Smith Travel BlogTravel tales and hotel news from the boutique hotel experts at Mr & Mrs Smith

Top 10 sexiest bedrooms: the Smith Awards shortlist

Posted by Sarah Jappy on October 27th, 2014

Prepare to drop your pants: it’s sexy o’clock. We asked, you replied – when it came to the Smith Hotel Awards 2014‘s Sexiest Bedroom in the World, our voters were vocal. So which romantic retreat is ripest for seduction? Which billowing bed could you bury yourselves in? Warning: we will not be held accountable for the consequences of you reading this blog post, particularly if you do so in close proximity to an attractive human.


Sexy bits Easy access to the sea from the private sunbathing deck • Terrace built for cocktail drinking • Private hydrotherapy bath tub 

When in a hotel built on the remains of a Roman villa, do as the ancient Romans do and bed down in a grotto. Here’s introducing the eye-bogglingly beautiful Roccia suite, whose hydrotherapy bath tub (opposite the canopied four-poster bed) is more like a mini ocean, and whose sea views will have you booking a return stay before you’ve left.

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Sexy bits Sun butler  • In-room massages • Private plunge pool 

If your bedroom doesn’t have a massage area, a huge terrace that faces a pine forest, and a leafy garden with a plunge pool, get the decorators in. The Allure Suite has two elegant bedrooms, a living room and a library – play lord and lady in its creamy splendour. Want to tan on the terrace? Call your sun butler, who will bring up (and even apply) sun lotion.

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Sexy bits  In-room spa treatments • Siren-red decor • Canal views

For Venetian va-va-voom by the gondola-load – canal views, Murano chandeliers, damask fabrics and unabashed red-and-gold opulence – opt for Ca Maria Adele’s Sala del Doge, an irreligiously good-looking suite clad from top-to-toe in red velvet, with a custom-made chandelier. The suite pays handsome homage to the city’s past (except, perhaps, for the Jacuzzi).

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Sexy bits Personal host service • Private pool • Tranquil terrace

Hop onto volcanic black sand as glittery as the Balinese night sky from Ocean Pool Villa 202, which has a sea-view bath tub and a prime position on the beach. This handsome villa is shrouded by greenery, meaning maximum privacy, and there’s an emerald patch of lawn at the front where you can recline, holiday read in hand.



Sexy bits The ravishing fresco • Sultry interior • Ancient stone bath tub 

The Italians ace romance; nowhere is this more apparent than in Il Salviatino’s Affrescco Suite – whose ceiling is decorated with a Domenico Bruschi mural that dates back to 1886, whose walls are hung with two oil canvases by Gabriel van der Leeuw and whose bath tub is fashioned from a sarcophagus. Chesterfields and fireplaces add cosiness to couture. And the bed – oh, the bed…

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Sexy bits Ladder access to the ocean • Private plunge pool • Mini wine cellar 

Nothing as common as a door leads to Six Senses’ five ravishing water villas, set right on the ocean, overlooking a coral reef; instead, a private seaside staircase yawns down to the hillside. Water Villa 5 is the pick of the bunch: we love its private plunge pool set amid boulders, the ladder that drops into the sea and the wood and white furnishings.

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Sexy bits Panoramic city views • DIY Martini kit • Two-person tub

Let your hair down (or don a red wig like the lobby’s door gals) at QT Sydney’s Corner Suites, decorated with splashes of vermillion red and kooky ceramic animals. QT Junior Suite 07 is the quirky queen of QT’s rooms, with sweeping views of Market and George Street, a round bath tub and more space than the Junior Suites. N.B: any suite with a minibar martini kit is fine by us.



Sexy bits  A magical four-poster bed • Anouska Hempel design • Antique bath tub 

Marble, mother-of-pearl and milk-white furnishings won Anouska Hempel’s Corfu Suite the gong for ‘Sexiest Bedroom in the World’ in 2013. This year, our money’s on the Cardinal Suite, the vampy red bridesmaid to the Corfu Suite’s pallid bride. Scruple-loosening lures include a four-poster bed swathed in rich ruby fabrics and an enticing bathroom with an antique tub.

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Sexy bits More window than wall • Freestanding bed • 400 sq feet of space to romp in

André Balazs gives good bedroom: the Empire Suite – an expanse of pearlescent perfection – is as white and shiny as an A-lister’s smile. Walls and ceilings glitter with custom lacquer, the bath tub surveys the Empire State Building, windows eyeball Midtown and there’s even a powder room for lucky guests.



Sexy bits Custom-made bed • Superior sound system • Half a floor of privacy

Sometimes, a mere room isn’t enough. Sometimes, only an entire floor will do. That’s why we love Suite 57, which sprawls across the north side of the hotel’s 28th floor. The parquet floor is as lustrous as honey, the views of Central Park and Manhattan’s urban playground will make your eyes widen and the sound system comes courtesy of Dr Dre.

Find out who tempted and tantalised our judges when we reveal the 2014 Smith Hotel Awards winners on November 7… or browse more irresistible hotels at

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Top 10 hotel bars: the Smith Awards shortlist

Posted by Kate Weir on October 25th, 2014

World's best hotel bars | Smith Awards shortlist | Park Hyatt Tokyo We asked you discerning hotel-bar hoppers to vote for the best spots to toast and tipple in; suggestions for the Hottest Hotel Bar at the Smith Hotel Awards 2014 poured in and we distilled them into a top 10 shortlist of the world’s best hotel bars. While the Smith Awards judging panel drink in the results, before the winner is announced on 7 November, here are the mixologists that wowed you with their sleight of hand, the bar crowds that turned your heads and the far-flung, home-from-home hotspots you’d love to make your local – read on to find your next best night out…

World's best hotel bars | Smith Awards shortlist | Ace Hotel New YorkACE HOTEL NEW YORK – US

Bar highlights Winner of Hottest Hotel Bar at the Smith Hotel Awards 2013 • Lauded Milk & Honey mixologist Sasha Petraske • Old-school decor, A-list crowd

Ace Hotel New York was a worthy Smith Awards winner last year – can the Breslin take the top spot this year? This cool and confident hangout has established itself as a must-visit urban classic, with its vibrant DJ-spun soundtrack and shabby-chic take on a classic New York look. Cocktail wizard Sasha Petraske’s chic libations are as oh-so-stylish as the setting, and equally moreish; however, if mixed drinks aren’t your scene, choose grain over grape – craft beers, culled from local breweries, are de rigeur here.

World's best hotel bars | Smith Awards shortlist | NiyamaNIYAMA – MALDIVES

Bar highlights The world’s first underwater bar and music club • Sits 20 feet below the surface of the Indian Ocean • Impressively eco-friendly 

Arriving by boat – from Niyama resort – to Subsix bar, bestows an added air of exclusivity on this submerged saloon (even if that’s the only way to reach it). Clown fish and manta rays drift past the aquarium-style windows, as you sip coral-hued cocktails in a space outfitted like a luxe submarine. This jaw-dropping eco-conscious music club keeps guests dancing till the wee hours too, with big-name DJs and musicians – Tinie Tempah performed its inaugural show. It’s heaven, but just sitting a few leagues lower.

