Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Sofitel Legend the Grand Amsterdam

23 Aug 2011 by Tom Otley

Background Accor’s Sofitel has introduced sub-brands including Sofitel So and Sofitel Legend, the latter of which is reserved for properties with considerable history, such as this Amsterdam property, which has been in existence for several centuries. The Grand has just emerged from an extensive renovation under French interior designer Sybille de Margerie, also responsible for the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris and Cheval Blanc in Courchevel.

What’s it like? The entrance is impressive, with a cobbled courtyard, fountain, bikes for hire (€17.50 per day) and a polished Mercedes dropping off guests. The lobby is small but elegant, although when arriving at 12.30pm at a reasonably quiet time I had to wait several minutes behind the one guest in front of me, despite the presence of many staff milling around in the lobby. By the time I was seen to, several others were waiting behind me, though staff seemed oblivious to their irritation. I was so relieved to be checked in I gave up my bag to a bellboy to be delivered to the room. After waiting 30 minutes for it I called reception, then after another 15 minutes and with an appointment looming, I walked back down, retrieved the bag myself and brought it up to the room so I could change. Not a good start.

Where is it? On Oudezijds Voorburgwal, set between two canals yet only a few minutes’ walk from all the major sights. The nearest subway station is Nieuwmarkt. From Central station, take trams four, nine, 16, 24 or 25 to Dam Square.

Room facilities The 177 rooms are in many shapes and sizes, as the hotel comprises six different buildings. My own was unusual, a suite with a door leading out to steps straight down to the canalside, which was wonderful, though the TV over the bathtub showed only one channel, and after phoning up to report the fault, I returned to the room to find the main TV on with an error message on it. I didn’t manage to get it to work after that, though I reported it at check-out.

The hotel’s central position means it can get a little noisy late at night, so light sleepers should choose one of the rooms with either a courtyard or garden view. All rooms have Sofitel’s “My Bed”, a pillow menu, Hermès amenities, Nespresso coffee and tea facilities, free wifi, Bose DVD player and Philips LCD flatscreen TV. The design is elegant and understated, with beige, cream and other muted colours, and it’s a pleasure to stroll around the hotel noting the recurring Dutch themes such as the tulip and butterfly, as well as the historic detailing and luxurious materials – original mahogany, marble, rosewood and black and white tiling all feature. Unfortunately, the lift to most of the rooms is also historic, and woefully slow.

Restaurants and bars Bridges seafood restaurant under French chef Aurélien Poirot incorporates a raw bar (the first in the Netherlands) for oysters, lobster sandwiches, fish tartare and sushi, a cocktail bar and the Vinothèque, with two wine lists – Concise and Grand. There is also a private dining room. The design is inspired by the colours and shapes of a mural by Dutch artist Karel Appel that is displayed in the entrance. The courtyard is used for outdoor dining in summer and has rows of trees, a pond and sofas. There is also a library bar.

Business and meeting facilities There are 17 meeting rooms and banqueting halls (covering 1,400 sqm), five of which are listed as historical monuments and were taken into use when the Grand served as the Town Hall – these include the Council Chamber, the Aldermens Chamber, the St Cecilia and the beautiful Marriage Chamber. The first features Gesamtkunstwerk architecture with sculptures by Mendes da Costa. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was married here in 1966. The Princenhof dates from the 16th century and has 12 conference rooms, including a boardroom and a special catering space.

Leisure facilities The hotel has a “So Spa” that occupies two floors with a heated indoor pool, treatment rooms, spa bath, sauna and hammam steam bath. The fitness zone, So Fit, has Technogym equipment.

Verdict The Sofitel is a fine hotel but by calling itself “Legend”, elevating it to the brand’s top tier, it should be outstanding, and at the time of my visit – admittedly a hectic period since it was for the official unveiling – it fell a little short of that. Nevertheless, it is beautiful, and the restaurant is superb.

How many rooms? There are 125 rooms across three categories – Classic (25 sqm), Superior (30 sqm) and Luxury (35 sqm), plus 52 suites – Junior (45 sqm), Prestige (55 sqm), Apartment (65 sqm), Opera (75 sqm) and Imperial (100 sqm).

Room highlights The free wifi and Sofitel “My Bed”, which was very comfortable.

Price Internet rates for a midweek stay in October started from €280 for a Superior room.

Contact Sofitel Legend the Grand Amsterdam, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 197; tel +31 205 553 111; sofitel.com

Tom Otley

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