It’s now only a few hours until we reveal the best hotel in the world… As Smith HQ goes into a frenzy of party preparation, champagne chilling and gong engraving ahead of this evening’s Smith Hotel Awards announcements and prize-giving celebrations, we bring you the public-voted shortlist for this year’s ultimate boutique hotel title: Best Smith Hotel 2014.
Here’s why we think these top 10 boutique hotels should win – but don’t just take our word for it: check out what other voters had to say, too. Which one do you think will be crowned champion?
ALILA VILLAS ULUWATU, BALI, INDONESIA
You said… ‘You could be in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and this place would make you forget all of it. This is heaven on earth’ – Celeste Toffanello
‘It’s the most amazing place I have ever been to. It has earth-friendly architecture that doesn’t sacrifice design. Creative, relaxing and accommodating – it will knock you off your feet. Staff meet your every need and make your stay as amazing as possible’
– Jeff Carmelo David
This architectural marvel stakes a stylish claim on the rugged Bukit Peninsula, and was a major contender at last year’s awards, scooping Best-Dressed Hotel 2013 as well as a runner-up spot for Best Smith Hotel. It’s a much-loved fantasy escape, a stand-out future design classic, and the iconic bar gets it top spot on many a Smith member’s wish-list.
Why should this hotel win? Each villa echoes the dramatic modernist look of the main buildings, with private pools sunk into leafy, day-bed-bedecked terraces. Each villa has elegant minimalist interiors and a butler on call. If your in-villa pool isn’t dreamy enough, slip into the cliff-top infinity pool, followed by authentic Indonesian fare in the sultry restaurant. Did we mention the spa? Just US$200 a day buys you unlimited sessions with their therapists (there are also special kids’ treatments). There are also free daily yoga sessions but if this is a tad too healthy for you, your personal butler isn’t averse to delivering some late-night drinks.
QUALIA, GREAT BARRIER REEF, AUSTRALIA
You said… ‘Whenever I think of or hear the name, Qualia, it instantly brings in a rush of happiness and a big smile. It’s perfection. The best service that I have ever had, in combination with an extraordinary concierge, Penny, in the most beautiful setting, helped to create memories that will last a lifetime’ – Lauren Piper
‘Perfect setting, exquisitely designed guest pavilions… Qualia has no comparison and should be on the bucket list of every seasoned traveller’ – Joe Matula
This hip Hamilton hotel has shown up in categories from Sexiest Bedroom to Above and Beyond – and this is its second time in the Best Smith Hotel spotlight. Built by billionaires, the high-end island hideaway spares no expense making the most of its utterly spectacular setting, among acres of breath-taking natural beauty.
Why should this hotel win? Qualia makes people passionate: voters heaped not only praise but respect and genuine love on Qualia – and almost every comment featured an engagement, anniversary or misty-eyed memory. With as many staff as guests, everyone gets VIP treatment; elegantly outfitted Pavilions (each with a private sundeck) are perfectly placed for Coral Sea gazing, and hidden among the hillside greenery, which guests explore by golf buggy, there’s a spa with indigenous treatments. Qualia also offers imaginative Australian fine dining and a well-stocked wine cellar.
THE AMPERSAND HOTEL, LONDON, UK
You said… ‘They care about your stay. It’s easy to make a hotel look nice, but it’s much harder to make it feel nice. Immaculate boutique hotel in a stunning location. A winner every time’ – Ian Burgess
‘The best hotel I’ve stayed in in the world (and I’ve been to a fair few!). Staff are wonderfully friendly and knowledgable. The interiors are gorgeous, the beds are luxurious, and the little touches make all the difference. Honestly, this hotel is just pure joy. I can’t wait to go back again (and again, and again…)’ – Heather Noonan-Hargroves
Set in a peaceful position within walking distance of museums, shops and cafés, the Ampersand’s charms include a pretty tea salon with excellent cakes, a brilliant basement restaurant with clever cocktails, and bright bedrooms with blissfully comfy beds.
Why should this hotel win? Since it opened, the Ampersand has impressed by ticking all the boxes required of a great Smith stay: it’s independent, stylish but unpretentious, has a great location, and serves knock-out cocktails in a relaxed atmosphere. Chef Chris Golding’s lovingly crafted menu for Apero scores extra points for its tasty sharing plates and hip NY-style decor. Voters consistently mentioned the friendly service and the attention to detail that made their stay, from the in-room extras (treats from the chef; rubber ducks; great minibars) to the borrowable brollies (with tongue-in-cheek ‘cats and dogs’ print).
