Stay, play and have a luxe day

The top 10 new ho­tels of 2012

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Luxury - CHRIS­TINE MCCABE

THIS year’s open­ings are all about palaces, palaz­zos and pala­cios with an eco-pod or two thrown in for good mea­sure. Palais Na­maskar Ho­tel & Spa, Mar­rakech: Palaces within a palace de­note this op­u­lent new re­sort, 20 min­utes from the Mar­rakech me­d­ina. A con­tem­po­rary take on Moor­ish and An­dalu­sian styles, the el­e­gant build­ings are cour­tesy of Philippe Starck pro­tege Imaad Rah­mouni and the plea­sure gar­dens, threaded with canals and lakes, are pure Ara­bian Nights.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion in­cludes 41 rooms, suites, pool vil­las and two pri­vate palaces all promis­ing 24hour but­ler ser­vice and bestqual­ity kit (in­clud­ing Bang & Olufsen tele­vi­sion sets). Rep­re­sented in Aus­tralia by Lead­ing Ho­tels of the World, the Na­maskar is part of the Oetker Col­lec­tion (which in­cludes Le Bris­tol in Paris), so pri­vate jet trans­fers from Casablanca are a given. More: palais­na­; Palazzo Margherita, Italy: Fran­cis Ford Cop­pola has re­turned to the birth­place of his grand­fa­ther to cre­ate a lit­tle slice of la dolce vita at a bou­tique ho­tel that op­er­ates more like a fam­ily hol­i­day home. Sit­u­ated in a pretty hill­top town in the Basil­i­cata re­gion of south­ern Italy, the 19th­cen­tury palazzo has been sump­tu­ously re­stored with the help of French de­signer Jac­ques Grange and in­put from the Cop­pola clan.

The nine suites are exquisitely de­tailed and gen­er­ously pro­vi­sioned and guests have the run of the ho­tel.

You can eat in the kitchen (and pitch in with the cook­ing if you wish), book an in- room spa treat­ment or af­ter din­ner re­tire to the sa­lon to se­lect from 300 Ital­ian films cu­rated by Cop­pola.

More: palaz­ Palace Ho­tel, Tokyo: In May, the Ja­panese cap­i­tal’s fa­mous Palace Ho­tel un­veiled a $US1.2 bil­lion re­build, plac­ing it back at the heart of city life. De­sign­ers have taken their cue from the nearby Im­pe­rial Palace gar­dens, de­ploy­ing soft colours, rich fab­rics, Makassar ebony and plas­ter­work by a Ja­panese mas­ter. The 290 gue­strooms and suites are large and of­fer long views by Tokyo stan­dards and the ho­tel is ide­ally lo­cated on the edge of the Marunouchi busi­ness dis­trict near Ginza.

Un­der­stated el­e­gance is the mo­tif throughout, from the Evian day spa ( only the sec­ond to open out­side France) to the French, Ja­panese and Chi­nese restau­rants, all with Miche­lin-star con­nec­tions.

More: palace­hotel­ Aman­zoe, Greece: Aman­re­sorts’ third Mediter­ranean re­sort has just opened near the small hill­top town of Porto Heli on the east coast of the Pelo­pon­nese. In­flu­enced by clas­si­cal Greek ar­chi­tec­ture, this mod­ern-day, Ed Tut­tledesigned tem­ple com­mands glo­ri­ous, wrap­around sea views.

The 38 free­stand­ing vil­las are ter­raced be­low the main re­sort build­ing and each in­cludes a se­cluded pri­vate pool lined with lus­cious, dark green mar­ble and per­gola-shaded ter­race. Slid­ing glass doors and un­clut­tered in­te­ri­ors blur the dis­tinc­tion be­tween in­doors and out, and the re­sort has a pri­vate beach club (five min­utes by car), day spa and gym. More: aman­re­ Ori­ent-Ex­press Pala­cio Nazare­nas, Peru: Ori­ent-Ex­press is be­com­ing ex­pert at high­alti­tude luxe digs, this year open­ing its sixth ho­tel in Peru and sec­ond on bustling Nazare­nas Square in the Inca city of Cuzco.

Stan­dard ameni­ties at the 55-room Pala­cio (and for­mer con­vent) in­clude hot and cold run­ning but­lers and ad­di­tional in-room oxy­gen (per­fumed with moun­tain flow­ers) for those feel­ing the ef­fects of the 3350m al­ti­tude. In­house you’ll find the city’s first truly An­dean res­tau­rant, with noted young Peru­vian chef Vir­gilio Martinez at the stove, as well as the first out­door swim­ming pool, se­questered within the largest of the Pala­cio’s clois­tered ter­races — heated of course. More: pala­cionazare­ The Siam, Bangkok: Opened river­front in June and fea­tur­ing Bangkok’s first pri­vate pool vil­las, The Siam brings some se­ri­ous star qual­ity to the Thai cap­i­tal. De­vel­oped by a lo­cal fam­ily of mu­sic in­dus­try iden­ti­ties, this 39-room ur­ban re­sort fea­tures some of the city’s largest rooms and an art deco- in­flu­enced, pared-back glamour aug­mented by a pri­vate art and an­tiques col­lec­tion.