World's best hotel bars | Smith Awards shortlist | The ConnaughtTHE CONNAUGHT – LONDON, UK

Bar highlights Parisian designer India Mahdavi’s Edwardian-era-homage interiors • Brit artist Julian Opie’s coolly cheeky cameos • A formidable champagne and cocktail menu

The Connaught Bar may be the Connaught Hotel’s art deco darling, but we like the discreet clubby feel of the lesser-visited Coburg Bar. Here, India Mahdavi – colour-championing designer of Café Français’ decor – opts for a darker palette, to create a roguishly Dickensian space; a nod to the hotel’s Edwardian past, with art deco chandeliers, and black and purple-velvet wing chairs. Artist Julian Opie’s cameos add Brit wit, and bartenders who are remarkably au fait with the menu’s cognacs and champagnes, are happy to ferry balloon snifters and flutes to your seat.

World's best hotel bars | Smith Awards shortlist | Shoreditch RoomsSHOREDITCH ROOMS – LONDON, UK

Bar highlights Access to a rare London rooftop pool • Exclusive members’ club crowd • Covetable Shoreditch-chic interiors

Admittedly we’re in love with each of Shoreditch Rooms hotel and members’ club’s I-wish-this-was-my-house drinking dens, but the Square Bar ticks all the boxes and then some: mid-century Modern ephemera, check. Pseudo-Eames seating, uh-huh. Rag-tag artwork, it’s everywhere you turn – this bar perfectly encapsulates the shabby-chic ethos that makes east London so trendsetting. Slowly work your way through the creative cocktail menu, while propping up the copper-topped bar, then mingle with creative types by the rooftop pool.

World's best hotel bars | Smith Awards shortlist | Park Hyatt TokyoPARK HYATT TOKYO – TOKYO, JAPAN

Bar highlights Jaw-dropping 52nd-floor views of Tokyo • It’s the iconic Lost in Translation setting • A wine list long enough to overwhelm an oenophile

Director Sofia Coppolla has an eye for a scene-stealing setting; the sleek contemporary interiors of the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo – with a suave black baby grand – offered the perfect backdrop for her star-crossed lovers’ first meeting. However, the real head turner is the neon-flecked views of Tokyo from the floor-to-ceiling windows, as is the War and Peace-length wine list, with vintages cherry-picked from the 1,800-strong cellar – including the largest selection of American wines in Japan. A 2013 Hottest Hotel Bar nominee, the New York Bar is a serious contender for 2014’s crown.

World's best hotel bars | Smith Awards shortlist | Ohla HotelOHLA HOTEL – BARCELONA, SPAIN

Bar highlights A drinks menu devised by award-winning mixologist Giuseppe Santamaria • The chill-out roof terrace overlooking Via Laietana • Stylishly quirky decor

Close to Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, Ohla Boutique Bar delivers in style and substance: mixologist Giuseppe Santamaria (former shaker and stirrer at the Connaught) holds court behind the back-lit bar, deftly muddling slug-worthy cocktails for a groomed Barcelonian crowd. Deviating from the ubiquitous art deco architecture on Via Laietana, interiors err towards Dalí-esque surrealism, with modishly mad red tulip chairs, wine-crate-studded walls and chess-piece-shaped stools. Be sure to order Santamaria’s signature drink, the Bloomsbury Fizz, with gin, lemon and lime juice and a dash of ruby port.

World's best hotel bars | Smith Awards shortlist | The Zetter TownhouseTHE ZETTER TOWNHOUSE – LONDON, UK

Bar highlights Quintessentially eccentric interiors • Drinks designed by mad-scientist mixologist Tony Conigliaro • Cosy living-room-style setting

You’ll undoubtably feel at home in the Zetter Townhouse’s cocktail lounge; it’s styled as part of the grand abode of fabulously fun, yet fictional, doyenne Great Aunt Wilhelmina. Mixologist Tony Conigliaro’s fin de siècle tinctures, infusions and fixings, and designer Russell Sage’s decor – hand-painted wallpaper and tea-crate tables – make this a very fine drinking den indeed. The bar’s the heart of the Townhouse, and it’s the place to go for a little evening theatre: drinks served in all manner of dishware, exploding cocktails and quirky taxidermy keep luring punters to this curious Clerkenwell den.

World's best hotel bars | Smith Awards shortlist | The NoMad HotelTHE NOMAD HOTEL – NEW YORK, US

Bar highlights Brilliant, obscure-spirit-championing mixologist Leo Robitschek • Decadent turn-of-the-century decor • A lengthy microbrew menu

Now that the Elephant Bar has a little more breathing space, thanks to the new NoMad Bar, this dramatic drinking den is belle and laid-back. The looming mahogany pachyderms guarding the bar make getting a round in an experience in itself; and the cocktail menu is a fascinating read, thanks to mixologist Leo Robitschek’s passion for under-the-radar spirits, sought-after wines and craft-beer collaborations, which spotlight local breweries. We were rather taken with the Satan’s Circus cocktail – a sly wink at the nickname of the bar’s formerly brothel-riddled Broadway locale.

World's best hotel bars | Smith Awards shortlist | Das StueDAS STUE – BERLIN, GERMANY

Bar highlights A balcony that overlooks Berlin Zoo • Bang-on-trend live music and DJ nights • Twenties-inspired cocktail menu

Whether you’re seeking an aperitif after dining at Das Stue hotel’s highly renowned eatery Cinco, or you’re looking for somewhere cool to spend the night, the Stue Bar is just the ticket. Set in the 1930s-built Danish embassy, the hip mid-century modern-style bar puts a new spin on a ‘wild’ night out. Music from Berlin-native performers and DJs reflects the city’s ingrained hipness, and we were taken with quirky touches, such as little leather hippopotami. There’s also a terrace overlooking Berlin Zoo’s bird enclosure – so, if you see ostriches, you haven’t hit the Weimar-esque cocktail menu too hard.

World's best hotel bars | Smith Awards shortlist | Hotel LincolnTHE J PARKER, HOTEL LINCOLN, CHICAGO, US

Bar highlights On-high views • A spacious and sociable roof terrace • Considered cocktail menu

One might question the logic of naming a bar after J Parker – Abraham Lincoln’s disloyal bodyguard, who was drunk in a nearby tavern as the president was being assassinated – but what’s in a name, when you can enjoy lofty views of Lake Michigan and the Gold Coast from a dapperly dressed roof terrace. Perched on the 13th floor of Hotel Lincoln, elegant urbanites flock to the open-air sofas to sample beverage director Erin Hayes’ destination cocktail menu, which pulls inspiration from Mexico, Russia, Cuba and Spain. There’s an indoor bar too, but here it’s all about sightseeing from above.

