Wynn’s Encore Boston Harbor, which opened this June, is a few minutes from the centre of the city – it is also only 15 minutes’ drive from the airport. What a sensational complex this US $2.8-billion investment has produced. The serious spend includes significant art. David Harber’s 1.5-metre-diameter, open-circle, polished-steel Torus sculpture greets all visitors as it sits outside the resort’s main entrance. Brian Gullbrants, who runs the whole operation, and who has been on site for three years, explained how Wynn had no trouble winning over local support for the 14-hectare development: previously, an eyesore and environmentally threatening chemical plant was removed by Wynn, via many special trains at an exorbitant cost. Locals were also reminded that for years Massachusetts gamers had been driving to casinos out of State and surely it was better to keep that revenue back home.
In usual Wynn style, everything at Encore Boston Harbor is colourful: Wynn’s own designer Roger Thomas sadly retires end of this year so this gorgeous place is his swansong. The front lobby is dominated by a full-size circus carousel, its bobbing-up-and-down horses covered entirely in white flowers. Around are bursts of colour, from patterns set into white tiled flooring to Gauguin-type carpets. Look into the two floors of gaming spaces that make this entire thing viable and, again, it is colour everywhere. For relief, head up to any of the 671 rooms, which are refreshingly champagne-coloured, with sumptuous Hollywood-style bathrooms and some pretty impressive paintings.
There is a big choice of dining venues, from a multi-hued buffet place to Asian by Boston culinary legends and a soothing pale green arbour-like conservatory. We dined in Sinatra’s, a blaze of scarlets, highlighted by massive red Murano chandeliers. Ol’ Blue Eyes belted out, but not too loudly. Guillbrants, a master of anticipating sensorial reactions, makes sure sounds and lighting are just right. Our table, covered in a floor-length scarlet cloth, was set with Christofle cutlery and Riedel glasses. I could have had a Sinatra’s Smash (Gentleman Jack with crème de cassis, blackberries, lemon, lime and vanilla) but I settled on a glass of winemaker Gina Hennen’s Elizabeth’s Reserve 2014.
Everything is the best at this luxury resort. After fried cauliflower with golden raisins, pine nuts and vegan saffron, I went on to a Creekstone Farms’ dry-aged New York strip, served in a metal pan, with an accompanying Guy Degrenne steak knife. And they care about wellness, with a stylish spa and first-class fitness, where all the joggers are Woodway. Garden lovers will adore this place – stroll among what must be a thousand or so mature trees. Look across Boston Harbor and the Mystic River to Boston itself, gaze at a trio of six-metre-tall two-dimensional female head silhouettes by Catalan Jaume Plensa. If you want more art, go back inside, to the floral display that surrounds the carousel. Behind it is a 2.5-metre haphazardly painted ceramic vase, Amphora IV, by Viola Frey; walk a further 30 metres to my favourite of all, Jeff Koons’ metallic balloons sculpture, Popeye, which Steve Wynn bought for US$28 million in 2014.
And then I moved to the bull’s eye, the oh-so-central Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street, Boston. This 215-room beauty, which opened May 2019, has a separate character from its mature sibling, the well-known and highly regarded Four Seasons Boston, which borders Boston Common. This baby, so new that the main bar had yet to be opened when I was there, is three minutes by car or Uber from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and it is within a few minutes’ walk of the city’s library and symphony, and Back Bay station for the excellent Amtrak services south to New York and on to Washington DC.
Four Seasons Dalton Street GM, Reed Kandalaft, occupies floors ground-two and eight-21 of a 210-metre block designed by I.M. Pei’s firm, Pei Cobb Freed. The Manhattan-bold interiors are by Bill Rooney, who obviously sees the world in several, though not 50, shades of grey. Add to this occasional bursts of colour everywhere. Half-hidden by front desk is a two-level trolley of books, a big array of kids’ tomes as well as an eclectic assortment for adults, left behind or exchanged by hotel guests.
There are also hundreds of real books bound in an eclectic array of Indonesian batiks. These are part of a 6,000-book Great American Library artwork, by Yinka Shonibare, a 56-year old handicapped Nigerian-born artist who personally chooses the fabrics. Once the books are covered their spines are stamped in gold with the name of someone in that collection’s scope. The books here are divided into three collections, Actors, Dancers and Musicians, honouring first- and second-generation names appropriate in a particular field. On the Actors’ shelves, for instance, are such pieces as one labelled ‘Stan Laurel’, which happens to be on spine of Ronald Miller’s The Affair 1962, bought at some second-hand bookshop years ago for 22/- (22 shillings, in old English money).
And then there is the colour of the hotel’s Zuma restaurant. Wow, what a success. This outsourced 160-seat entertainment theatre, designed by Noriyoshi Muramatsu, is up 34 stairs from the lobby. Even by 6pm it is a non-stop buzz. After-work young achievers have their pre-home catch up, mature Bostonian couples are already arriving for a taste of Japanese Izakaya, as interpreted by Rainer Becker when, with Divia Lalvani and Arjun Waney, he started Zuma in London’s Knightsbridge way back in 2002. We tasted sashimi, vegetable tempura, robata grill salmon, black miso cod, and Elk Cove Vineyards 2016 Willamette Valley Estate Pinot Noir.
On the way out I was fascinated by another success. Until that main bar opens a Concierge Pop-Up Bar runs nightly, yes, at the conciergerie. Beneath three historic clocks, still working, mixologists wait to sell Louis Roederer or Veuve Clicquot, or lagers or wines, including Elk Cove. Clever.
Yes, both these young hotels give an indication of ‘new’ Boston, which attracts a non-stop stream of educational and medical tourism from around the world, including Australasia.