Stay, play and have a luxe day
The top 10 new hotels of 2012
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: palaisnamaskar.com; lhw.com. 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: palazzomargherita.com. 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: palacehoteltokyo.com. 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: amanresorts.com. 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: palacionazarenas.com. 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: thesiamhotel.com. 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: designhotels.com. 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: bulgarihotels.com. 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: qtsydney.com.au. 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: fourseasons.com. 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