent has a wonderful story. She started in bespoke tailoring at the bottom and worked her way up to become the head cutter at Savile Row’s Gieves & Hawkes, the first woman to be the head cutter at any Savile Row atelier. This isn’t exactly Rosa Parks-level progress, but in its own way, it’s a big deal; luxury culture matters in Britain, and consequently so does gender equality within it.
That, of course, is not a reason to have Sargent make clothes for you. Fortunately her work stands on its own merits. Sargent makes clothes for both men and women. While its DNA is distinctly British, her clothing ranges from the very traditional to the more surprising and inventive; I love the small detail work she incorporates into lapels and pockets, the unexpected swoop of some of the lines of her ladies’ jackets. The craftsmanship is impeccable, and Sargent herself is gracious and thoughtful company, just the kind of personality you want when working with a bespoke tailor—who, after all, will get to see your body in a way that few others do.
Sargent is based in London, of course, but makes trips to the United States several times a year.
email@example.com, 44.20.7493.2450, kathrynsargent.com