The hotel opened officially on September 1, 2017 – it was originally scheduled to launch prior to the summertime Expo 2017 event in Astana, but this luxury brand is meticulous about all-round standards of quality, hence the later rollout. When its doors were opened, it was up to 100 per cent occupancy for the final week of Expo.
Where is it?
Fronting onto the left bank of the Esil River that splits the city in half, right next to the main bridge on Kabanbay Batyr Avenue between the centre of the old town in the north and the gleaming new downtown district containing the government buildings. Capital Park (previously called Central Park) and the riverfront promenade are on the doorstep, the old town is a short walk away and the new city centre a five-minute drive. Airport transfers take around 30 minutes depending on traffic.
What's it like?
The St Regis is a new-build designed by the UK-based architectural team from WATG in partnership with Wimberly Interiors. It has been constructed on the site of an old but famous restaurant built for the president to host guests by the river in the early days of Astana’s creation as the country’s new capital. Its exterior is grandiose in style, with two ten-storey L-shaped wings either side of a central “podium” that features two huge golden-domed “yurts”.
You drive up a slope to the second level and into the yurt-style porte cochère, which sports a massive abstract statue of three horses in matte black. It’s impressive, but once inside the ostentation disappears, replaced by calm, understated luxury in the smallish lobby atrium, which has attractive bespoke artwork on the walls, St Regis’s signature leather-suitcase style combined with brushed brass fittings, plenty of comfortable seating, and interesting use of glass in both the lighting fixtures and ornamentation – there’s always something interesting to look at.
The east wing contains the hotel’s 120 rooms and facilities – the west wing contains 50 large residences for sale only, with their own separate entrance. There’s also 9,500 sqm of office space, and a retail area that had not yet opened when I stayed.
Overall the property’s relative separation from the rest of the city, the greenery of the surrounding park and the feeling of space gives it a more resort-like feeling than other hotels in the capital. The juxtaposition between the grand exterior and the more subtle elegance inside is a clever design expertly implemented.
There are three room categories and four suite types. My Deluxe room (the hotel’s entry-level category) was not a suite but certainly had that feeling. A three-quarter height divider “wall” separated the lounge area from the “bedroom” side; an enormous and attractive print of a white horse was on this side above a plush sofa and coffee table facing a wall-mounted TV, while a second TV was on the other side facing the king-size bed.
At 68 sqm it was capacious, with extra-high ceilings an additional enhancement, as was the simple white décor offset by rich woods and brushed brass detailing. A leather chest in the entrance hallway, and gorgeous coffee table books and art pieces all added to the understated but luxurious atmosphere. There are no coffee machines in the rooms because the signature St Regis butler service means a coffee or tea is just a phone call away – as is pressing of two items of clothing and all the other usual butler amenities.
The oval work table in the corner was slightly on the small side for my needs, which involved spreading papers and sundries out for checking, but the chair was comfortable, and the electricity panel on the wall provided two USB ports, an HDMI port, and both international and local two-pin sockets. Wifi speed was very fast once connected, but you need to reconnect every day, and I found this took 3-4 minutes each time – hardly a major issue but slightly irritating. I also had a bit of trouble with the touch-panel light switches, which often needed two or three touches before they worked.
But I’m stretching to find problems here; overall the room was exceptional, with the all-white marble bathroom a highlight, from its huge shower room to the freestanding bathtub with brass fittings facing a (third) wall-mounted TV. A real pleasure to spend time in.
Restaurants and bars
There are two restaurants and a bar, all located on the second floor. La Rivière is the main all-day restaurant; it was named in deference to the hotel site’s former restaurant, and features a large open kitchen producing Mediterranean cuisine, tasteful indoor seating as well as an alfresco area facing the river. Breakfast is served here – for me the standout was the wide selection of Kazakhstani honey available, from clear golden to thick, white varieties. Delicious.
The Grill is a contemporary fine-dining establishment boasting a meat-ageing cabinet displayed at the entrance, and an open kitchen with a Josper Oven, with which choice cuts of meat, fresh fish and vegetables are prepared. Dishes are plated at your table by the chef, who explains their origin and cooking method. I had a superb meal here, with potato caviar and langoustines to start, followed by short ribs slow-cooked for 48 hours and served in a red wine sauce with fresh truffles – this was some of the best red meat I’ve eaten in years.
The St Regis Bar is near the entrance to the lobby atrium, and is typically stylish in the classic lounge style for which the brand is famous. To the side there’s a library section filled with interesting books and Kazakh ornaments like drinking vessels and falcon hoods, and at the back, near the doors to the outdoor area, is a smoking area. A beautiful abstract mural of the legendary golden Samruk bird is featured behind the bar – a good talking point while you’re ordering your signature Bloody Mary from Lakshay, the hotel’s Indian mixologist who recently moved from Dubai’s Burj Al Arab.
These are spread over the first and second floors, with four meeting rooms on level two, as well as the wonderful circular yurt-style Winter Garden event space that has its own entrance from the hotel’s porte cochère and plenty of surrounding outdoor space for (summertime) events.
On the street-level first floor you can find the 520 sqm Astor Ballroom – divisible into three sections and sporting a 6.2-metre ceiling and the latest AV equipment – as well as three meeting rooms, including the Barys VIP lounge with its own kitchen and bar capabilities.
The third floor is home to Iridium Spa, 2,300 sqm covering six treatment rooms (including two suites with Jacuzzi and a couples suite with sauna), a unisex salon, various stylish relaxation areas and a hammam.
The St Regis Athletic Club is on the same floor, with a relatively small but well-equipped gym, and a fantastic 20-metre heated pool area with underfloor heating and huge windows looking out over the river. There’s a supervised kids’ playroom near the second-floor restaurants, and an Astana Bike stand outside the ballroom entrance for those interested in exploring by bicycle.
It has taken quite a while for Astana to bring its top-end hospitality options to the point where you can stay in real luxury and guarantee consistent international-level service to match. Expo 2017 was the catalyst, it seems, and with St Regis there is now an outstanding luxury offering with considerable style that manages to combine all that the business visitor requires, but with an added resort-like ambience.
PRICE Standard internet rates for a Deluxe room in mid-November start from 151,200 tenge (US$445) including tax and surcharges
CONTACT 1 Kabanbay Batyr Avenue, Astana 010000; +7 7172 790 888; thestregisastana.com