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May 6, 2013

Langham Brings a Hint of Britain to the New World

By Chris Boyle

One-Bedroom Suite, Langham Place New York

One-Bedroom Suite, Langham Place New York

Lobby, Langham Place New York

Lobby, Langham Place New York

By Tova Syrowicz

The Langham hotel group, with roots in London and headquarters in Hong Kong, might be little known in North America, but that’s all about to change—the brand officially comes to New York on May 7, then hits up Toronto and Chicago later in the summer.

Manhattan’s Langham Place Fifth Avenue takes the place of The Setai, a contemporary property that lends itself to the Langham Place persona, which is stylish and modern, with a British bent (they waited ten years for just the right spot to come on the market). According to Simon Manning, the group’s VP of Sales & Marketing, there are US hotel brands, and there are Asian hotel brands, and then there’s Langham, which occupies the British space. Think modern British styling, from Aston Martin to Stella McCartney to trendsetter Kate Middleton, and you start to get the picture—one that’s witty, fresh and fun.

While The Setai’s flag comes down on May 7, it will be a few months before the hotel comes into its own as a Langham Place. Planned changes include a happening, see-and-be-seen lobby with the addition of Measure, a new lounge that will make the hotel a destination for locals and visitors alike. Expect British flair in the bar eats, as well as classically British spirits…like Hendrick’s in your g&t.

A newly acquired selection of pop art will bring verve to the hotel’s public spaces, and partnerships with UK-based artists, fashion designers and film figures (none revealed as yet, but we’re thinking Stella might be among them) will strengthen the connection to the group’s origins. Turndown amenities will come from the UK, and the service staff will shed overly formal uniforms for more relaxed, yet still very put-together ensembles. Ai Fiori, the property’s Michelin-starred Mediterranean fine dining spot, will happily continue operation just as is.

If all goes to plan, the transformation should be ready in time for the US Open in September (tennis stars will almost certainly be in residence), and in 2014, Langham’s Chuan Spa, an Asian spa concept complete with acupuncture services and a Traditional Chinese Medical practitioner on staff, will open—a truly unique offering for a New York City hotel.

Meanwhile, the Chicago property, due to open July 10 in a Mies van der Rohe building on the river (right by the Trump), will be a Langham (drop the Place), part of the group’s classical British collection, all about tradition and heritage, delivered with the height of poise and serenity (not to mention a singular afternoon tea service). This Langham persona came first, and indeed gives insight to the brand’s beginnings as a single property in London—long before The Dorchester or even The Savoy came to town.

The Langham London, located on Regent Street just north of Oxford Circus (away from the madding crowds yet a stone’s throw from the action), opened in 1865 and operated until 1943, when it was bombed during the war (being across the street from the BBC had its pitfalls).

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The grande dame remained closed until she was rescued in the mid-’90s by an Asian buyer, who invested $160 million to bring her back to her former glory. He then went on to found the Langham Hospitality Group in 2005, which today has 20 hotels (including The Langham Boston and The Langham Huntington in Pasadena) on four continents, and is rapidly expanding, with plans to open 15 properties in the next two years, at least five of them in major gateway cities.

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