Luxury Hotels

Amsterdam’s amazing luxury Andaz hotel

View from room 411

View from room 411

You will have guessed, perhaps, that when asked if she has any allergies, the gal comes up with two, one of which is the word ‘boring’, boring people and boring hotels. Hotels that are fun and lively, for all ages, invigorate and enthuse, and make consumers want to return, and those who work there are much happier to start every new day. Andaz is one of the brands that is invariably fun (think the sky-high chairs in the lobby of Andaz Tokyo). The modern-luxury Andaz Amsterdam hotel has so many fun elements it is difficult to know where to start. Enter through a quasi-tunnel of flower-filled vitrines into a lobby which includes a five-floor open atrium.

The wall behind the bed

The wall behind the bed

Soar up in glass-sided elevators and you rise through an illuminated art display – see above – designed, like the entire 122-room hotel, by its co-owner, the justly-celebrated designer Marcel Wanders. Up in room 411, first I look out, over Prinsengracht canal, and then I look around my space, which I am sharing with a ten-foot fist printed on the wallpaper above the bed (note the lucite headboard). Note also the freestanding vanity unit that is really quite handy: its one Villeroy & Boch basin, by the way, is deliberately splodged in Delft blue, and the XXXs on the unit’s side are Amsterdam’s logo. By contrast, the shower is hidden behind mirrors which are see-out-only one-way glass, and white doors hide the walk-in closet, and the toilet stall. I have a Nespresso machine with Bodum glasses: water glasses are Riedel, toiletries Zenology.

Alice in Amsterdam...

Alice in Amsterdam…

Like several Amsterdam hotels, this one has gardens between the entrance block and a building on Keizersgracht, which also has bedrooms. There is a subterranean tunnel, red-lined (for the city’s Red Light district, though the 43-total art videos that play day-long are considerably less seamy) – the spa, and the LifeFitness gym, which unusually is 24/7, are down there but I walk outside, to look up at Alice in Amsterdam, a mural by Jan van Iwaarden. There is art everywhere; the hotel’s other owner, Paul Geertman, is an architecture graduate who is closely involved with the city’s Museum of Modern Art and three different pieces arrive, every month, for short-term loan.

.. and Johan in the lobby

.. and Johan in the lobby

Johan du Plessis, who is elevated to Hotel Manager as of January 1st, 2017, is as enthusiastic about this luxury hotel as his entire 115-strong team. Over dinner in Bluespoon, which sensibly can now be reached directly from the lobby (taking down one wall has doubled the average number of diners), he reminds me of the free wine-tastings offered every night, between five and seven. I start with a typical Dutch dish, grilled Zeeuwse mussels with warm potato salad, and we finish with Juan’s chocolate mousse, at-home-like ladled out of a big serving dish, with jugs of salted caramel and vanilla sauces on the side. As for breakfast, it really IS like being at home, as you wander among the chefs to pick up what you want.   FOR MORE OF BREAKFAST AT THIS RESTAURANT-THAT-HAS-A-HOTEL ATTACHED, SEE THE VIDEO BELOW

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Luxury Hotels

Heineken’s only luxury hotel

Napkin by Eva Gas

Napkin by Eva Gans

It is always a delight, says the gal, to return to Hotel de L’Europe, Amsterdam, the only hotel owned by the Heineken family, now led by Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken. Jeroen Henneman’s silhouette of her father, the late Fredy Heineken, greets you as you bound up five red velvet steps from Nieuwe Doelenstraat, and in through the door (what would Mr H think, one wonders, if he knew he is now looking down on a very successful macaroon display table?). This luxury hotel has few signs of Heineken, actually, though there are coasters and cocktail napkins, specially designed by Eva Gans.

A cheery hello as I walk through the kitchen

A cheery hello as I walk through the kitchen

I was taken through the immaculate kitchen of Bord’eau, the hotel’s two Michelin-starred restaurant, and the team, led by Richard van Oostenbrugge, smiled broadly. They know that many European gourmets make dinner reservations first and, once those are confirmed, they then reserve bedrooms to stay over rather than drive home. We were in fact lunching casually in Hoofstad Brasserie, which seemed to have many regulars, experienced lunch-goers who know a good deal when they see it. Many will certainly be here for New Year, says Tom Krooswijk, the highly capable boss of this 110-room hotel.

