Opened in 1990, The Sherwood Taipei counts itself among the first luxury hotels to open in the Taiwanese capital. The Grand Hyatt Taipei also opened the same year. As Business Traveller Asia-Pacific reported in its August 1992 edition, the 1990s in Taiwan were “a decade of conspicuous consumption where fortunes were made and lost with a phone call, popular trends came and went with dizzying speed and businesses opened and closed so fast that it was hard to keep track of the city’s constantly mutating skyline.”
During that decade, The Sherwood Taipei played host to foreign dignitaries including former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US President George H. W. Bush.
Those heady days of adolescence, when economists named Taiwan one of the Four Asian Tigers (along with South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong), have now progressed to a more mature middle-age, and the country is pondering its future in the face of a rising and increasingly aggressive China to its west. Taipei’s luxury hotel market has also now matured, and high-end accommodation is no longer a novelty in the city. The Sherwood has to compete with the likes of The Mandarin Oriental Taipei, which opened in 2014 and is just a seven-minute walk from The Sherwood. The Kimpton Hotels is also set to open a property in Taipei this year, having originally been scheduled for 2018. Its grand opening is now set for the end of March, a spokesperson for the hotel tells Business Traveller Asia-Pacific.
I decided to spend three nights at The Sherwood to see how the hotel is faring in the face of increased competition.
Where is it?
The Sherwood is in the Taiwanese capital’s Minsheng Dunhua financial district, just a five-minute drive from the inner-city Songshan Airport, which serves domestic and some regional routes, and 40-60 minutes drive from Taoyuan International Airport, which has flights to a wide range of international destinations.
The hotel is within easy access of the rest of the city via MRT Wenhu Line. Zhongshan Junior High School MRT station is around six minutes walk away, and Nanjing Fuxing MRT station around 12 minutes walk away. The hotel’s concierge is also excellent at securing a taxi for you at any time of day. The night before I had to leave for the airport, they helped me book a 7am taxi for the following morning that accepted payment by international credit card, since I was running low on cash.
About 15 minutes walk from the hotel is the fashionable Fujin Street, a quiet 1.5km long tree-lined stretch of hipster coffee shops, fashion stores and brunch spots. I highly recommend you take a stroll there during your stay to take in its calming atmosphere.
If you happen to be flying out of Songshan Airport, you can enjoy the unusual experience of walking directly to the airport without needing to take any mode of transportation. On a previous visit to Taipei when I also stayed at The Sherwood, I had an appointment with an airline executive at the airport and just walked back to the hotel after my meeting. This should not be considered an airport hotel, though, and there is no aircraft noise audible in the rooms.
What’s it like?
The Sherwood Taipei is not ashamed of being one of the city’s older luxury hotels. It wears its age with pride. The decor has a heft and sense of permanence. While some modern hotels let you use a mobile phone app as your room key, The Sherwood doesn’t even have digital keycards; all the rooms are accessed by a weighty key whose keyring is emblazoned with the hotel’s logo. The lobby walls are covered in a simple but elegant light wood wainscotting, and you get the impression the hotel would rather crumble to its foundations than go down the “modern Scandinavian” or other modernist design routes of many newer hotels.
Next to the first floor guest elevators, decorative items include a painting of a heard of deer in a clearing encased in an thick, ornate gold frame. Below the painting rests a Louis XVI period clock ornamented with golden bronze frieze.
General manager Achim von Hake, from Germany, can often be seen at the entrance to the hotel personally welcoming guests, or prowling the breakfast room in the morning to ensure everything is in order.
The hotel has 343 guest rooms split across nine types: Deluxe Single Room, Deluxe Twin Room, Executive Single Room, Executive Twin Room, Executive Triple Room, Junior Suite, Executive Suite, The Sherwood Suite and Presidential Suite. All rooms have high-speed wired and wireless internet, an in-room safe and a Handy brand smartphone you can take with you outside the hotel.
