Tried & Tested

Hotel check: The College Hotel

1 Sep 2005 by business traveller

WHAT'S IT LIKE? Opened in March, The College Hotel is The Stein Group's newest small luxury property (its sister hotel, The Dylan, is also in Amsterdam). Housed in a converted school building built in 1894, many of its original features have been retained, from the imposing black wood-panelled doors and high ceilings to the brickwork and ornate cornicing. It's now a training school where 140 young hotel and catering trainees aged 16-23 learn the ropes under the watchful eyes of the professional duty managers. This should not put you off. Service is excellent and trainees are heartbreakingly eager to please.

WHERE IS IT? In the upmarket "old south" area of Amsterdam, near to the concert hall and museum district. Take the tram to Museumplein, a five-minute walk away.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 40, including two suites. Rooms vary in shape and size due to the design of the building; 206 is the plum option: a large duplex with a lounge and bathroom on one level and stairs leading up to the bed area.

ROOM FACILITIES Rooms are stylishly decorated in warm, muted toffee, browns and beiges. Everything that should shine positively gleams and the furnishings are tasteful and immaculate – I almost felt I might be the first person ever to sit on my olive green corduroy chaise longue. My room had a bath but no shower: I was a little disappointed but later learned that half of the rooms are shower-only and half have baths depending on the shape of the room inside the old building.

Standard room features include in-room safe, 24-hour room service, flat-screen TV with 26 channels and pay movies, a UK adaptor, air-conditioning, laundry service, bathrobes and slippers. Guests can request a keyboard from reception to use the internet via their TV (E10 for three hours). The minibar contains a spoof revitalising kit containing sexual performance gel – maybe a jokey nod to the city's racier side. The beds are beautifully comfortable and have huge down duvets. Students are taught housekeeping the old-fashioned way: two trainees make the beds and then iron the top sheet for maximum crispness.

My only difficulty was with the light switches (although these were due to be reviewed after my visit). Two separate buttons operated dimming and activation in a seemingly unpredictable way, and I rarely achieved the result I expected. One fellow guest confided to me over breakfast that they had slept with the light on, having given up entirely. Rather than a card-activated system, rooms are locked with a key, partly so guests hand their keys into reception giving the students more "face time", but it also complemented the hotel's old-fashioned style; the light switches could benefit from a similar attitude of less technology, more character.

BUSINESS CENTRE No, but wifi access is available throughout the hotel and faxing and photocopying can be done at reception. There are three meeting/banqueting rooms, the largest of which seats up to 60 people and is plushly furnished with stretch silk across one wall, delftware china, two huge chandeliers and padded velvet chairs.

RESTAURANT AND BAR The restaurant is housed in the school's old gymnasium and is split along its length with one half for customers and the other for the kitchen, which, considering it is populated by trainees, is surprisingly tranquil. Executive chef Schilo van Coevorden is fond of experimentation and specialises in Dutch dishes with a contemporary twist. Don't be put off by the eccentric terminology: I chose "Ijssele Pike-Perch" for a main course, which was unappealingly described as "spinach, bloater and Hollandaise" but, despite that, was delicious. Van Coevorden's more unusual creations included cheese and celery filled white chocolates. The restaurant serves breakfast (the blueberry pancakes are to die for), lunch and dinner and is open to both guests and non-guests.

The bar is long and stylish with high lavender bar stools and a lively atmosphere. Everything is about style and luxury; even the nearby cloakroom attendant's table is upholstered in nothing less exotic than stingray leather, while the ladies' toilet is styled as an old-fashioned powder room and sports the most astonishing chandelier I have ever seen in a toilet.

VERDICT An excellent, old-fashioned hotel overflowing with charm. It might lack facilities such as a fitness centre (in-room spa treatments are available) that you would find in a business hotel chain, but offers instead highly personal service, luxurious surroundings and excellent dining – and you can exit bathed in the glow of knowing you have helped usher in the next generation of super-chefs and hoteliers.

PRICE Rack rates are: singles €175, doubles €275, suites €650.

CONTACT The College Hotel, Roelof Hartstraat 1, 1071 VE, Amsterdam, thecollegehotel.com, tel +31 20 571 1511.

Sarah Maxwell


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