The world’s most desirable hotel drinking-den will be announced at the Smith Hotel Awards on 7 November, so stay tuned. In the meantime, why not search the hotels with hip bars at Mr & Mrs Smith

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Hotel of the week: Aava Resort & Spa, Khanom

Posted by Sarah Jappy on October 24th, 2014

This week, we’re dreaming of pink dolphins and azure waters – better make the fantasy a reality with a trip to Aava Resort & Spa in beachy Khanom, whose powder-soft shores and looming limestone mountains guarantee holiday snaps worth bragging about. Just a ferry ride away from party-cool Koh Samui, Khanom’s waters are dotted with long-tail boats and the local fisherfolk, whose ancestors have traded here for around 800 years. Now it’s your turn.

Aava Resort & Spa, Khanom, Thailand

Style Perfect FinnishAava salas, Aava Resort & Spa, Thailand
 Nine-kilometre Nadan Beach

Why this week? The local, but extremely rare pink dolphins are popping their candy-coloured heads up near Khanom, meaning there’s never been a better time to visit the stunningly stylish Aava Resort. Soak up the spring sun’s rays by the beachside pool or explore gorgeous Nadan Beach before the crowds roll in. As further inducement, we’ve an exclusive Smith offer: 10 nights for the price of seven for stays from now until 9 April 2015 – just be sure to book before 30 November 2014.

Our favourite bits We’d be keeping Aava a secret if we could – its eye-bogglingly beautiful beach, brilliant Finnish owners and Scandinavian styling are just three of the highlights. The Poolside Villas are perfectly positioned for direct access to the water; there’s a ladder from each one and a private sun-deck that hints at sunny lunches. The beach is just seconds away, meaning you can swap between the two with ease. The food is nothing to frown at, either: the hotel has a culinary mentor programme, which sees international chefs stay for a few months to refresh the menu and teach the resort’s staff their art. Aava Resort & Spa pool, Khanom, ThailandOpen-air Aalto is an all-day affair – breakfast includes fruit and pastries from the bakery before a choice of main; lunch is a selection of nine amazing salads and dinner features ambitious fusion food. Then there’s the spa: stake out Aava’s single treatment room for a few hours – have a Thai or oil massage – and steam up in the Finnish sauna.

Mr & Mrs Smith say… ‘Of course, a hotel is more than its architecture and furnishings. At Aava, you’ll be charmed by the owners’ low-key brand of hospitality, you’ll be wowed by the chefs and the beachside dining, you’ll be seduced by Khanom’s serenity and you’ll be spoiled rotten in the spa. Even the resident dolphins are out of the ordinary, thanks to their rare baby-pink complexions…’ Read more about Aava Resort & Spa.*

See more Smith hotels in Thailand or browse all our hotel offers.

* Copy compiled by Emily Jacobs

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Top 10 eco hotels: the Smith Awards shortlist

Posted by Richard MacKichan on October 22nd, 2014

Smith Hotel Awards: the best-eco-friendly hotelsThey’re a good start, but you’ll need more than energy-saving lightbulbs and some garden-grown greens to be truly considered ‘eco-friendly’ these days. The hotels battling for the Eco Award in the Smith Hotel Awards 2014 display a commitment to conservation, a drive for sustainability and an all-encompassing ethical approach – without compromising on comfort.

From off-grid jungle lodges to community-spirited castle retreats, these are the 10 best eco-friendly hotels shortlisted by your public votes – the places where five-star treatment is extended to the environment as well as the guests…


Best eco-friendly hotels: Six Senses Con Dao, Vietnam


Eco highlights  Striving to meet a ‘zero waste’ sustainability goal  Biodegradable fish-food golf balls • Enforces the protection of rare dugongs

If you need proof of attention to eco-detail, look no further than the golf balls at Six Senses Con Dao – 48 hours after a wayward whack into the South China Sea, they biodegrade into fish food. Those same waters are home to severely threatened dugongs, and the resort does all it can to protect them, even helping restore their sea-grass feeding grounds after Hurricane Katherine.

Best eco-friendly hotels: Cuixmala, Mexico

CUIXMALA – Jalisco, Mexico

Eco highlights  Cuixmala’s own organic farms provide 75 per cent of the food • Local materials are used for everything from thatching to tiling Turtle protection program

Sir James Goldsmith’s sprawling plantation is the perfect A-list escape – and not just for humans. Zebras, caimans, antelopes and sea turtles are just a few of the species housed in – and protected by – the 25,000-acre Cuixmala wildlife sanctuary, with further programs in place to preserve the biodiverse forests and wetlands nearby. 

Best eco-friendly hotels: Sextatntio Albergo Diffuso, Italy


Eco highlights  Winner of The Eco Award 2013 • Promotes the region’s’ cultural heritage, once in danger of being forgotten •  The buildings are restored as authentically as possible using reclaimed materials

Rustic-luxe retreat Sextantio Albergo Diffuso won the Eco Award last year for the way it transformed an abandoned Apennine village – using local craftsmen and authentic methods – into one of Europe’s most unique stays. Not that the team are resting on their laurels this year; plans are afoot to apply the same sensitive approach to other vacant towns in southern Italy.

Best eco-friendly hotels: Kasbah du Toubkal

 KASBAH DU TOUBKAL – Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Eco highlights  Has made a real difference to the prospects of the community • Furniture made in the local village • Responsible tourism in action

Guests at Kasbah du Toubkal’s castle-conversion-with-a-conscience are invited to contribute to a number of innovative schemes which have already funded refuse collections, education initiatives and a local ambulance service, which has helped dramatically reduce the number of women dying in childbirth.

Best eco-friendly hotels: Gaia Riverlodge, Belize


Eco highlights  Most vegetables grown on-site Electricity is generated by a creek-powered hydro plant • Cultural tours highlight neighbouring communities

Perched among the trees in a protected jungle, Gaia Riverlodge – a series of luxe low-key cabins made mostly from native materials – is powered by a special hydro plant, serves food fetched from a well-stocked garden, swears by local suppliers and helps several community-development projects.

Best eco-friendly hotels: Soneva Fushi, Maldives


Eco highlights  Purpose-built system for recycling and waste management • Soneva Wellness Water initiative helps those without access to clean water Built using sustainably sourced wood

Soneva Fushi is part of the Maldives’ first protected marine area, and its self-sufficient water supply, sustainably-sourced materials and on-staff biologist are just a few of the measures taken to ensure the preservation of its pristine island surroundings.

