World of McIntosh Townhouse, SoHo, New York: 22nd October 2015
The townhouse doesn’t look like much from the outside. I walk past twice before spotting the telltale rose petals spilling from its anonymous doorway. This is a dark, teeming Manhattan approaching Thanksgiving – and this is the final dinner party in our global quest to reinvigorate the ancient art of hosting.
On the other side of the door it’s a completely different experience. One moment I’m astray on the murky evening streets of SoHo; the next I’m basking in alien spaceship-style bright light. There’s a thick carpet of rose petals leading up the stairs and I’m greeted by warm, enthusiastic handshakes followed by a cold cocktail. This is how hosting should be done.
The venue itself is prodigious. The multi-million dollar ‘World of McIntosh Townhouse’, situated in a former power station on Lafayette Street, is part art gallery (including an impressive assemblage of Keith Haring work), part multi-media studio and all perfect party pad. McIntosh – purveyors of beautifully crafted top end sound systems and accessories – are our hosts for the evening, represented by their charismatic CMO Torsten Gross.
After exploring the incredible five storey property (which also boasts a private indoor swimming pool – one of only 11 in the city), the evening begins with drinks on the roof terrace. Once again, there’s a noticeably British flavour to proceedings as the canapés arrive: mini fish and chips are followed by delicate cheese toasties topped with Branston Pickle, then tiny slices of roast beef served with rocket, parmesan and truffle oil. The cocktails flow as introductions are made and stories swapped, while the city screeches and snorts beneath us, seemingly frustrated at our complete and total escape from its stressful clutches.
The coup de grâce is the dining room, and once again the telling touches have been provided by Timothy Oulton’s visionary Global Style Directors, Raoul Morren and Danielle Monti-Morren. Fittingly for a house now dedicated to the beauty of sound, the room looks like the backdrop for an album cover. Red roses erupt from silver champagne buckets while folding fans depicting a young Queen Elizabeth II lie open at each place setting. At the heart of it all is the Junction table, its timeless, reassuring white marble holding the room together perfectly.
Tonight’s theme is ‘Refined yet Relaxed’, with the seating arrangement a perfect example. “The only rule is that you have to sit next to somebody you hadn’t met before tonight,” Torsten tells the young, smartly dressed crowd of Manhattanites, as distressed leather Mimi chairs are proffered around the table. I make a beeline for Gross himself and don’t regret it: McIntosh’s CMO proves to be the life and soul of the party throughout: as expert in amping up evenings as he is sound systems.
The food, as you might expect, is impeccable too. Served up by the owners of the Fat Radish (generally regarded as the finest British restaurant in New York), the highlight is the roast chicken main, served with a selection of sharing dishes including a wonderful pot pie with gruyere cheese.
All too soon, the dinner party – and this entire global odyssey – comes to an end. There’s no dancing on tables as in China; no cigar smoking under the stars à la LA; no energetic midnight debates on internet dating as in Amsterdam. But here, as in all three of our previous venues, the ancient art of hosting has been reinvigorated. For now, it’s a working night in the Big Apple and time to make an exit, refined yet relaxed. Even New York needs to sleep sometimes.