Fa­cil­i­ties in­clude a full-scale Thai box­ing ring in the gym, cook­ing school, pri­vate pier and four cen­tury-old Thai teak­wood houses once owned by silk en­tre­pre­neur Jim Thomp­son. More: the­si­amho­ En­demico, Mex­ico: Twenty fu­tur­is­tic eco- pods scat­tered among boul­ders in wine coun­try form the lat­est of­fer­ing from avant- garde ho­tel com­pany Grupo Habita. Lo­cated 90 min­utes south of San Diego in the Valle de Guadalupe, an un­der-ther­adar kind of place, En­demico is on a vine­yard prop­erty (with res­tau­rant, bar and pool) and each pod in­cludes a small deck built for drink­ing, doz­ing or stargaz­ing.

Food is 100 per cent lo­cal (the re­sort is only 15 min­utes from the sea) and, while ba­sic, those pods boast loads of prac­ti­cal lux­ury such as king-size beds with Mex­i­can linen, wi- fi, wine cool­ers in­stead of mini bars and a som­brero or two to ward off the mid­day sun. More: de­sign­ho­ Bul­gari Ho­tel & Res­i­dences, Lon­don: It may have been gold, gold, gold in Bri­tain this north­ern sum­mer but Bul­gari has cho­sen in­stead to go for sil­ver at its newly opened prop­erty in Knights­bridge. Re­flect­ing the Ital­ian com­pany’s sil­ver­smith ori­gins, the 85 gue­strooms (claimed as the largest in Lon­don) of this ur­bane ho­tel fea­ture be­spoke tex­tiles, sil­ver lamps, silk cur­tains bear­ing pat­terns de­rived from a 19th-cen­tury sil­ver Bul­gari brooch and down­stairs there are solid sil­ver chan­de­liers and a ham­mered sil­ver bar.

Be­hind the hand­some Port­land stone fa­cade, you’ll find a cigar shop, very cool bar, pri­vate screening room, luxe spa spread over two floors and in­clud­ing a 25m swim­ming pool hewn from Vin­cenza stone, and a con­tem­po­rary Ital­ian res­tau­rant helmed by Rob­bie Pepin. More: bul­gar­i­ho­ QT Sydney: Open­ing next month, the 200-room QT is set to put the hip back into ho­tel with edgy in­te­ri­ors, a concierge app and dig­i­tal art in the lifts and bed­rooms. Lo­cated down­town on Mar­ket Street, it in­cor­po­rates the much-loved and his­toric Gow­ings and State The­atre build­ings. Rooms in the for­mer will be bright and airy; the State The­atre rooms more flam­boy­ant with be­spoke car­pets and quirky touches in­clud­ing bowler-hat lamps.

QT Sydney will fea­ture a glam­orous day spa, bar and grill spe­cial­is­ing in seafood, and a ground­floor Euro­pean-style cafe link­ing the ho­tel to busy Mar­ket Street. More: qt­syd­ Four Sea­sons Sa­fari Lodge Serengeti, Tan­za­nia: Later this year, Four Sea­sons will mark its African sa­fari de­but af­ter tak­ing over and up­grad­ing the Bilila Lodge in the Serengeti Na­tional Park.

It’s the first of three projects planned by Four Sea­sons, with a tented camp in the Ngoron­goro and a beach re­sort on the is­land of Zanz­ibar up next. With 60 gue­strooms and sev­eral suites and pool vil­las ( all with views over the Serengeti), the large lodge pro­vides this in­ter­na­tional com­pany with an op­por­tu­nity to in­tro­duce a new level of sa­fari lux­ury with­out hav­ing to turn a sod ( and it’s un­likely such a large prop­erty will be built in the park again).

There’s an im­pres­sive in­fin­i­tyedge swim­ming pool over­look­ing a wa­ter­ing hole where a large herd of ele­phants con­gre­gates reg­u­larly ( be sure to pack your trunks). More: foursea­ Co-con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor Chris­tine McCabe writes T&I’s Ho­tel of the Week on­line col­umn.

Each of the e-pods at Mex­ico’s En­demico, just 90 min­utes from San Diego, has a small deck, pur­pose built for drink­ing, doz­ing or stargaz­ing

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