Another members-only club opened in New York. But unlike its predecessors, which include Soho House, Aman, Casa Cipriani, and others, the Centurion New York wasn’t designed by an architect or hotelier, but by a credit card company.
American Express opened its first Centurion members’ club in March, an 11,500-square-foot space with 360-degree views of Manhattan. As with the layout of a home, there are different spaces that serve different purposes: a drawing room, wine bar, casual and fine dining areas. Even the scent – a Santal with notes of sandalwood – that envelops you as you exit the elevator was planned.
American Express hired Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud to create the menu, which includes simple dishes like lobster rolls and cheesecake. The Yabu Pushelberg studio designed the interiors. The art collection curated by Hanabi includes more than 100 pieces.
To get in, you need the colloquially known “black card”—a status card that offers perks like elite status with hotels and airlines, but is by invitation only.
Centurion guests are discouraged from taking photos, in line with other members-only clubs’ policies. But unlike other clubs, Centurion’s is open to the public. An Amex Black card grants entry, but so does a Resy (owned by Amex) reservation, though Resy guests only have access to the upscale dining and studio spaces. A “The bar overlooking the Chrysler Building is for Amex cardholders,” said Pablo Rivero, vice president and general manager of global dining at Resy.
Although the Centurion Lounge has made its mark at airports around the world, the Centurion New York is significantly more somber and moody than the bright and light lounges where Platinum and Black cardholders can take a break. You won’t find an all-you-can-eat buffet, showers, telephone booths or playrooms for children who are not allowed to enter the room after 6 p.m
That’s intentional, said people who worked on the space. If the airport lounge is meant to be a temporary space during a person’s journey, the Centurion New York is meant to be the opposite.
“Our intent is for it to become a sanctuary for our members, and it’s the goal they aspire to,” said Kate Hardman, director of global brand design at American Express.
These interviews have been edited slightly for clarity.
Daniel Boulud, Head of Gastronomy and Menu Strategy
We played with different spice notes, which worked really well. There are, of course, techniques that we have used that we are familiar with and familiar with, and there are ideas that we may not have explored but that we want to use on occasion. For example, the studio menu has lunch items like lobster rolls because I love them. I like to play with American classics, it can also be a pizza, a New York classic.
We have dishes that people can relate to very well. The studio has steak and mashed potatoes. I think people are comfortable with that. There’s a sense of comfort and quality that’s always the focus and people feel like we didn’t want them to get lost in the menu because it was too annoying to play a part , which they did not expect in this or that setting.
Kate Hardman, Director of Global Brand Design
We wanted Centurion New York to evoke an elegant private home, but we wanted it to feel like an informal cultural hub or meeting place for people who enjoy art, fine wine and good food.
Every room should have its own personality. Entering is meant to feel like that Portikus moment, transforming you from the outside world into this inside world. The drawing room is designed to resemble your living room. This consistent theme runs through and connects with a celebration of the vibrancy of New York City, because that’s where we are. For us, New York is an incubator for fashion, art and culture as well as a center of creativity.
One Vanderbilt is an interesting building for us to open up this type of space. It is one of the most recognizable buildings in New York, easily accessible and located in the heart of Manhattan. We are in an area where there are many tourist attractions and restaurants. Our task was to make that feeling even more intimate when stepping out of the elevator. Throughout the design, we’ve been able to include these intimate moments, but they’re set against the backdrop of a 360-degree view of Manhattan. And that’s only available at One Vanderbilt. We couldn’t have gotten that anywhere else.
Pablo Rivero, Vice President and General Manager, Global Gastronomy
We try to create and deliver a goal. Their goal at the airport is to take you away from the hustle and provide you with a personalized service experience. Here it is also a destination, but in the city. So what we need in the city is different than what you need in an airport. Here you have the opportunity to switch off, talk and socialize.
You come here and you can experience all of New York because you can see it everywhere. When creating the destination, we didn’t just want to emphasize one thing – we’re in the city. How do we best represent the city? We create a space where you can just be yourself. If you want a drink or a chat you can do that. If you want to dine in an informal atmosphere or host a private event, you can do that. This is the experience we offer in an upscale setting.
Jamie Stagnitta, founder of Hanabi
The main idea in curating this collection was to imagine what a modern salon would look like. Historically, salons have been places where artists of all media – poets, writers, musicians, visual artists – came together and discussed contemporary ideas.
We tried to imagine what the modern salon would look like. We drew inspiration from New York City in the 70’s and 80’s, where social boundaries were very blurred. The aim here was to create a collection that was somewhat unexpected – a collection that was thought provoking and expressed their understanding of what is going on in the art world. So you recognize certain artists and are then introduced to new artists. It should be a relaxed enjoyment of the different rooms.`