Best eco-friendly hotels: El Silencio Lodge & Spa


Eco highlights  Guests are paired with their own eco concierge The lodge’s footprint was carefully mapped to avoid tree removal Most of the hotel’s grounds have been designated a private forest reserve

A private, wildlife-rich rainforest reserve takes up most of El Silencio’s 500 acres, acting as a biological corridor between two national parks. On site, eco-concierges lead guests on tree-planting trips, nearby farms provide most of the food and some strategically placed plants around the canopy-level cabins attract hummingbirds to your door.

Best eco-friendly hotels: The Scarlet, Cornwall

THE SCARLET – Cornwall, UK

Eco highlights  A biomass boiler, solar panels, heat recapture and heat exchangers are used • The walls are lined with locally-made art • Guests are encouraged to support local environmental charities

Though it’s set high on Cornish cliffs, The Scarlet keeps coastal chills at bay thanks to inventive heat-management processes and scores further eco points for its log-fired hot tubs, reed-filtered and chemical-free pool, ever-changing menu of local produce and continual championing of local environmental charities.

Best eco-hotels: Sal Salis, Ningaloo Reef, Australia

SAL SALIS – Ningaloo Reef, Australia

Eco highlights  A donation is given to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy for every guest staying 100 per cent solar power; no internet or hairdryers • Bathrooms feature hand-pump showers

Remote camp Sal Salis is an inspiring example of how to protect a fragile ecosystem – these luxury tents are 100 per cent solar powered, use composting toilets, have a tightly controlled water system and swear by chemical-free toiletries. Other guests aside, the only visitors are kangaroos, leaving you to enjoy the splendour of the reef in peace.

Best eco hotels: Inn at the Presidio, San Francisco


Eco highlights  Certified by the US Green Building Council Existing features re-used in renovation Almost everything used is sourced from within 20 miles

Inn at the Presidio is a statuesque former officers’ outpost that has tactically planted trees to maximise shade, sources virtually all of its supplies from within a 20-mile radius and uses shredded blue jeans for oh-so-American eco-friendly insulation.

We’ll be revealing all the winners of the Smith Hotel Awards 2014 on 7 November. In the meantime, if you’re inspired to book yourself a green escape, why not browse our full collection of eco-friendly hotels

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Top 10 hotel restaurants: the Smith Awards shortlist

Posted by Anthony Leyton on October 21st, 2014

The people have eaten, the public has spoken and the 10 most amazing hotel dining experiences in the world have been shortlisted and passed over to the Smith Hotel Awards judging panel. We’ll reveal the final winner here on 7 November, but while the judges chew over the contenders, cast a hungry eye over 2014’s official ‘Best Hotel Restaurant’ top 10. We asked you where gourmands should gather for great food and good times. This is what you said…

Best Hotel Restaurants: Bastide de MoustiersLA BASTIDE DE MOUSTIERS, PROVENCE, FRANCE

Gourmet highlights  Winner of the 2013 Smith award for Best Hotel Restaurant
Garden-fresh herbs and vegetables • Inspired seasonal menus

Given that the owner of this romantic Provençal inn, Alain Ducasse, holds more Michelin stars than any other chef in the world, it’s hardly surprising that the food is show-stopping. The restaurant, headed by one of Ducasse’s protégés, Christophe Martin, is a gastronome’s daydream that showcases the finest local produce in a daily changing menu of delectably inventive dishes. Vegetables, herbs and edible flowers are plucked from the gardens to ornament delectable dishes such as roasted young pigeon with polenta, beetroot and turnip. There’s no frippery or unnecessary extras; just simple, seasonal ingredients, intelligently prepared and served in a truly beautiful place.

World's Best Hotel Restaurants: Nahm at Metropolitan by COMO, BangkokNAHM AT METROPOLITAN BY COMO, BANGKOK, THAILAND

Gourmet highlights  One of the world’s best Thai chefs, David Thompson
Innovative spin on traditional Thai favourites • Extensive wine, cocktail and tea menu

With a voyeur’s view of the poolside and a gourmet’s grasp of rare, regional Thai cuisine, the hotel’s sleek ground-floor restaurant Nahm, headed up by esteemed Australian chef David Thompson, tops every visiting epicure’s to-do list (not to mention a fair few ‘Best Restaurant in Asia’ shortlists). Thompson is a Thai food obsessive (his now-closed London venue was the first Thai restaurant to earn a Michelin star), and Nahm’s extensive menu of delicately robust curries, zingy salads and superlative stir-fries takes you on an unforgettable tasting tour of Thailand.

Best Hotel Restaurants: Bells at KilcareBELLS AT KILLCARE, CENTRAL COAST, AUSTRALIA

Gourmet highlights  Runner-up for Best Hotel Restaurant in the 2013 Smith Hotel Awards • Tender wagyu beef from the Central Tablelands • Encyclopaedic wine list

The award-winning restaurant here has made this quiet spot on the Central Coast a point of pilgrimage. The grand main dining room, overlooking the gardens, is the spiritual heart of Bells at Killcare. But you’d be happy eating chef Stefano Manfredi’s food anywhere – robust duck and pork ragus, pan-fried veal, homemade gelati and antipasto plates that would feed a family. Italian heritage is overlaid with rigorous local and organic product sourcing, with highlights including Hawkesbury River oysters.

World's Best Hotel Restaurants: Lake House, Daylesford, AustraliaLAKE HOUSE, DAYLESFORD, AUSTRALIA

Gourmet highlights  Runner-up for Best Hotel Restaurant in the 2013 Smith Hotel Awards • Hand-picked kitchen-garden produce and rare-breed meats • Scintillating tasting menu and soothing views

Lake House hotel in Daylesford is the ideal furlough for exploring the produce and wine of rural Victoria. Fans travel for miles to indulge at chef Alla Wolf-Tasker’s multi-award-winning, lagoon-view restaurant. For the past 30 years, Wolf-Tasker has been the champion of local producers and almost everything on her modern Australian menu is grown in the region. The menu changes according to the season, but expect house-made charcuterie, heritage vegetables and fruits, local trout, eel and cheeses, free-range pork and wagyu beef.

World's Best Hotel Restaurants: Saint James ParisFLAVOURS AT SAINT JAMES PARIS, FRANCE

Gourmet highlights  Playfully opulent dining room
Triple Michelin-starred chef • Imaginative French menu

Flavours is a haven of flamboyant cosiness: leopard-print carpet, red-velvet chairs, boxy glass vases stuffed with fresh flowers, and sage-looking types painted in oils and hanging from the walls. Gourmet French classics are cooked and served with panache by thrice-starred chef Virginie Basselot. Her airy take on seasonal cuisine shows hints of exoticism in dishes such as stewed rabbit in sage aspic, duckling breast with lemon verbena, and sweets laced with yuzu, tonka beans and bergamot.