I stayed in a Deluxe Room with a king-size bed. The pillows were extraordinarily comfortable and I got a great night’s sleep each evening. The hotel’s lack of nighttime noise and blackout curtains ensure you wake up refreshed in the morning. There is a comfortable armchair and accompanying ottoman where you can relax during the day. A nice touch is that fresh fruit (a kiwi, an orange and an apple) is provided every day, alongside the tea and coffee making facilities.
The bathroom is well furnished, with a bidet-equipped toilet, shower with good water pressure and reasonably-sized bathtub with bath salts.
One unusual negative of my stay was that the alarm clock next to my bed seemed to have either been set by the cleaning staff without my asking, or to be malfunctioning. Two nights in a row it rang, startling me out of my sleep earlier than I wanted to be. In frustration, I took the batteries out after the second time it happened.
The Sherwood Executive Club, the hotel’s executive lounge, is on the fifth floor rather than the top floor of the hotel, meaning it lacks the spectacular city views of some executive lounges. But the atmosphere is relaxing and staff are attentive, offering to refill your coffee for you even though the machine is only a few steps away. A light breakfast is served, which is good if you haven’t got breakfast included with your room, or if you want to eat in a more quiet location.
During happy hour, a selection of self-serve spirits, as well as beer and wine, is available. There are also three rotating hot food options, as well as a cheese and cold cuts board. Jars nibbles like nuts, pretzels and mini Snickers bars are also there for you to grab.
The lounge is never too busy, even during the happy hour, which has a convivial atmosphere. I noticed some guests interacting with each other even though they were strangers. Surprisingly, one of the executive lounge’s Taiwanese staff boasts excellent German language skills.
The newspaper and magazine selection is also excellent. I spent a good couple of hours there during my stay perusing The New York Times, South China Morning Post, The Taipei Times and Time magazine.
Food and beverage
A generous breakfast spread is served in the B-one Breakfast Buffet Restaurant on level B1 between 6.30am and 10.30am. Service, as in the rest of the hotel, is swift and polite: on Saturday morning, I asked staff for a newspaper, and a copy of The Taipei Times and my coffee was on the table before I got back from the buffet with my first round of food.
I did not have the opportunity to try any of the other restaurants, but they are:
Kouma Japanese Restaurant on B1 (lunch: 12:00-14:30, dinner: 18:00-22:00);
Toscana Italian Restaurant on the 1st Floor (lunch: 11:30-14:30, dinner: 18:00-22:00, weekend brunch: 10:30-14:30); and
Yi Yuan Chinese Restaurant (lunch: 11:30-14:30, dinner: 18:00-21:30, weekend lunch time: 11:00-14:30).
A British-style bar, Harry’s Bar (11:30-00:00), is on the second floor and has a selection of more than 300 wines.
The hotel has a gym, sauna and in-door swimming pool on the 20th floor for in-house guests. The pool seems not to be too busy. On a previous stay, I used the pool with a friend and we were the only two people in it.
The hotel no longer has the luxury of being one of the only top-tier properties in Taipei. Visitors to the capital, as well as other parts of Taiwan, now have dozens of high-end hotels to choose from. Even the remote and majestic Taroko Gorge National Park has a five-star hotel, Silks Place Taroko. But service is what makes The Sherwood Taipei stand out.
Rates tend to be reasonable compared to other luxury hotels in the city, making this a top choice for those looking for value without forfeiting service or luxury. It’s a more modest property that lacks the ostentation of the Mandarin Oriental Taipei, whose rooms are steeped in Parisian elegance with oriental flourishes, featuring luxuriously thick carpet and a handcrafted leather headboard bearing a peony motif. But the Sherwood charges only about half that of the Mandarin, and its service is surely on par.
- Best for: A high level of service and luxury for a very reasonable price
- Don’t miss: An early evening drink in the executive lounge
- Price: NT$5,453 ($176.63) for a Deluxe Single Room in mid-February, including breakfast
- Contact: No. 111, Section 3, Minsheng East Road, Songshan District 105 Taipei, +886 2 2718 1188, [email protected]