THE SINGULAR SANTIAGO
In the northeast of Santiago, the Lastarria barrio is the Chilean capital’s most bohemian neighbourhood. In 1997, it was listed by the government as an Historic District and there’s real energy and purpose afoot here with preservation projects and the careful restoration of many original late 19th- and early 20th-century buildings. Think: galleries, bars, cafes, pavement artists, clever murals, street performers, pedestrian thoroughfares and antiquarian bookshops.
The precinct is bordered by forested parks and important religious and civic monuments and at its heart is a privately owned boutique hotel with a cosy atmosphere and a collection of original art lavishly displayed in public areas. A Swiss-Chilean family with deep roots in the local hospitality industry opened The Singular Santiago in 2014 and international awards of the hot-list ilk soon followed.
The nine-storey property, a fusion of townhouse vernacular and French neo-classical flourishes, lives up to its individualistic name. The smallish lobby, straight off the street, feels more like a drawing room, with a beamed ceiling, charcoal palette, clusters of squashy muted green velvet sofas and deep armchairs, and book-lined shelves. At the rear stands the twinkling little Bar Merced 294 with a grey-swirled marble counter and row of spherical copper downlights. The bar’s name is a nod to the hotel’s address and white-jacketed bartenders are on duty till an obligingly late hour. Wall-to-wall artwork includes old maps, retro Vogue magazine covers, fashion sketches and finely rendered illustrations of endemic birds, including handsome and haughty parakeets. It’s all a bit 1920s, classy and gentlemanly, like the home of a sophisticated traveller and collector. Pass the cigar and smoking jacket, por favor.
The tucked-away front desk is just that: a polished study-like desk, not an impersonal reception podium. Impeccably groomed staff multi-task with great efficiency, from booking taxis to arranging luggage delivery or advising, crucially, on where to nab the best pisco sour tipple or ice cream cone. And, for the record, you don’t need to venture any farther than Bar Merced 294 for the national cocktail. Or check the offerings around the corner at Chipe Libre Republica Independiente del Pisco on Jose Victorino Lastarria. On that same strip is Heladeria Emporio La Rosa, where fragrant ice cream flavours include a combo scoop of chilled lemon, basil and mint.
There are 61 well-proportioned guestrooms and one suite across Patio, Classic and top-drawer Singular categories; a few chambers have balconies but views worth a mention are only available on the higher storeys. Decor is all cream, chocolate and caramel, in a pleasingly uncluttered style that feels like a pared-down version of the ephemera-laden lobby. There are ribbed carpets, blackout curtains and stone-topped bedside tables, although lighting should be a lot stronger. Individual touches include brass desk-lamps, strategically hung framed architectural plans and black and white photography, swanky soft furnishings and complimentary soft drinks in the small minibar. The king beds dressed in snowy white are gloriously comfortable (twin guestrooms feature two queen-size arrangements) and the sizeable marble bathrooms come with good showers (and wallowing tubs in the top categories) and a generous line-up of The Singular’s branded toiletries in citrusy scents. Susan Kurosawa is The Australian’s travel editor.