Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Conservatorium

22 Feb 2014 by Rose Dykins

BACKGROUND

This five-star property opened at end of 2011 after a three-year renovation. It became first member of the Set Hotel group (thesethotels.com) – London’s Café Royal became the second when it reopened in 2012 and Paris’ Lutetia will become the third after its renovation, which begins in April.

 Originally built in the late-19th century as a state savings bank, the grand building became the Sweenlinck conservatorium music school (now known as the Conservatorium of Amsterdam) in 1983, which it remained until 2008. 

Conservatorium lobby

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Upon arriving at the property, I was met by a porter sporting a top hat. He asked for my name, took my luggage and directed me to check-in. I passed a chandelier made from a dozen or so hanging violins and went down a few steps. When I arrived at reception seconds later, I was greeted by name, which was impressive, if a little spooky.

Piero Lissoni-designed lobby was a striking yet sensitive fusion of old and new, and was ultra-modern while honouring the building’s history. The brick walls and turrets of the original building connected to the glass conservatory-style extension that housed the open-plan lobby, reception and Brasserie restaurant, leading on to an outdoor terrace with eclectic furniture. On this clear winter’s day, the blue sky visible through the entire ceiling had an uplifting effect.

Lissoni has incorporated his signature design touchpoint into the lobby, with a set of “flying stairs”– angular, banister-free staircases that appeared to float on air. Such contemporary features were paired with aspects such as the original art nouveau tiles that lined the arched corridors surrounding the lobby, which harked back to the building’s days as a bank. The bees painted upon them are symbolic of the way the bank collects money, as bees do honey.

Soft jazz music emanated throughout the lobby – at the time of my visit, gentle bluesy takes on Christmas classics could be heard. The corridors were garnished with fir-green wreaths and fairy lights, and there was a beautiful glow about the place.

WHERE IS IT?

A 20-minute tram ride from Amsterdam Centraal station, and opposite Museumplein. It’s also on the doorstep P.C. Hooftstraat – the capital’s answer to London’s Bond Street. Amsterdam Schiphol is a 20-minute drive away.

ROOM FACILITIES

I stayed in a Grand Duplex suite on the fourth floor (these range from 55-64 sqm). The high-ceilinged, white-walled mezzanine-style room had the feel of a luxury apartment, as it was both minimalist and homely.

There were a few simple ornaments, including Delft china plates and clogs mounted on the walls, reminders of the hotel’s location and culture. The colour scheme was muted – from the thick grey full-length curtains, to the taupe laminate walls of the central pod in which the bathroom was contained. 

Conservatorium Grand Duplex suite

A mirror at the bottom of the stairs extended the full height of the room to the mezzanine-level bedroom, where a still-life painting by Australian artist Kevin Best (inspired by the Dutch masters, and commissioned specially for the hotel) hung on the wall. A tan leather armchair stood across from the bed, and there was a small pile of magazines – including Vogue and GQ – on one of the bedside tables.  The bed decked out in white luxury linens was comfortable, but the pillows were not firm enough.

The bedroom level had its own freestanding LG specially designed by Lissoni, with its futuristic look reflecting the high-tech ethos of the room. There were bendy reading lights either side of bed that you turned on and off by wrapping your hand around them. There were also EU plug sockets on each side of the bed, as well as switches for specific lighting arrangements, such as “all lights off”, “night light”, “soft light” and “day light”.

Conservatorium Grand Duplex suite

There were also buttons to control the two layers of curtains and the air conditioning –the room was very hot when we arrived on a sunny afternoon, despite it being December. I was staying on the side of the hotel facing Museumplein, and had a lovely view of the terracotta Rijksmuseum across the street.

In the main living area downstairs, there was as larger TV (same design as upstairs) opposite a silvery canvas sofa. In front of this was a low coffee table with hardback artbooks of Van Gogh and Rembrant’s work.

In the corner there was a stylish blue workdesk, upon which there was a fruit bowl, Culti Décor incense sticks and a white anthurium in a short vase. Next to the desk phone, there were three EU plug sockets as well as power ports for audio/video, audio/OC, HDMI and USB.

The minibar was stocked with Evian (€5.50) a wide range of alcohol in big and small bottles (Barcardi, Hendricks, Smirnoff, Champagne Gosset (€23.50) Heineken (€5.50). Snacks included Pringles, rock, macadamia nuts and liquorice in jars.

