111 North 12 St.
I am all for a disorienting time. Like, for example, when I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise: Did the ground just move? Ah, right, that’s because, despite appearances, I’m actually inside of a colossal buoyant container in the middle of the ocean. But maybe it doesn’t belong there? Maybe this terrifies me? I’m not sure.
This was similar to my experience at Westlight, the bar that occupies the 22nd floor of the stilt-supported William Vale hotel in Williamsburg.
Inside, the lobby is reminiscent of that aesthetically striking horror film from 1977, Suspiria: a black and white palette is splashed with saturated Pucci scarf hues. From there, a high speed elevator scales nearly two dozen stories in seconds. The doors open to a wall of glass. Williamsburg, well below you, is miniature. At the end of a long narrow hall (whose chevron pattern wood panelling slightly hurts your eyes) a small army, the staff, greets you.
They are everywhere, bustling about in tailored navy blue cocktail dresses and well-fitted suits—beautiful, actually. I ask the hostess what the dresses remind her of. “I don’t know, sexy futuristic?” she guesses. Yeah. That’s it: Like if The Fifth Element happened in a hotel.
Chef Andrew Carmellini and NoHo Hospitality make fine appetizers like the small Sweet Pea and Kale Spring Rolls, and the bar mixes unimpeachable cocktails, like the “Sweet Kin,” with two kinds of Scotch and Crème de Cacao—if you can afford their $12 and $18 (not a typo) respective price tags. But only when your gaze travels across the open space, stippled with pendant globe lighting, and reminiscent, simultaneously, of the 1970s and the 22nd Century, does the sight beyond the glass walls render you mute: There is Manhattan, all of it, sprawling yet tiny. Are there humans in those buildings? Do they fit? Is this Brooklyn? I think so.
When you leave with your friend, four drinks, three appetizers, and $113 later, you’ll have regained your senses just enough to notice McCarren Park, an abyss away. Compared to the airtight perch you stand in it looks so… rough around the edges. Funny, you’d never noticed before; Brooklyn has never looked so barren.
In the swift elevator ride back down, fake graffiti on the mirrored wall looks you straight in the eye. “I Will Follow You,” it says.
Indeed. Westlight has followed me around ever since.
Photo by Sasha Turrentine