UXUA CASA HOTEL & SPA, BAHIA, BRAZIL
You said… ‘Tropical birds singing in my bathroom, sloths in the garden, funny monkeys waiting for a banana during breakfast and huge turtles in the sea… Uxua’s amazing’ – Giulio Volpe
‘I love the backstory: I’m drawn to a place whose founder has a passion for the people, place, and history. Wilbert Das does such a phenomenal job integrating the indigeneity of Trancoso with his rustic vision of sustainability. And the spa amenities are a plus!’ – Cydney Hedgpeth
Tucked between clifftop Trancoso village and postcard-perfect Bahian beaches, beautiful bolthole Uxua Casa is a collection of restored fisherman’s casas and treehouses bestowed with island-chic interiors worthy of Wallpaper*.
Why should this hotel win? Another repeat visitor to the Smith Hotel Awards, this Best-Dressed nominee has a strong style pedigree, courtesy of Diesel’s former creative director. Bahian detailing – mini stained-glass windows and small oratorios – add a traditional touch to rustic-chic villas, which include features such as outdoor showers, private plunge pools and repurposed eucalyptus-branch pipes to create breathtaking eco-friendly boltholes. All-natural spa treatments in tree-flanked pavilions, a glittering aventurine-quartz-lined pool and inventive Brazilian cuisine (using garden-gathered ingredients) in informal surroundings have turned this former hippie haven into a hip hangout.
LAKE HOUSE, DAYLESFORD, AUSTRALIA
You said… ‘This exquisite hotel suits its breathtaking rural setting. The service was exceptional – professional, friendly and casual – and the restaurant was outstanding’ – Georgina Dircks
‘Everything was magical – the staff were warm and friendly, every meal was great, and the room’s garden surrounds were so romantic’ – Glenys Morphett
‘The hotel exceeded our expectations, with its impeccable service, imaginative meals, outstanding wine selection, beautiful accommodation and blissful spa’ – Judith Galloway
Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker’s culinary genius has lured in-the-know foodies to rural Daylesford for 30 years and counting. However, this hotel will sate more than one sense, with Salus spa’s treetop hot tubs and its soul-soothing countryside.
Why should this hotel win? Waiters will happily natter about foraging, farmers use the kitchen’s open-door policy to donate windfall produce and the six-acre garden is more like a farm – there’s no better destination for a gastronomic getaway. Wolf-Tasker’s championing of Victoria’s diverse produce secured a Best Hotel Restaurant nomination; however, Lake House’s place in the Best Smith Hotel top 10 was won by the peaceful and green lakeside setting – where kookaburras graze – romance-inspiring rooms, the spa’s treetop hot tubs and lauded staff, including a switched-on sommelier – all the right ingredients to win.
1888 HOTEL, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
You said… ‘Perfectly located; exceptional service and gorgeous rooms with excellent facilities. 1888 has totally renewed my belief in the personal touch being found in Sydney. I can not rave about it enough’ – Jennifer Sheppard
‘An edgy, interesting hotel (which provides a great experience), a wonderful re-use of a heritage building (which provides emotional satisfaction) and an eminently home-like environment (which provides an urge to stay longer)’ – Bruce Curtis
1888 Hotel was built in, yup, 1888, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about its gorgeous young staff or vibrant interior. The hotel champions old and new Australia, with reclaimed Ironbark beams and period windows in rooms, and a smart bar menu. And it’s smack-dab in the heart of Pyrmont, putting you within rambling reach of the city’s best restaurants and bars.
Why should this hotel win? This is an historic hotel, but it has thoroughly modern credentials: each room comes complete with its own iPad, and there’s a designated selfie spot in the lobby. But they haven’t forgotten the basics: the food is delicious, and the bedrooms stylish and cosy.