World's Best Hotel Restaurants: Borsari 36 at Palazzo Victoria, Verona


Gourmet highlights  Divine pasta and a gourmet grill
View Roman ruins while you dine • Brilliant for Sunday brunch

The airy grey-and-white Borsari 36 restaurant centres on an open kitchen, turning every diner into a guest of the chef. Also behind the menus at Il Salviatino in Florence, Carmine Caló (motto: ‘ingredients and imagination’) has won admiration for his take on Italy’s culinary tradition; there’s a particular emphasis on home-made pastas, and perfect grills from the open-air barbecue. In the courtyard, among olive trees and aromatic herbs, diners can gaze down at the Roman ruins below: it’s one of the best brunch spots in Verona.

World's Best Hotel Restaurants: Constance Le Prince MauriceLE BARACHOIS AT CONSTANCE LE PRINCE MAURICE, MAURITIUS

Gourmet highlights  Unique floating restaurant
Excellent Indian Ocean seafood Watch sea life swim by as you dine

 Le Prince Maurice has four restaurants, but by far the most spectacular is pontoon-perched Le Barachois. Down a lantern-lit walkway winding through mangroves, four wooden platforms float on the lagoon: the perfect sunset setting for romantic dining à deux. A lesser hotel might be tempted to let the scenery hold sway, but executive chef Michael Scioli’s expertly crafted cuisine is almost enough to pull focus from the scenery. The finest fresh seafood – Madagascar Faye Faye crab or grilled lobster – is drawn from the Indian Ocean. (And do keep an eye out for Johnny, the three-metre shark who can sometimes be spotted circling beneath you.)

World's Best Hotel Restaurants: Hartnett Holder & Co at Lime Wood, HampshireHARTNETT HOLDER & CO AT LIME WOOD, HAMPSHIRE, UK

Gourmet highlights  Produce cured and smoked on site
• Hand-reared meats and foraged ingredients • Celebrated chef duo of Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder

 If you had to choose a cheffy double-act to run a kitchen, you’d be hard-pressed to pick a more perfect pairing than Angela Hartnett (an alumna of Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing turned legend in her own right) and Luke Holder (fresh from doing stove-time at Tuscan three-star Enoteca Pinchiorri). At Hartnett Holder & Co, they plunder their British and Italian heritage, forage for fungi in neighbouring woods, hand-rear their meat and cure it in the onsite smokehouse to bring refined comfort food – on small, less formal plates – to the tables of their aristocratic-but-cosy dining room.

Best Hotel Restaurants: L'Olivo at Capri PalaceL’OLIVO AT CAPRI PALACE HOTEL & SPA, ITALY

Gourmet highlights  Capri’s only Michelin two-star
Sublime sea-view terrace• Strong emphasis on regional specialities and produce

Elegant L’Olivo, the only restaurant in Capri which has two Michelin stars, serves superlative Mediterranean cuisine from young chef Andrea Migliaccio. Bright, white, furnished with cosy armchairs and sofas, and festooned with luxurious cashmere, linen and cotton, the dining room spills out onto a terrace overlooking the pool and the isle of Ischia, the chef’s birthplace. As you’d expect for someone rooted in the region, Migliaccio crafts menus that are fiercely proud of Campania’s produce (the rabbits that abound on his native island frequently find their way into his ragu), and which showcase his technical proficiency and attention to detail. Even the breads are exquisite.

World's Best Restaurants: Hotel Healdsburg, CaliforniaDRY CREEK KITCHEN AT HOTEL HEALDSBURG, CALIFORNIA, US

Gourmet highlights  Fine-dining; unpretentious atmosphere • Wonderful wine cellar and no corkage fee for Sonoma wines • Farm-fresh locally sourced ingredients

Wedded to the land and changing with the seasons, the Modern American restaurant menu reflects the hotel’s Sonoma surroundings, tapping local farms for meats, veg, fruit and cheeses. Executive chef Dustin Valette is a Sonoma native, and handles a cornucopia of regional ingredients with aplomb. Scallops are a perennial favourite – whether pumped with black truffle oil or dusted in caramel popcorn powder and swimming in sweetcorn soup – and mains tend towards bold and ballsy flavour combinations that could easily overbalance in less meticulous hands.

TASTY TIPS  Oh, and while we’re on the subject of the finest hotel-restaurant kitchens in the universe, don’t miss our new free iPad app Great Global Chefs. Built by the chaps behind Great British Chefs and featuring recipes from 20 of the best Smith-hotel chefs around the world (including many of those featured on the awards shortlist), it’s the ultimate app for gallivanting gourmets keen to create restaurant-quality dishes at home. Download it now.

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Top 10 best spa hotels: the Smith Awards shortlist

Posted by Madevi Dailly on October 20th, 2014

Pavilions teetering above the Indian Ocean? Forest views from your treatment room? Hand-picked oils, seductive steam rooms, the best four-hand massage this side of Thailand? Whatever your spa style, our indulgent boutique retreats know a thing or two about delivering tension-busting, limb-smoothing, complexion-lifting afternoons of bliss. The public’s vote has helped us draw up a shortlist for the Smith Hotel Awards 2014 – here are the top 10 spa hotels we’ve fallen for this year.

Best spa hotels: Dormy House, Cotswolds UK

DORMY HOUSE – Cotswolds, UK

Favourite facilities Outdoor hydrotherapy pool • Mood-lit infinity pool • Personal-training studio • Tropical rain shower • Champagne nail bar

All honey-hued stone on the outside and clean-lined Scandi-chic on the inside, this newly opened retreat has placed Dormy House firmly on the Cotswolds spa map. The candlelit infinity pool may be its centrepiece, but the rhassoul-mud room, fragrant thermal suite, Veuve Clicquot nail bar and host of Temple Spa treatments are equally tempting.

Best spa hotels: Babington House, Somerset, UK


Favourite facilities Mud room • Detoxifying drench showers • Vast soaking baths • Indoor and outdoor swimming pools • TV-equipped manicure stations

Having relinquished its bovine occupants, Babington House’s Cowshed Spa is now a cosseting space decked out in country-cool exposed brick and chintz. Don’t be fooled by the cheekily named products – infused with botanical essential oils and herbs handpicked from the garden, the treatments here pack a serious pampering punch.

Best spa hotels: Como Shambhala Estate, Bali, Indonesia


Favourite facilities Treetop treatment pavilions • Outdoor hydrotherapy pools with canopy views • Jungle gyms • Yoga studios

Renowned for its back-to-nature approach, this cosseting, revivifying spa retreat flagship stole the show (and first prize) at last year’s awards with its outdoor balés and floating treatment rooms. Meditation classes by the river, heavenly scented products and east-meet-west therapies complement the totally tropical, thatched-pavilion, wall-to-wall luxury.

