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Courtesy of The NoMad Hotel
After a year of keeping up with the hottest, newest and best hotels and food pilgrimages around the world, F&W travel editor Gina Hamadey reveals her must-visit picks.
1. The NoMad Hotel, New York City
The restaurant, run by Eleven Madison Park chef Daniel Humm, exceeded our high expectations with its delicious food, and it’s now a staff favorite for a celebratory lunch or cocktail. The hotel looks stunning, too, thanks to designer Jacques Garcia, of Paris’s Hotel Costes. Doubles from $515; thenomadhotel.com
2. Endemico, Guadalupe Valley, Mexico
The owners of Endemico—and other trendsetting Mexico properties such as Hotel Habita and La Purificadora—have built a knockout of a hotel: a cluster of 20 minimalist-chic cabins perched on a secluded rocky slope in Baja California, overlooking some of the area’s 60-plus wineries. The hotel itself sits on a little vineyard, and is getting ready to bottle its own label, with help from the region’s star winemaker Hugo D’Acosta. Doubles from $175; hotelendemico.com
3. Palacio Nazarenas, Cuzco, Peru
This 16th-century building, a former convent, has been made over into a posh Orient Express hotel in the middle of bustling Cuzco. The hotel has aspects both old and new: Restored Spanish-colonial friezes decorate the spa, but the restaurant is super-modern, led by Virgilio Martinez, who headed the kitchen at renowned restaurateur Gastón Acurio’s Astrid & Gastón in Lima, Peru. Doubles from $595; palacionazarenas.com
4. Amanzo’e, Porto Heli, Greece
Celebrity architect Ed Tuttle designed the marble-and-stone suites (each with a private pool!) at Amanzo’e, in an olive-grove-filled stretch of the Peloponnese peninsula. During harvest season, the staff can arrange an olive-picking excursion followed by an olive oil-making lesson in the kitchen. Doubles from $1,095; amanresorts.com. Resort reopens for the season in March.
5. St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, Florida
This is one of the splashiest hotels to open in America in 2012, thanks to the stunningly glamorous Art Deco interiors by Toronto-based firm Yabu Pushelberg. Guests can also look forward to plush cabanas on a private beach, and easy access to the high-end stores (Alexander McQueen, Versace) that make up Bal Harbour Shops. Doubles from $559; stregisbalharbour.com
6. Ett Hem, Stockholm
The name of this boutique hotel means “a home,” and indeed guests make themselves at home here: The kitchen is fully stocked with food, wine and Champagne, and the car is available for anyone to use. Doubles from $550; etthemstockholm.se
7. Selman, Marrakesh, Morocco
A number of amazing hotels opened in Marrakesh in 2012, but this one in particular stands out. Five riads located in a 15-acre park are glamorously decorated by French design star Jacques Garcia. The owners’ Arabian horses trot around the grounds. Doubles from $720; selman-marrakech.com (in French)
8. Conservatorium, Amsterdam
This former music conservatorium is now a stylish hotel designed by Milan architect Piero Lissoni (who has created furniture for Kartell); the lobby and restaurant are housed in an impressive four-story, glass-enclosed atrium. Doubles from $345; conservatoriumhotel.com
9. Song Saa, Cambodia
After being captivated by the beauty of Cambodia, an Australian couple created this incredible private-island resort where guests have the Blue Lagoon-like experience of taking over a tropical island. From $1,336 per night, meals included; songsaa.com
10. Shangri-La, Toronto
True to the Shangri-La brand, this hotel looks sleek and emphasizes service. But we were most impressed with the food: There are dim sum carts in the lobby, and star chef David Chang runs not one but three restaurants, plus a bar. Doubles from $425; shangri-la.com
Photo © St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.
St. Pancras Renaissance, London (photo)
Then: Built in 1873 as part of the city’s St. Pancras train station, the hotel offered central heating, a Moroccan-style coffee shop and an opulent restaurant—the height of Victorian-era hospitality and luxury.
Now: After a 76-year closure, St. Pancras has been carefully restored, including reproductions of the original glassware, with some modern design touches. A concession to the times: Rooms have iPads. stpancras.com.
The Algonquin, New York City
Then: A Jazz Age-era hotel and famous watering hole for the city’s intelligentsia, it was the site of Dorothy Parker’s Round Table. Owner Frank Case was known to offer free rooms to struggling authors.
Now: All 174 rooms have been renovated, some for the first time since the hotel’s 1902 opening. The Blue Bar has been updated, and the Oak Room cabaret turned into a lounge. algonquinhotel.com.
Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles
Then: Opened in 1946, the hotel became a favorite of 1950s Hollywood. Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis and Tony Curtis were regulars. Marilyn Monroe sat for one of her final photo shoots here and Grace Kelly stayed the night she won her Oscar.
Now: Recently renovated, the property has a new eponymous restaurant by Wolfgang Puck, who also masterminded the bar, lounge and room-service menus. A signature dish and locavore favorite: snapper crudo with Santa Barbara uni. hotelbelair.com.
© Carlos Garcia
Guests can help themselves to a snack, a glass of wine or cocktail fixings from foodie vending machines and minibars in hotel lobbies.
It takes more than grand gestures to impress hotel dweller Paul Carr.
© Klas Fahlén
A knock on one’s hotel-room door at 10 p.m. rarely bodes well. Unless, that is, one is staying at a particular five-star hotel in Las Vegas, in which case it heralds a man struggling under the weight of a gigantic chocolate garden, with flowers, trees and shrubs—an over-the-top take on the pillow mint. As a person who lives in hotels, I’ve watched the arms race of room service with interest. The latest trend is über-personalization, in which hotels provide extras tailored to each guest. As an example: I recently spent a night at The Lanesborough in London, failing to stump my butler with a spiraling list of requests. Could the chef prepare a deep-fried quail? Of course. How about a partridge wrap with a diamond cocktail stick? For a price. I opted for a chicken sandwich. It arrived alongside a small chocolate cake, the words Happy 30th Birthday iced on the top with a single lit candle. I hadn’t told anyone it was my birthday. Creating a chocolate garden is no doubt impressive, but far harder is delivering a personal touch without fanfare. No diamond cocktail stick required.
Paul Carr chronicles his hotel adventures in his book The Upgrade.
Read more travel stories from our May issue.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.