Other amenities included a Nespresso machine, one free bottle of water, bathrobes, luggage rack, hairdryer, shoehorn, laptop safe, clothes brush and shoe mitt. I asked if I could borrow an EU adaptor from reception, and was told that I would need to pay a €25 deposit, which seemed rather steep.

The matte, mottled cream marble bathroom was lovely, though water did leak through the gap at the bottom of the door of the walk-in shower, which had both rainshower and regular showerheads. There was also a huge angular bathtub a TV inbuilt into the mirror – this was a little slow, and some music channels didn’t work. L’Occitane toiletries were supplied.

Entry-level Superior rooms are 30 sqm, while the Penthouse suite is 170 sqm. As well as ranging in size, the in-room features vary from room to room. They include wooden beams, mezzanines, original stone feature walls, balconies and vaulted ceilings.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS

Situated within the open-plan lobby, the hotel’s brasserie has black wooden paneling, still life paintings and criss-crossing black beams suspended from the ceiling above it. It is sectioned off from reception and the lounge area by a glass storage cabinet with white bone china, behind which the tops of some potted shrubs, sprouting through a gap in the floor – their roots are located in the gym on the floor below.

The brasserie is a casual all-day dining eatery, and is well set-up for solo diners, as there are plenty of round tables you can join. For breakfast I ordered the eggs benedict with black truffle – it was delicious, and generous on the Hollandais sauce, if a little extravagantly priced at €30. Other options included smoked salmon bilini with scrambled eggs and Anna Royal caviar (€35) and buttermilk pancakes with blueberries and maple syrup €30.

Conservatorium brasserie

There was an “Ice” buffet (€24) – with the base of the table kept at zero-degrees-celcius to ensure the food was fresh. Fruit, cheeses, freshly baked bread, yoghurts and cereals were among the options. The fresh coffee was excellent, and the cappuccino very velvety. Breakfast is served here from 6.30am-11am.

Tunes restaurant used to be the place for storing files when the building was a bank, and the sliding ladder across one wall references this. The refined eatery serves Dutch cuisine (dinner only) from its open kitchen, separated from diners by glass walls.

Tunes Bar serves colourful Asian tapas. The dark sultry space, has a young feel, with glass tables and black furnishings set against a white illuminated wall. There is a big blacked-out smoking gallery on its mezzanine level with comfy chairs that looks down onto the DJ booth through one-way glass.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES

There are six meeting rooms, all contained within the “black box” – a six-floor structure made from one-way glass that is contained within the lobby, accessible either via a lift or the Lissoni staircase. The hotel’s penthouse is located at the top of the black box (all other guestrooms are part of the old building).

Symphony is the largest meeting room – located on the third floor, it can hold 120 delegates theatre-style. Harmony, on the floor below, can hold 20 people boardroom-style and, on the fifth floor, there are four “colour” rooms (Blue, Yellow, Red and Orange) which have a Mondrian-esque style, frosted glass walls, and a shared breakout area. Tunes bar can also be hired exclusively for events.

LEISURE FACILITIES

The corridor of the original building that winds around the ground floor doubles up as a luxury shopping arcade. Among the luxury retailers are Bonebakker jewellers and La Casa del Habano – a cigar store and smoking room.

The extremely luxurious basement-level Akhasa spa uses Gemology products, and has a hamam room, a sauna, a watsu pool, a 1,000 sqm indoor pool and five treatment rooms.

On the same level, the sizeable gym has a vast range of Life Fitness equipment including punch bags, free weights and a personal trainer on hand. It’s open from 7am-10pm.

VERDICT

A wonderful stay at a special property. Service was excellent, and the design both in the rooms and public areas makes the hotel worth a visit.


FACT FILE

  • HOW MANY ROOMS? 129 – seven Superior rooms, 12 Superior Duplex rooms, 49 Deluxe rooms, 15 Deluxe Duplex rooms, two Corner Duplex suites, nine Junior suites, 15 Grand Duplex suites, two Rooftop suites, four Conservatorium suites, two Van Baerle suites, two Conservatorium suites with balconies, five Royal Duplex suites, two Residence suites, one Concerto suite, one I Love Amsterdam suite and one Penthouse suite.
  • HIGHLIGHTS The memorable design throughout the property, the location, and the buzzing, inviting atmosphere in the lobby.
  • PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in March started from €311 for a Superior Duplex room.
  • CONTACT 27 Van Baerlestraat, tel +31 20 570 0000; conservatoriumhotel.com


Rose Dykins


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