Best spa hotels: Lime Wood, Hampshire, UK

LIME WOOD – Hampshire, UK

Favourite facilities Double treatment room with steam room • Garden and outdoor bath • Outdoor steaming hot pool • Mud house • Rooftop herb garden for yoga and meditation

Hidden away in the heart of the New Forest, this sprawling spa was a runner up in last year’s awards. Natural materials bring the outside in; spread over three floors, Herb House has all the hydropool, therapeutic mud and forest-sauna bells and whistles to satisfy the most dedicated of pamperers.

Best spa hotels: Six Senses Samui, Koh Samui, Thailand

SIX SENSES SAMUI – Koh Samui, Thailand

Favourite facilities Ocean-facing couples’ treatment rooms • Yoga on the beach • Glass-fronted cabins

Perched above the canopy, this rustic-chic spa’s treehouse cabins overlook a sparkling rock-fringed bay. Locally-inspired treatments are indulgent and expertly delivered: choose from honey-rich facials, cleansing tamarind wraps and traditional Nuad Thai massages, best taken alfresco on the breeze-kissed private salas.

Best spa hotels: Castello del Nero, Tuscany, Italy

CASTELLO DEL NERO – Tuscany, Italy

Favourite facilities Portico-sheltered hydrotherapy pool • Aromatic steam room • Hill-view gym

Surrounded by greenery, this castle retreat’s whisper-quiet treatment rooms are a cool haven in wood, glass and stone. Outside, soothe tired limbs in the bubbling hydrotherapy pool, which overlooks verdant vineyards and olive groves, before snuggling up in the relaxation room with views of the rolling Tuscan hills.


Best spa hotels: Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives


Favourite facilities Glass-floor treatment rooms • Yoga and meditation champa • Steam room and sauna • Ocean-view relaxation room

Meera Spa’s overwater treatment rooms are the stuff of Maldivian fantasies: perched over crystalline waters, six thatch-roofed cabins offer knot-kneading massages, gentle facials and seaweed-based body treatments. Ask for a massage table with a glass floor, so you can spy on the fish darting around beneath you, or opt for the private, open-air double treatment room on the beach, shielded by greenery.

Best spa hotels: Huvafen Fushi, Maldives


Favourite facilities Underwater treatment rooms • Saltwater flotation pool • Onsen shower • Yoga pavilion

Miraculously clear lagoons, pristine house reefs and overwater pavilions are a given in the Maldives, but, with its unique underwater treatment rooms, Huvafen Fushi’s Lime Spa manages to impress even the most jaded of jet-setters. After a tension-busting, sigh-inducing massage, float away in the glass-walled relaxation pods to a ballet of clownfish and stingrays.

Best spa hotels: Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, Australia

SOUTHERN OCEAN LODGE – Kangaroo Island, Australia

Favourite facilities Steam room • Chill-out lounge • Glass showers with ocean views

Perched on a secluded cliff and reached by a long boardwalk winding through a patch of unspoilt Kangaroo Island wilderness, this luxurious retreat takes care to tread lightly. Fragrant facials, mud wraps and massages are inspired by the Aboriginal Dreamtime – a living tradition with a deep holistic connection to the earth.


Best spa hotels: Fusion Maia Resort, Hoi An, Vietnam


Favourite facilities Private Jacuzzis • Beauty salons • Yoga studio

Set in a lush tropical garden with a soothing waterfall, Fusion Maia’s day spa is the largest in Central Vietnam, with steam rooms, saunas and 16 treatment rooms. Irresistibly, all spa services are included in the room rate, from manicures and massages to all-out pampering sessions, including a seven-day holistic program.

Find out who’ll win our judges’ hearts when we reveal the Smith Hotel Awards winners on 7 November…. or browse more stress-busting boutique spa hotels at


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Top 10 hotel pools: the Smith Awards shortlist

Posted by Kate Weir on October 19th, 2014

Top 10 best hotel pools | Smith Hotel Awards 2014 We asked you to vote for the hotel pools that won your heart, for the Smith Hotel Awards 2014, and you dived right in… We can now commence the drum roll to announce your top 10 spots to soak – and maybe sneak a skinny-dipping session – in, with the shortlist for our new category, Best Hotel Pool. So, read on to find photogenic poolsides, infinity edges overlooking gasp-eliciting views and waterside waiters who are quick on the draw…


Top 10 best hotel pools | Capella SingaporeFoster + Partners – the architectural genies behind the ‘Gherkin’ – conjured up Capella Singapore’s infinity-edged pools, which cascade over three tiers. Set on peaceful Sentosa Island, overlooking the South China Sea, the pools are lounger-lined and tree-shaded.


Top 10 best hotel pools | Six Senses Yao NoiThis castaway-chic stay’s pool overlooks the limestone pinnacles of Phang Nga bay; dip in and you’ll feel as though you’re about to swim off the edge. Gaze out at craggy islands jutting from the ocean in between laps, or from a pagoda-shaded day-bed.


Top 10 best hotel pools, Smith Hotel Awards 2014 | The SarojinLined with aquamarine tiles and surrounded by tropical greenery, this gasp-eliciting pool has Thai pavilion islands with white curtains, removable roofs, and sunloungers, for blissful basking à deux. After sundown, lanterns illuminate the fairy-tale setting.


Top 10 hotel pools | ClivedenThis hidden heated pool is set in the arbour that ignited the Profumo affair, it’s flanked by stone cherubim, pretty pavilions and sunloungers, and waiters happily whisk drinks and snacks to guests. Elegant and aristocratic, with hint of scandal – it’s a true Smith classic.


Top 10 best hotel pools | Borgo Santo PietroEchoing the serpentine wend of the Merse river nearby, the hotel‘s free-form freshwater infinity pool blends into its landscaped surrounds. Sunloungers and parasols surround this all-natural pool, and its bar allows sun-soaked lazing with a glass of wine.


Top 10 best hotel pools | Cap Estel Cap Estel’s saltwater infinity pool cleaves into the Ligurian, luring sunbathers away from the hotel’s private beach. Open from May until mid-October, with white sunloungers and an inlaid Jacuzzi, there’s no better spot to watch gazillionaires’ yachts drift by.


Top 10 hotel pools | AmankilaTiered, slate-lined infinity pools cascade down the side of this cliffside sanctuary, which overlooks the Lombok Strait. It’s a fashion-shoot favourite, with palm-leaf-shaped parasols and thatched balé pavilions, and après-swim Bali-style afternoon tea is served.


Top 10 best hotel pools | Monastero Santa RosaInfinity pools are rarely more stunning than this heated high-rise. Set on a clifftop with jaw-dropping views, it resembles a length of shoreline melting into the azure Amalfi horizon. Its beach-like edge has panoramic views, stretching from Ravello to Positano.


Top 10 hotel pools | PerivolasAn elegant foil to the hotel’s Gaudí-contoured villas, the infinity pool has heart-stoppingly beautiful caldera views and appears to flow straight into the Aegean. Surrounded by terraced gardens, it’s a devastatingly romantic setting to watch Oia’s sunsets.