THE SAROJIN, PHANG NGA, THAILAND
You said… ‘They work together with local charities. All staff get to stay a couple of days in the hotel to experience what it’s all about. And you can tell they love working there. It’s not a hotel: it’s a big family’ – Joris Laenen
‘It was a dream come true. We had an amazing holiday: food was incredible, location out of this world and service the best and most attentive I have ever experienced. The beach was amazing and a beautiful setting for dinner, and the spa is a world-beater’ – Angie Robinson
The Sarojin is sitting pretty in the top 10 for Best Hotel Pool – not least for its veil-swathed poolside pavilions – but this wish-fulfilling resort on Phang Nga’s coast
has oh so much more to experience: a floating spa, daydream-worthy dining and a mind-reading level of service. ‘Tranquil’ doesn’t begin to cover it…
Why should this hotel win? Your assigned ‘imagineer’ will craft a personalised itinerary for your stay, with a host of activities, ranging from simple sightseeing to white-knuckle thrills. Soothing Thai massage rituals in an award-garlanded spa, dining à deux on a private island or chartered yacht, and high-octane jungle-set adventures – all conjured up by genie-like staff, in a luxuriant tropical setting – are just some of the Sarojin’s winning qualities; add a beatific Phang Nga setting, and spoiling that starts before check-in, and you have a strong contender indeed.
CALCOT MANOR, COTSWOLDS, UK
You said… ‘I now compare every hotel I stay in to Calcot, and none live up to its amazing service, fabulous activities and outstanding food’ – Amanda Heard
‘Home as you would dream it’ – Aislinh Bucknell
‘Whether we visit in the winter and sit star-gazing in the outdoor hot tub, or in the summer, when we can cycle through the rolling hills, it will always be our number one’ – Sally Skan
Hotels that swear ‘nothing is too much trouble’ are often sorely tested when faced with screaming toddlers, yet voters have used almost every superlative in the dictionary to describe the attention to child-friendly detail, with the remainder applied liberally to lavish praise on the award-winning, parent-pampering spa.
Why should this hotel win? Calcot wins hearts time and time again for its brilliant, classic mix of style, service and comfort. It’s a romantic weekend destination, a firm family favourite and a long-time Smith love. Don’t feel like fancy fare? Cosy up in the open-hearthed gastropub. On a romantic retreat? The main house has couples-only rooms. Need to distract hyperactive infants? There are activities aplenty. Calcot Manor caters to every whim for every age.
SECRET BAY, DOMINICA
You said… ‘Sleeping in the middle of a rainforest atop a volcanic island and rolling onto the beach whenever one fancies is almost impossible to beat‘ – Mark Lam
‘We felt happily cocooned in a hidden, private world that was oh-so-luxurious and stunningly beautiful’ – Jackie Henry
‘Simply the most perfect, romantic and enchanting vacation we have ever had’ – Tara Riddle
This eco-luxury resort is tucked deep among groves of fruit trees and tropical flora in a verdant off-the-grid patch of Dominican jungle, where peace and privacy are offered in spades and the panoramas are as near perfect as you’ll get.
Why should this hotel win? The soaking tub for two, the sea-facing king-size beds, the deserted beaches – even the most affection-averse will come over all Casanova in these romantic surrounds. Add to that a chef who’ll cater to your every craving, a jazz band who’ll serenade you on your terrace and massages on tap and it’s no wonder Secret Bay is hailed as a honeymoon haven.
DORMY HOUSE, COTSWOLDS, UK
You said… ‘Beautiful and very charming. The staff are amazing, nothing is too much hassle. If I could stay at one place for the rest of my life, Dormy House would be it’ – Abbi Yates
‘A magical Cotswolds location; a place to create memories; wonderful food and accommodation… it is our second home’ – Neil Clarke
With nominations for Best Newcomer and Best Spa Hotel already under its belt, the Cotswolds’ most appealing re-opening was a shoo-in for this winner-takes-all category. A honey-hued 17th-century farmhouse turned beautiful boutique bolthole, Dormy House has a destination spa, 400 acres of gorgeous grounds, and romance in spades.
Why should this hotel win? Spaces given a twice-over by the design talents of Todhunter Earle are a refreshingly elegant update on classic Cotswolds style; the grounds are presided over by eminent gardener Chris Beardshaw; and the kitchen’s helmed by talented chef Jon Ingram. Fast-becoming a Smith favourite, Dormy House’s laid-back take on luxury charms and impresses in equal measure.
Find out which hotel is crowned Best Smith Hotel 2014 – and see all the other category winners – live on Twitter tonight, or by visiting the Smith Hotel Awards site first thing tomorrow!