From the company that ushered in an airline, a cruise line, and the first commercial project to fly people to outer space, the controversial Sir Richard Branson now has a New York Virgin Hotel, a decade in the making.
The 460-room, 39-floor hotel with its geometric facade sits at 1227 Broadway at 29th Street in Nomad, which includes a vast new restaurant. Everdene resides on the hotel’s third floor and is named after the heroine of Thomas Hardy’s Bathsheba Everdene in the 1874 novel, Far from the Maddening Crowd.
The third-floor restaurant features 4,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space with views of the Empire State building. Chef Freddy Vargas runs the kitchen, who comes by way of splashy corporate restaurants, including restaurants under Scott Conant at properties like the Pointe and Scarpetta in Los Angeles and New York, as well as restaurants from Geoffrey Zacharian. Bloomberg reports that Vargas will open a fine-dining restaurant on the fourth floor with a menu that will reflect Latin and Italian influences.
On the menu at Everdene, look for small plates like fritto misto and charcuterie or Nantucket Bay scallops ($15), chicken parm or prime rib sandwiches ($16 to $27), salads and rice bowls that start at $17, and large plates anchored by salmon, chicken, a flat-iron steak, and a whole roasted maitake mushroom ($30 to $49).
When it comes to drinks — like the bourbon drink that’s an ode to Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way” — visitors are encouraged to cruise around the property to a lounge called the Shag Room, where there’s also karaoke, adjacent to the bar. There’s also the library, the latter the biggest of the properties, in which the hotel is lining up musicians and live entertainment, in a nod to its early days as a record store in Union Square. The outdoor pool club will open for hotel guests in the summer.
The Virgin Hotel is one of a growing handful that includes locations in Chicago, Dallas, Nashville, and New Orleans, with hotels in progress in Miami, Glasgow, Denver, and Edinburgh.
Love and sexy vibes seem to be emphasized in the company, with staff getting Valentine’s Day off as a holiday, for example, and other hotels having their own Shag Room lounges.
The post-#MeToo era doesn’t seem to be slowing down the brand at all: Branson himself, who once featured prominently in ads and in public where he would physically pick up women like Pamela Anderson and Kate Moss and suggestively “turn [them] upside down,” was accused of sexual assault in 2017. (In a statement at the time, he said he had “no recollection” of the incident.) And while such an accusation might mar the reputation of a famous tycoon in the years before Donald Trump, Branson, a former Shark Tank host on ABC, has seemingly been able to bypass criticism, with little seeming to hold back the growing Virgin empire. There’s even a recent documentary about Branson on HBO from director Chris Smith last year.
“It reminded me why it’s so important to share your stories (warts and all),” Branson said in December, “so other people can learn from the highs and the lows of your life.”