Beetroot and burrata salad in Hof

Beetroot and burrata salad in Hoofstad

This year the festivities are themed Great Gatsby, and he expects at least 300 revellers, though here perhaps that is a slightly over-the-top word. He does say, by the way, that Heineken is considered a fun drink by Americans, which is a draw. He also knows that he can regularly rely on Amsterdam’s many art exhibitions to attract the increasing numbers of art-loving high net worth travellers: coming up, for instance, is Hermitage Amsterdam’s Dutch Masters from The Hermitage: Treasures of the Tsars, 63 amazing works by 50 artists, including Bol, Hals and Rembrandt, on loan from the Hermitage, St Petersburg, and showing in Amsterdam October 7th, 2017, through to May 27th, 2018.

Tom Krooswijk never stops working

Tom Krooswijk never stops working

We were going to have look at the luxury hotel’s pop-up Mexican restaurant, which runs until Christmas, but somehow we ran out of time. There was, of course, by necessity just a minute to toast a couple of people in the farewell flutes of Champagne that seemed miraculously to appear, bubbles and all, from the front desk team. How appropriate, I thought: the Champagne was Billecart-Salmon, like this hotel, one of the few to remain family owned. Well done, Tom & Co, I still do not know any other hotels that always offer Champagne on departure.

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Luxury Hotels

A new-look historic luxury hotel in Amsterdam

One of several inner-courtyards

One of several inner-courtyards

There are some clever ideas at The Pulitzer, Amsterdam, a hotel that is now entirely independent – for many years it was part of Starwood. Now this luxury hotel stands on its own two feet, with the help of Preferred Hotels & Resorts. Its history is that in 1970 Peter Pulitzer, a descendent of Herbert-of-the-prize, was asked by KLM to sreate a hotel suitable for the airline’s first class passengers. He bought seven adjacent merchants’ houses along Prinsengracht canal and added more so that now the luxury hotel is a jigsaw of nearly two dozen houses, some of them actually on parallel Keizersgracht canal. In between there are several courtyards, one of which is a kids’ playground, Dutch style.

View from the Pulitzer Suite

View from the Pulitzer Suite

The Prinsengracht Suite, up 13 marble steps from a main lobby, looks out on to another courtyard (see the video below). The entire hotel has been reimagined by a young designer called Jacu Stauss, who has found antiques, bought modern pieces and designed others himself. He has an amazing creative mind. Outside the main Prinsengracht door, or rather between the outer and inner doors, is a display of blooms that are colour-coded. Yes, this is a working flower boutique. Overhead, deliberately askew, hangs a full-size grand piano. Come on in to the lobby and the three standing-height reception desks are entirely Delft tiles.

Alex Van Gastel in the former apothecary shop

Alex Van Gastel in the former apothecary shop

Among the total 225 rooms are four speciality suites, with their own front doors on Keizersgracht: one is the Book Collector’s Suite, and real books form an arch up with side of, and over, an inner door. The main entrance to the hotel’s Restaurant Jansz, by the way, is also on this street, which is part of the Negen Straatjes, Nine Streets, historic part of town. You come in through what was formerly an apothecary, and then to the restaurant, which is of the plain wood floor (endgrain as used in mediaeval warehouses) and plain wood tables and working kitchen variety, and very good it is, too. Best-selling starter is braised meatballs with marinara sauce but I loved my burrata with different colours of heirloom tomatoes, and I went on to a hanger steak, chopped into bite-sizes with bits of Jerusalem artichoke.

An impromptu pink rose 'put to bed' in a restaurant napkin

An impromptu pink rose ‘put to bed’ in a restaurant napkin

I hear how the hotel commendably partners with Plastic Whale, which makes cleaning local canals into a fun activity – as with local companies’ team-building canal-cleaning outings, hotel guests really appreciate learning more about the city’s geography while, wearing protective gloves, they are in a boat, made from recycled plastic, fishing for discarded bottles. Everyone working at this luxury hotel, led by GM Alex Van Gastel, is really lovely, enthusiastic, professional and empowered – as we were sitting pre-dinner, enjoying glasses of Chilean wine, Leyda Pinot Noir 2015 Rapel Valley, one of the servers discreetly laid a rose in the folded napkin awaiting two women about to come in from the bar (the servers, by the way, wear white shirts, jeans, Convers trainers, and weird aprons with beige upper half, pine green skirt-half). Another example of empowerment was when I called down to see if there was an extra standing lamp. Within ten minutes the housekeeper personally led a posse of three, all carrying gigantic lamps as tall as themselves, which, since the Dutch are the tallest people in the whole of Europe, is no mean feat. NOW WATCH THE VIDEO OF MY SPACE

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