Time to look at new luxury hotels in Amsterdam. There are three, all well worth international note in today’s world of changing demand, and more and more differentiation. First in alphabetical order is Hyatt Regency Amsterdam, replacing what was a children’s hospital on Sarphatistraat, overlooking that canal, has a truly “wow” ground floor that can be summed up as green and authentic, inside and outside, and fabulous eating and drinking with more than hints of Indonesia. Mama Makan restaurant, for instance, even has exotic spices on its breakfast buffet and you can have the Indonesian national dish, nasi goreng, any time you want, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Interestingly the Dutch East India Company (VOC, in Dutch) was set up specifically to import spices from the East and it established a base in 1619 in what is now Jakarta – half a century later VOC was the world’s richest private company, with over 150 merchant ships, 40 warships, 50,000 employees, its own 10,000-strong private army and paying 40 per cent to its investors, who were predominantly German. I wonder what those farsighted internationalists would think of this fascinating six-floor hotel, which opened this very April? They would surely applaud local architect Van Dongen-Koschuch’s tile exterior, with some facets echoing the surrounding trees of quiet Sarphatistraat, and one real, living tree, in the building’s indent, which forms a terrace.
And like me, they would love what CONCRETE, another Dutch company, has done for the public areas inside. Go in via the main entrance, which interestingly has a prominent Free Wi-Fi sign on its glass wall, and you see to your right a long living wall in perfect condition. Everywhere you turn there is living greenery, hanging down or set in planters. Go along to Mama Makan, which is invariably heavy on local eaters-and-drinkers, and there are 150 enormous white paper lanterns hanging overhead, one, I am told, for each seat.
Locals are also using this luxury hotel’s lobby as a casual meeting and work place. The 20-seat communal table has inset sockets, and of course that free connectivity. There is a manned bar, and a grab-and-go deli with the most superb bottles of limoncello. Gosh, you could take in calories all day and all night here. I have not mentioned Mama Makan’s breakfast salad, with poached egg atop almonds, broccoli, cheese and spinach, or, in your room, anything you want, including breakfast, 24/7 (choose a Crave Express item and even Mie goreng comes in 20 minutes). The savvy, by the way, probably choose a room overlooking Singel Canal, and definitely one with access to the two-floor, light and airy Regency Club. The keen-to-learn, too, really appreciate that using the 24/7 Lifefitness gym they get Wikipedia on their screens, which means you can learn even more about the East India Company and the background to the Dutch spice trade and so much more.
Next up in this trio of new Amsterdam hotels, Jaz in the City, is a bit of an anomaly. First, it spells ‘jazz’ in a weird way. Secondly it is not actually in the city centre. Next, there are some in that centre who still have not heard of it – and it is now 15 months old – but it does extremely well, thank you. This is a 21st-century luxury hotel that is absolutely right for its market sector, which is corporate plus events plus fresh air, all paired with extraordinarily nice and willing staff, led by the Jaz Brand Leader, Marjolein Bruschke. So, where is it? Think the Zuidoost suburb, 200 yards from Bijlmer ArenaA and Strandvliet stations, both of which have masses of 15-minute trains to Amsterdam Central Station. It is part of an open-square development, the other sides being formed by an office block for national headquarters (behind is a massive Deutsche Bank tower), and the Johan Cruijff Ajax Arena and the Ziggo Dome theatre.
Now the Arena, which hosts some mega-events as well as sports events, seats up to 68,000 and whenever there is an Ajax home game the activity spills into that open square and into the hotel and dozens of relief staff come in to serve after-game beer. The Dome has a 17,000 capacity and has continual big-name tickets: coming up in September, for instance, are Neil Diamond on Monday 4th and, on 22 Friday, John Legend. All this happening means lots of business for the 11-floor hotel. It has 258 rooms and miraculously runs with only 50 full-time staff, with others brought in as required. Marjolein Bruschke calls her Housekeeper the Dream Maker, and the black T-shirted youngsters who man the circular metal desk in the lobby are Smart Operators.
When the hotel opened it motivationally recruited by inviting applicants to jam with bits of kitchen equipment – as its name implies, this is a hotel integrally linked with music. Blown-glass threads running along upper corridor ceilings are like musical waves; bedrooms have big wall decorations of unmarked CDs hanging one above the other and moving gently to give kaleidoscopes of colour, and you may have a real guitar. But, and this is new luxury; in traditional terms these rooms are minimalist, with open climbing frames for extra hanging and storage, and plain wood floors and concrete ceilings deliberately exposing utility pipes (view the video, below, to see a superb top-floor terrace room, and note the stunning dayglo orange basins and bath). I want to meet designer Michaela Reichwald, obviously a nonstop creator.
