W Seoul-Walkerhill Seoul
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