The hotel launched in June this year, in time for the opening of Astana’s highlight Expo 2017 event. Part of a mixed-use development that is the first “green” building in Kazakhstan to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, it occupies the first 18 floors of one of the two Talan Towers smack in the middle of the city centre. Above it are Ritz-Carlton residences on floors 19 to 25, while it is also connected to a three-storey, high-end shopping mall.
WHERE IS IT?
In the new city district, at the southeast corner of the large central square containing Astana’s iconic Baiterek tower. All the major government and administrative buildings are within walking distance (or a short drive if the weather is inclement) – this is probably the best location for business of any hotel in the city.
The other, slightly taller Talan Tower houses a large business centre (which opened during my visit) and nearby a huge new complex – Abu Dhabi Plaza – is set to open next year. The airport is 15-20 minutes away by car and the hotel offers airport pick-up and drop-off in a wifi-enabled BMW 7 series.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
The spacious main lobby, with its high ceiling, cascading central chandelier, sweeping staircase and combination of light marble, dark wood and gold accents, makes a statement from the moment you walk through the door. This property is all about top-end luxury and refinement.
Gold is used throughout the hotel as a nod to the country’s ancient Saka (Scythian) culture, which developed the working of gold into a fine art more than 2,500 years ago. Interesting artworks from local galleries are everywhere – the owner of the building is an avid art collector with a large portfolio, and has contributed some international works.
From the doormen and front desk personnel to the waiting staff and concierge team, the level of service (and English) is of a higher standard than any other Astana property I have used – and I have stayed at most of the top hotels here in the past ten years. (The more recently opened St. Regis Astana, a sister property in the Marriott International group, is the only place that can compete.)
There are 157 rooms and suites spread across the fourth to 17th floors of the hotel, comprising two room types (both 40 sqm) and four suite types (ranging from 75 to 270 sqm). I was in an Executive Suite, a palatial space of 115 sqm with a cleverly executed entrance hall separated from the living room by golden lattice screens. On one side, a hallway led past a small washroom into the bedroom, which had a walk-in wardrobe area and a door into a very large and well-appointed bathroom.
The design of the rooms is a study in dark woods, shiny gold metal detailing, leather and textile furnishings, and carpets in calm greys, browns and blues, plus attractive parquet flooring. The expansive living room space sported twin sofas plus lounge chairs surrounding a coffee table, while next to a large oval dining table with six chairs was a glass cabinet holding the minibar, snacks and a capsule coffee machine with a variety of choices of coffee. It would be ideal for casual work meetings for up to six people, its quality no doubt creating a good impression.
The king-size bed was very high – I almost had to go on tiptoes to sit on it – but it was supremely comfortable. At the foot of the bed was a bench seat, then the worktable, which was large with a good chair and all the necessary modern sockets. The phone was a slimline cordless unit, and there was also a bluetooth B&O sound system on the table.
Beside the bed on both sides were large banks of backlit touch panel buttons, providing control of room temperature, the drapes and blackout blinds (the view through the large windows takes in Baiterek tower, which is lit strongly at night); there were also USB ports and international sockets. I found the touch panel buttons slightly problematic, having to touch them twice or more almost every time I used them, though whether this was due to my own clumsiness or a sensitivity issue I don’t know. I did also find my room key card similarly unresponsive on occasion (it always worked in the end).
The bathroom was a delight, with underfloor heating of the marble floors (much appreciated), twin sinks in front of a wide mirror and a bathroom tub next to the window looking directly at the landmark Baiterek tower. The towels and robes were of the highest quality, Asprey products were available, and the walk-in rainforest shower was large and powerful.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
Өzen Lounge on the ground floor is long and thin, offering all-lounge seating beneath a wooden slat design that runs like a huge wave or ripple along the whole lounge. This is a popular place in the evening with the city’s well-to-do, who come for the cocktails – created by German mixologist Arnd Heissen – and Asian-Mediterranean food.
Mökki on the third floor is the all-day dining restaurant, offering “organic, cosmopolitan” cuisine. Breakfast was expansive, heavy on meat offerings (Kazakhstanis eat meat with a passion) but with something for everyone, all displayed on large open islands round which you can walk and browse. The gallery section of the large eating area, on a raised platform by the windows, is a great place to eat with a view of Baiterek tower.
Selfie is the combined bar and restaurant on the 18th floor. It’s run separately by private hospitality firm White Rabbit Family, which has won awards with similarly named bars in Moscow, St Petersburg and other locations.
The Club Lounge is on the 14th floor, open to all Club-level guests. A long, thin space split into a few areas, it has its own meeting room (available to use on request) and offers a good range of food offerings throughout the day. Staff here quickly learn to recognise you and use your first name, which is a good personal touch.
(Club guests also receive extras such as two garment pressings per day, a tea/coffee wake-up service, a newspaper service, and dedicated concierge and business centre services – the concierge team is available between 7am and 10pm.)
A total of 1,400 sqm of event space includes three meeting rooms named Astana, Vienna and Moscow, the latter two able to be combined into a larger space. There are also two boardrooms, a business centre, Guest Lounge and VIP room, but the main space is the Grand Ballroom, one of the largest in the city at 982 sqm, and divisible by four. It has its own separate entrance at the side of the hotel with a grand golden staircase.
These are all on the third floor. The Ritz-Carlton Spa has five treatment rooms plus a suite for couples, and offers locally themed treatments such as hot stone massages, algae and mud wraps, and salt and oil exfoliation. A salon is here too, and Espa products are used as per normal for Ritz spas.
Next door is the gym, which is huge at 275 sqm plus a 22 sqm yoga room; it’s one of the largest I’ve seen, and its Technogym equipment list is long and comprehensive. The 25-metre rectangular pool is indoors, surrounded by loungers, but with skylights providing plenty of natural light – it was empty when I used it and was a peaceful place to exercise. Dry and wet saunas, and a Jacuzzi are also available. The hotel offers an annual Health Club membership package to the city’s residents.
Superlative service, an unbeatable location for business, great suites and a fantastic overall Club-level offering makes this the new benchmark hotel in Astana. Of course Ritz-Carlton’s aim is to be the best of the best in this relatively new capital – and for the affluent business traveller I can only agree that it has succeeded.
Standard internet rates for an Executive Suite with Club Lounge access in mid-November start from 476,000 tenge (US$1,399) including tax and surcharges
16 Dostyk Street, Astana 010016; +7 7172 734 000; ritzcarlton.com