Another imaginative lady is the events producer, who makes sure there is, every night, a different live act in the main eatertainment venue, Rhythms Bar + Kitchen (above is Oliver Twist, the resident DJ the night I was there – a few days later, the regular Sunday breakfast vibe was to be the Eduardo Blanco Jazz Trio). This anonymous lady also brainstormed with the Jaz Brand Leader (the GM) and came up with the idea of quickie makeups, offered to the red-carpet-dressed females coming to events in the arena or theatre. And this, in turn, led to regular Sunday popup fashion boutiques in the hotel lobby. See why this modern-luxury hotel works? I have not even mentioned breakfast, which again is clever. It is a large second floor space with openair terraces. Help yourself, including using a tablet to get your required drink from one tap, but also follow a witty sign (‘Break a l-egg’) to have cooked-to-order. Tables, of different heights, are on wheels, so the space can quickly be reconfigured for meetings or weddings – or just to accommodate a mere few of John Legend’s fans.
Last in this round-up is actually a complete reinvention of a former Crowne Plaza, near the central rail station. What is now Kimpton DeWitt, is a complete update of the past. There was a private home here in the mid-17th century – playwright Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft, 1581-1647 was born here. Now that old house, wrapped around by a new building, is partly The House specialty suite, and, undoubtedly even more profitable, the House Bar. Every evening from 5 p.m., go into this inner sanctum for such Dutch beers as Oedipus by Gaia IPA, and Brasserie de Marsinne by Bax Bier Kon and cocktails that may include a Harris Sea Kelp gin. This is just one example, says the gal, of how the luxury Kimpton DeWitt, which opened its doors 17 May, displays not only the best of today but also the past.
The 274-room hotel quickly got rave reviews on TripAdvisor, especially from Americans who already know the Kimpton brand. It is so close to the rail station, they enthuse. They love the look – interiors are by Michael Boyd. They love the bedrooms’ top-of-the-range Frette bathrobes – they are soft kelp grey, with white lining. They are over the moon about the fact that the espresso machines’ cups are traditional Dutch porcelain, as are the spoons. Bedrooms are certainly what many think of as Dutch, with masses of blue, contrasting with white walls. Day cushions are blue floral, bathrooms have geometric blue tiles (toiletries are generous-size Marie-Stella-Maris, a brand which also runs the spa, and there is a display vitrine as you enter the hotel, next to its working flower shop).
All rooms, also, have Bluetooth gear standing on desks. Yes, this is a really generous hotel, shown to the ultimate in the Penthouse specialty suite. This is just under 500 square feet but seems so much larger, partly because you enter up 14 wood stairs, go past the eight-seat dining table and emerge to a glorious terrace, which adds 300 square feet to the whole: this, with 360 degree views of Amsterdam’s rooftops and church spires, is the ideal place for private parties, intimate wedding receptions, or merely romantic dinners for two. And that, naturally, brings me on to food. One of the brilliant touches here is the hotel’s partnership with Brooklyn chef Sam DeMarco, always known as Sammy D. As he told me, he was doing American comfort food with style a decade ago and now that has become commonplace it was time for a complete life change, to challenge himself. So, with wife and three kids under 11 in tow, he moved across the Atlantic to Amsterdam, to offer comfort food and superb service here at the Kimpton DeWitt.
Wyvers Bar.Restaurant is really fun, and not only because of Sammy, who may personally be adding wood to the rotating grill as you pass by (“I am so PLEASED you have come” he still manages to say). One of his many superb creations is the shared appetiser, a glass jar of whipped ricotta topped with sexy salt, his term, and olive oil, served on a platter with different breads, all toasted. Yes, he does Dutch moules with Ywhit beer, as well as such Sam-wiches (sic) as a Cuban, with roast pork and ham. As is the norm in hot-spot eating in Amsterdam these days, by the way, you sit at plain wood tables, china is plain white or a hotchpotch collection of pink, or blue, floral, and cutlery is utilitarian, no label. What is unusual is this luxury’s hotel’s to-go kiosk, street entrance only on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, a main way to the rail station: called Miss Luisa’s, it specialises in coffees, and beignets – see Sammy sugar-dusting beignets, above. Having sampled Sammy’s food, and relaxed in the luxury hotel’s inner garden, now I look forward to returning to stay, which of course will include at least a few minutes at the nightly complimentary wine-tasting, from 5pm, a feature of the Kimpton brand from the very start.
Mary Gostelow travels over 300 days a year, doing one-night stands in top hotels around the world. Read her daily travelogue, www.girlahead.com