W Seoul-Walk­er­hill Seoul

Business Traveler (USA) - - TRIED AND TESTED -

BACK­GROUND The Star­wood Ho­tels & Re­sorts 2004 open­ing of the Seoul-Walk­er­hill was also the de­but for the W brand – its most avant garde on the Asian con­ti­nent. The new-build ho­tel, de­signed by Aaron Tan of RAD, was in­spired by lo­cal cul­ture and Mount Acha ge­og­ra­phy to cre­ate a “cloud around the moun­tain ”dot panel con­cept for the property’s high-style con­tem­po­rary ex­te­ri­ors.

WHAT’S IT LIKE? House mu­sic play­ing out­side blends into soul­ful grooves in­side; the liv­ing room-cum-lobby area, fur­nished with wooden mir­rors, long fab­ric couches, egg chairs and comfy cush­ions, melts into the ad­join­ing Woo Bar. Wel­come am­bas­sadors do the job of front desk staff. Mine greeted me at the door and guided me to the liv­ing room for a re­fresh­ing wel­come drink while check­ing in. W Seoul Walk­er­hill also pro­vides W’s sig­na­ture WHAT­EVER/ WHEN­EVER ser­vice – in­stant ac­cess to any­thing from a 24-hour concierge ser­vice and laser printer at 2 AM to a bath­tub filled with a soju at the touch of a but­ton.

WHERE IS IT? Lo­cated on Seoul’s east­ern side, the ho­tel

sits on 180 acres of Mount Acha park­land over­look­ing the Han River in Seoul’s com­mu­nity of Walk­er­hill, a 15-minute drive from Gangnam and Itae­won, and 30 min­utes from down­town Gwangh­wa­mun.

ROOM FA­CIL­I­TIES Sim­ply, yet strik­ingly fur­nished in red and white, my 600-square-foot Cool Cor­ner Room fea­tured the sig­na­ture, pud­dle-shaped W bed – made by Sim­mons ex­clu­sively for the brand – made up with 400 thread­count sheets and my choice of goose down or hy­poal­ler­genic pil­lows. Floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows over­looked the river, and an au­to­matic win­dow lou­ver in­stantly cloaked the room in sleep-con­ducive dark­ness. Tech­nol­ogy is as con­tem­po­rary as the dé­cor: the com­mand cen­ter-style con­sole had both wired and wire­less phone, chrome desk lamp, alarm clock and light con­trol and a Bose ra­dio and CD player; and a large wall­mounted TV con­nected to an in­ter­ac­tive home theatre in­ter­face. In­ter­net costs 22,000 ($20) per day. For those pre­fer­ring non­smok­ing floors: 5th, 6th, 9th, 10th, 12th and 14th. RESTAURANTS AND BARS Coun­try house-cum-loft-in­spired out­let Kitchen serves home­spun, wood-fired, or­ganic in­ter­na­tional dishes. Must-tries in­clude herb-grilled dou­ble lamb chops with tomato jam and crushed peas, king crab and fava bean risotto with parme­san and the X Burger – an enor­mous patty os­ten­ta­tiously topped with foie gras and deli cheeses. Seem­ingly etched out of roughly-hewn tim­ber, con­tem­po­rary Ja­panese eatery Namu serves sushi and sashimi, tep­pa­nyaki, hibachi and a la carte dishes, along with ice cold sake straight from the wrap-around Liq­uid bar. Part of the Liv­ing Room lobby, the 60-foot Woo­bar – Korea’s long­est – hosts guest DJs spin­ning cool house for chic so­phis­ti­cates in­dulging in cos­mopoli­tan cock­tail cul­ture (a rar­ity in Seoul un­til fairly re­cently) with 40 choices of vodka and 200 bot­tles of wine. BUSI­NESS AND MEET­ING FA­CIL­I­TIES Meet­ings fa­cil­i­ties are be­ing re­vamped; un­til then, the WIRED Busi­ness Cen­tre pro­vides in­ter­na­tional postal ser­vices, pho­to­copy and print ser­vices, MAC and PC com­put­ers, and of­fice sup­plies.

LEISURE FA­CIL­I­TIES FIT has ev­ery­thing from el­lip­ti­cal cross train­ers, free weights and high-tech ma­chines to per­sonal train­ing, Pi­lates and yoga. Guests can ac­cess the Jack Nick­laus driv­ing range and play both ten­nis courts at night; the jog­ging track and The WET In­door Heated Pool com­mands sweep­ing city views. Away Spa is 16,400 square feet of pure re­lax­ation, of­fer­ing hy­drother­apy baths and tra­di­tional mas­sages plus body wraps, Korean-style scrub sta­tions, detox­i­fy­ing Korean red clay masks and fa­cials us­ing pre­mium la­bel prod­ucts. High-tech in­no­va­tions - hy­dro­color and scent ther­apy baths, a Vichy shower, a Jacuzzi un­der the stars – abound.

VER­DICT Chic, edgy and invit­ing, the W brings to­gether busi­ness and leisure trav­el­ers and city so­phis­ti­cates in a sohip-it-hurts set­ting away from the Gangnam strip. The pool feels dated but the dé­cor is bang up to snuff. BT

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