Top 10 hotel pools | Eagles NestThe Presidential Villa’s 25-metre heated lap pool is our most wanted; holding its own against the glittering turquoise Bay of Islands, yet blending seamlessly into the headland. Day-beds and lanterns add a dash of romance too.

If you’re eager to find out the Smith Hotel Awards winners, all will be revealed on 7 November 2014. In the meantime, why not search for a good spot to show off your bikini (or board shorts) in our hotels with pools collection, or find retreats with private pools

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Palazzo Margherita, Basilicata: hotel of the week

Posted by Rachel Juarez-Carr on October 17th, 2014

Well, would you look at these magical new photos we’ve just received of Basilicatan wonderland Palazzo Margherita, Francis Ford Coppola’s rareified Baroque bolthole… Can’t you just picture yourself wandering serenely at sunset through that fern-edged courtyard? We can, and we think you look magnificent.

Palazzo Margherita hotel in Basilicata, Italy

Style Don-worthy decadence
Setting Coppola’s ancestral comune

Why this week? Why not? As winter draws ever nearer, there are few finer spots to catch the last rays of autumn sun than the hills of beauteous Basilicata. And, when night falls, you’ll feast on fantastic fare: food’s serious business in Italy, of course, so make the most of the focus on fine gastronomy with a candlelit dinner in your palatial home-from-home’s historic gardens. The next day, learn to bake pizza like a local (margherita, perhaps?): our exclusive foodie offer is open till the end of the month.

Palazzo Margherita hotel in Basilicata, Italy Palazzo Margherita hotel in BasilicataFrancis Ford Coppola's Palazzo Margherita hotel in ItalyOur favourite bits Take a flower-scented dip in the outdoor pool hidden at the foot of the hotel’s sprawling gardens. There’s a bar close by the secluded swimming area, so you can kick back on a day-bed with a cocktail while gazing out over the winding fruit tree-lined pathways and gently swaying palms. As for where to sleep, Suite Four was designed by Sofia Coppola (Francis’ daughter and acclaimed director) and has a spacious bathroom with a hammam and chromatherapy shower. The decor is lavish yet tasteful, with pastel-shaded frescoes, chevron floor tiles, lacy wall friezes and a small garden-view terrace. And if Mr Smith feels like his style needs an upgrade to fit in among the finery, he can call on the services of top tailor Angelo Inglese, who regularly visits the palazzo to personalise picks from his collection to fit stylish guests.

Mr & Mrs Smith say… ‘We roll off the bar stools and into our suite. Mr Smith immediately sets to work fathoming the Loewe telly with the expertise of a Bletchley Park code breaker, and locates a lengthy list of movies – mainly Italian classics – which has been personally curated by Coppola. The bed is quite spectacularly large, although in this room it only just looks big enough. ‘I wonder if there’s a severed horse’s head in there?’ I remark wittily, but the Godfather reference is lost on Mr Smith. Having discovered the complimentary Santa Maria Novella toiletries, I have a soak in the roll-top Devon & Devon bathtub. Mr Smith decides to road test the shower, which is more sit-in than walk-in, with a Silvestrin-inspired marble bench.’ Read interiors whiz Faye Toogood’s full anonymous Palazzo Margherita hotel review…

Explore our collection of hotels in Italy or search all Mr & Mrs Smith hotel offers.

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Travel with #SmithTaste and win Smith vouchers!

Posted by Rachel Juarez-Carr on October 17th, 2014

#smithtaste food photography competition

We love food – eating it, cooking it… even just looking at pictures of it.

And now we’d like to see your best food pictures: post ‘em on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and add the tag #SmithTaste from now till Friday, 24 October. Our favourite foodie snap will win a £250/$400 voucher to use at any of the 950+ hotels in our global collection.

Hungry for inspiration? Download the new Great Global Chefs iPad app from Great British Chefs, and explore our handy Travelling with Taste feature for more delicious dishes worldwide.

#smithtaste food photography competition

Made a mouthwatering meal? Snap it, post it, tag it. Dined on something delicious? Ditto. (And if it’s at a Smith hotel, even better!)

The winning shot will be chosen by Great British Chefs’ founder and CEO Ollie Lloyd, and will be posted right here along with the tastiest runners-up in all their appetite-whetting glory on Tuesday, 28 October.

Bon appétit!

Photos by Lucy Fennings, Juliet Kinsman and Rachel Juarez-Carr

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Top 10 best-dressed boutique hotels

Posted by Lucy Fennings on October 16th, 2014

The votes are in! If you’re one of the 22,000 travel-loving hotel fans who responded to our Smith Hotel Awards 2014 survey, you’ll no doubt be eager to learn which boutique boltholes and stylish weekend stays made it into the top 10 shortlists. Well, wait no longer – we can now reveal the hotels you chose to champion – kicking off with the world’s most stylish hotel interiors.

We polled the public on their favourite design hotels (check out the Best-Dressed Hotel category criteria and nominees here) to find out which boutique beauty wowed with its worldly decor: here are the 10 that received the most votes, and that are currently causing heated discussion among our panel of expert judges…

Best hotel design: Ace Hotel London Shoreditch


Design highs Universal Design Studio’s structural design savvy and street-level façade • Max Lamb bar design; Philippe Malouin lighting • Honey-coloured wood-panelled Hoi Polloi restaurant

Ace Hotel group’s instantly identifiable brand of retro flavour exported to the British capital’s coolest postcode: what’s not to love? The decor breakdown reads like a Shoreditch hipster’s homeware wish-list (Photobooth? Check. Vintage turntables? Of course), the design details are largely local collaborations, and it’s all delivered at sanity-preserving prices. Staff sport John Smedley and Hancock, a host of British designers have contributed details large (Max Lamb’s bar) and small (Ally Capellino’s coin trays), and there’s a calendar of music events in the basement venue.

Best hotel design: riad El Fenn, MarrakechEL FENN, MARRAKECH, MOROCCO

Design highs  Incredible modern art collection • Lush courtyard garden • Traditional craftsmanship: camel-leather flooring, Berber rugs, intricate tile work Considered design; every creature comfort

A patchwork labour of love incorporating the restoration of a derelict riad, a creative’s dream of an art collection and a bohemian sophisticate’s colour palette, El Fenn flies the flag for bold and beautiful interiors. Traditional tadelakt and carved cedarwood in eye-popping hues form the backdrop for the owners’ scintillating fine-art stash. With sculpture, paintings and photography by David Shrigley, Bridget Riley, Frances Upritchard, Antony Gormley, Batoui S’Himi and William Kentridge to look at, it’s a wonder any of the delightful decor gets a look-in…

Best hotel design: Saffire, Australia


Design highs  A back-to-nature design manifesto, brilliantly executed • Bespoke eco-lighting; special commissions include a collaborative installation by Hobart sculptor Judith Abell and Futago • Woven textiles featuring Freycinet-found fauna

Set in one of Tasmania’s most spectacular bays, Saffire has a lot to compete with; but the genius of its architecture and interiors is that they perfectly frame, complement and riff on their heart-stopping surroundings. Outside, Circa architects’ curvilinear structures take the form of a soft-skinned stingray chasing waves; inside, colours and lines drawn from nature – the pink-granite peaks of the Hazard Mountains, silver-white sands, emerald-blue waves – give definition to an organic, elemental design scheme. Raffia-wrapped cushions, bespoke fabrics, leather, wood and iconic mid-century pieces keep the look grounded and contemporary.

