“It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter,” said that eternal style icon Marlene Dietrich, born in Berlin in 1901. Change the word ‘friends’ to ‘room service’ and you see why Hotel Adlon Kempinski is super-special.
Little did a Mainz businessman, Lorenz Adlon, foresee that his name would be a leading luxury brand – along with another man from Mainz, Johann-Joseph Krug, plus Thierry Hermès, Charles Lewis Tiffany, and Charles Rolls and Henry Royce. Adlon wanted to please Kaiser Wilhelm II by building a German rival to the Ritz establishments in London, Madrid and Paris, and he opened his eponymous beauty in 1907, next to Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. The hotel was to survive such challenges as a devastating fire, plus war-time and ownership hiccups. Today, with the 383 rooms and suites, Hotel Adlon Kempinski is a signature world brand.
Arrive, and take four red-carpetted stairs up into a magnificent lobby. Ahead, a circular ceiling rises two floors: at ground level there’s an extraordinary bronze Elefantenbrunnen, fountain of elephants, a copy of the 1907 original. The lobby resembles an unofficial club. Afternoons see Steinway-soothed tea takers. At all times, this is the top-level meeting place for Berlin bankers and society names discussing whatever. To the left is a theatre-set of honey light, the stage for black suited gold-key concierges, and Kempinski-signifier Ladies In Red hosts.
Any suites overlooking the Brandenburg Gate are most desirable, and as one expects in Germany, windows, all double-glazed, open. Look down, too, to the constant activity in Pariser Platz, now traffic-free. There might be yet another citizens’ protest against something or other. Opportunists in a motley collection of military-type uniform pose for hordes of tourists.
In Summer, Quarre brasserie extends outside, for better ‘action watching’ of the Pariser Platz goings on. Try its Adlon-Currywurst – they sold 6,136 last year, and it’s impossible to find out what makes the Adlon sauce so much more special than competitors’. Shortly the Adlon will once again be offering finer-dining, or Asian. Swim in the indoor pool, themed as an Italian villa. The sauna’s a magnet, but be prepared for no-clothes. Head out, through Brandenburg Gate to the 210-hectare Tiergarten, for invigorating walks and runs through well-tended forest.
Michael Sorgenfrey, Kempinski’s Hamburg-born RVP in charge of the Adlon, has, throughout his career, been here on and off, in various roles. It has always felt, he says, like home. But honestly, most homes cannot match the Adlon’s justly-famous breakfasts – the buffet’s splendid rote gruetze red berries could easily, even if only minutely, mark tablecloths, starched as crisp as black-suited servers’ snow-white ankle-length aprons. For my own 4 a.m. room service breakfast (yes, starched linens and apron) I had deliberately kept off colourful berries. Fabulous Greek yoghurt and Laugenbroten with those marvellous mini-crackers of butter that are oh, so German, could surely do no harm. Adlon style, from welcome to farewell. (p.s. Be warned, the ‘new’ Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt, 27 kms away and expected forever, seems old, already, and I found it remarkably un customer-friendly).
Mary Gostelow publishes the daily girlahead.com and a unique weekly 15-minute industry Mary Gostelow Girlahead Podcast, both part of Almont Global.
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