Resident hotel junkie Ianthe Butt picks the top six new hotels in February
From an Art Deco-feel Maldivian island getaway to some new Brit hits and a wild-at-heart foodie lodge in the Tennessee Mountains, here are February’s most interesting new hotels.
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A touch of Miami arrives in the Indian Ocean as LUX* throws open the doors of its latest Maldivian property on Olhahali island, joining the brand’s ever-popular Maldivian outpost in the South Ari Atoll. The typical zooming white sands and turquoise waters are all present and correct, but the property eschews the thatched-style dwellings synonymous with the Maldives for slick whitewashed penthouses masterminded by Singaporean design group Miaja.
The 67 double-storey villas (all with private pool) channel art deco luxe, and have spacious roof decks, making private astrology sessions and al fresco cinema screenings possible. While it mightn’t have the bright lights (unless you count the stargazing) and buzz of South Beach, there’s the speakeasy-feel Glow Bar, sushi and pisco sours at Peruvian-Japanese restaurant Inti and shoreline DJs with barefoot Josper-grilled cuisine at Beach Rouge to throw your glad rags on for. Adrenaline-pumping watersports, private yacht voyages and a house reef teeming with marine life will keep adventurers busy, while yoga and t’ai chi classes (often led by visiting experts) will suit zen-seekers.
Villas from £1,940 per night for a couple on an all-inclusive basis, including transfers
If the Maldives is too much of a stretch, this much-talked about opening in Bray-on-Thames, Berkshire ticks the private island box without the long-haul flight. Once a sanctuary for monks, then a haunt for Kings and Queens (it was the Duke of Marlborough’s fishing retreat in the 18th century), before becoming a party hotspot in the Sixties, the island is set to regain its crown as a cool countryside escape with the opening of YTL Hotels’ latest property.
The team behind the brilliant Gainsborough Bath Spa have restored the Duke’s original white-bricked Palladian Pavilion and Temple (designed by Robert Morris), which will house 30 rooms, and there’s a standalone barn with 11 rooms (for private hire). Grand bedrooms, designed by Champalimaud, are light and airy with both delicate botanical and nautical details that nod to the surrounding landscaped gardens and in-the-Thames location. Communal areas will feature fun heritage touches including paintings by Andieu de Clermont of finely dressed monkeys alongside riotous animal print wallpaper. Other highlights include a floating spa-on-a-barge, cosy whisky snug and contemporary brasserie by William Hemming – the bar is set high, as Bray is a Michelin-star magnet.
Rooms from £275pp, room only
Blackberry Mountain, Tennessee, USA
One of the most anticipated openings for wild-at-heart foodies is this smart new lodge set in 5,200 acres of rugged land in the foothills of East Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains. Sister property to the much-loved Blackberry Farm, it has 18 gorgeous cottages crafted in mountain materials. Think dramatic stone archways, rough textured walls and reclaimed oak floors, luxed up with chic furnishing, wood-burning fireplaces, and soaking tubs (there are six smaller and cosy cabins too).
Fittingly, given the leafy surroundings, experiences fall into the “hooray for the great outdoors” camp with forest bathing, creek-side meditation, foraging, mountain biking, endurance climbs (there’s a wall to practise on) and trail running on offer. The menu at main lodge restaurant Three Sisters (overseen by Josh Feathers) includes scores of clever seafood dishes, jazzed up by mountain-grown ingredients, while the peak-top Firetower restaurant (at 2,843ft, in a sensitively restored fire tower once used by the US Forest Service, overseen by Joel Werner) offers more casual mezze bites, and a cracking mussel selection. There’s also a breath-taking infinity pool and subterranean ayurvedic spa too.
Rooms from £750, based on two sharing, including some meals
Known for out-and-out luxury, it’s no surprise that for the first foray into the London hotel scene Belmond has landed in prime position where three of the capital’s smartest neighbourhoods (Chelsea, Belgravia and Knightsbridge) meet. Five adjoining Victorian buildings – the premises of the old Cadogan Hotel, the Union Bank and three townhouses – have been restored to the tune of £36m to create the Belmond Cadogan Hotel. It’s set across Queen Anne revival-style buildings with bold striped brickwork and towering turrets, which are as striking as the scalloped floor mosaics, marble touches and oak panelling inside.
Fifty-four rooms pay homage to the founder of the Cadogan Estate, Sir Hans Sloane, whose love of nature is reflected in thick timber-slice tables, butterfly motifs in the minibar and coral-patterned carpets. There’s history in the walls too; Oscar Wilde was famously arrested in room 118 of the Cadogan Hotel (now the Royal Suite) and actress Lillie Langtry lived in one of the townhouses. Food comes courtesy of Adam Handling (of the popular Frog restaurant), there’s a dinky Bamford treatment room, afternoon tea served in a chandelier-filled lounge and guests have access to private green space at nearby Cadogan Place gardens.
Rooms from £470, B&B
Right in the thick of the action on the famous Via del Corso avenue, inside a classic 19th-century building designed by Italian architect Giuseppe Valadier, this new patisserie-themed hotel cuts quite a dash, bringing together old world charm and modern pizzazz. Just a short walk from the Trevi Fountain, Vatican and Spanish Steps, the boutique crash pad has 23 rooms with a practical, contemporary feel; think earthy and charcoal tones, fitness equipment, beds with headboard libraries (many books are dedicated to pastry) and marble bathrooms.
Not to be missed are sweet treats from the on-site pasticceria (during summer) and chocolate tastings (in the winter). To ensure you fit in in one of the world’s most stylish cities, the hotel will organise luxury sedan tours, or bring in a tapped-in personal shopping consultant to guide you through the boutiques of Via del Corso, or track down innovative finds at top fashion and design houses.
Rooms from £300, room only
The vibrant Arts Quarter in San Blas is the site for the third property from family-owned Mountain Lodges of Peru and rejoices in all things local. XO Art House is a charming converted casona (home from the Spanish colonial era) and each of its seven rooms is decorated with jewel-toned cushions, techie touches in the form of iPads and Alexa, and bold artworks – such as electric blue stag’s head sculptures, gold leaf adorned prints and colour-popping traditional Peruvian handicrafts – by hip home-grown collective Totemiq.
The atmosphere here falls somewhere between that of boutique hotel, apartment and living gallery; there’s a glass ceilinged indoor courtyard to hang out in where breakfast is served, and larger rooms have kitchenettes with a fridge, hob and microwave meaning you can save money on dining out and cook your other meals. Also, the concierge can arrange walking tours to Cusco’s lesser-known archaeological sites, and the best markets where you’ll find piles of colourful produce and Andean superfoods.
Rooms from £78, B&B