Best hotel design: Crosby Street NYCROSBY STREET HOTEL, NEW YORK, US

Design highs Orange-leather Poltrona Frau-seated screening room • Oak-floored, pewter-countered Crosby Bar Hand-picked art and objets, including Bakelite phone/lamp hybrid

Bold prints plus bright palette, used with clever restraint and British wit: Kit Kemp has transported her trademark design style to a New York setting and let rip. Crosby Street is one of Smith’s favourite Firmdale outposts, thanks to its eco credentials and NY swagger. Everywhere you look there’s something eye-catching: a signature tailor’s dummy, clad in graphic-strewn calico; a giant pooch painting, as aristocratic as a Gainsborough; a suite with a meadow-inspired garden on the terrace. It’s English whimsy, made for Manhattan.

Best hotel design: JK Roma, Italy JK PLACE ROMA, ITALY

Design highs  Chic mid-century Mad Men-riffing bar • Carrara marble bathrooms; Massimo Listri photography • Michele Bönan’s skilful translation of period features

Architetto eclecttico Michele Bönan’s exemplary take on Italian glamour – appropriately housed in what was once Rome university’s school of architecture – transforms classrooms into elegant bedrooms packed with modish furniture, antique sculptures and striking colour combinations. JK Place Roma is a visual expression of historic Rome: timeless, art-packed and beautiful to behold. But a modern mix of mid-century references, pencil-post tester beds, antique Berber rugs and fabulous fabrics plants JK Place’s brand of luxury firmly in the 21st century.

Best hotel design: The Siam, BangkokTHE SIAM, BANGKOK, THAILAND

Design highs  Singular design, with breathtaking clarity of vision, but never forced: it’s pitch perfect and shows real passion • Ming porcelain, Neolithic pottery, antiquarian Thai books and 16th-century sculptures • Vintage ephemera from train posters to royal palace menus

If Noël Coward was holidaying in Thailand, he’d book a suite at The Siam, a swellegant, dandy affair inspired by the Jazz age. As if its great looks weren’t enough, this poised pad also boasts an unbeatable location on Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River. Bill Bensley’s trad-modern interiors team smart black-and-white tiles with stone, dark wood and sensual water features, organised around a jaw-dropping central courtyard. Peppered throughout this design-award magnet are museum-worthy artworks and antiques from creative director Krissada Clapp’s personal collection. Wow-worthy extras include the city’s only pool villas, Sodashi spa, screening room, private pier, a cookery school and muay Thai boxing ring.

Best hotel design: Portrait Firenze, ItalyPORTRAIT FIRENZE, ITALY

Design highs  Hand-picked Carrara marble in bathrooms • Bespoke Tosconova furniture, made in Italy • Historic photographic collection

In a modern building on the site of an ancient palazzo on the banks of the Arno, master of detail Michele Bönan alludes to the birth of Italian haute couture with elegant, pared-back interiors in a subtle palette of grey. As at Portrait’s sister hotels, the design stars here at Fifties-style fashionista Portrait Firenze are the totemic black and white photographs, sourced by art historian Nina Screti from original 1950s and 1960s archives. They are perfectly showcased beside the impeccably cut fabrics that dress windows and adorn sofas – each one made to measure with the finesse of a fashion atelier.

Best hotel design: Alila Villas Uluwatu, BaliALILA VILLAS ULUWATU, BUKIT PENINSULA, BALI

Design highs  Eye-catching over-water bar • Serious eco-chic credentials • Serenely minimalist interiors

Staking a stylish claim on Bali’s rugged Bukit Peninsula, last year’s Best-Dressed award-winner Alila Villas Uluwatu is a cool, contemporary cliffhanger of a resort that delivers dramatic eco-friendly design in a jaw-dropping setting. It’s all beautiful, but the bar is the most remarkable element – the cliff-edge construction juts out over the Indian Ocean and is all reclaimed wood and bamboo frames (it looks a bit like a bird’s nest on steroids, and is instantly Instagrammed by almost everyone who goes there). The panoramic views are incredible, of course.

Best design hotels: Saint James ParisSAINT JAMES PARIS, FRANCE

Design highs  Traditional artisan finishes with a contemporary twist • Montgolfier-striped, balloon-style marquees in the grounds • Country château feel, in the heart of Paris

Saint James Paris has always had lofty ambitions: in previous lives, the Neoclassical building has been an intellectual boot-camp for budding French boffins; before that, it was the site of the city’s first airfield, from where Montgolfier’s iconic hot-air balloons flew. In its contemporary guise as cultured city-château hotel, it’s still flying high. Designer Bambi Sloan’s bohemian dreamscape hurls colour and pattern around with gay (Parisian) abandon: she was given carte blanche, and the overall effect is delightful and transporting. Yes, it’s grandiose – but the hotel still has an enviably relaxed and welcoming atmosphere: it’s a fantasy home-from-home, the country residence of an eccentric inventor you’d be less surprised to encounter in a Roald Dahl or Lemony Snicket tale.


Design highs  Living Divani, Kartell and Cassina furnishings • Vintage Asian and Persian rugs; original 19th-century tiles • Contemporary art installations and bespoke Totem technology

Part 19th-century landmark, part 21st-century architectural showcase, Amsterdam’s luxurious but laid-back Conservatorium hotel houses a top-tier restaurant and hip holistic spa. This former bank and music academy’s Neo-Gothic structure, Art Nouveau tiles and contemporary steel staircases synchronise perfectly to create a hip city hangout with a historic heart. Architect-designer Piero Lissoni daintily doffs his cap to the Dutch Golden Age, with references to Holland’s trading heritage. The full-height atrium space is a thrilling mix of original brickwork and soaring glass; and the contemporary design classics, mid-century pieces and antique objets aren’t so much ‘on display’ here as ‘at home’ – it is in no way try-hard, and the gob-smacking scale of the place never overwhelms. In short, it’s bloody clever.

Find out who’ll win our judges’ hearts when we reveal the Smith Hotel Awards winners on 7 November…. or browse more beautiful boutique hotels at


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