Hopefully, you are by now familiar with the idea that Mr & Mrs Smith has a panel of independent hotel reviewers (if not, check out the post on our hotel reviewer Dita Von Teese; or peek at one of our Smith review posts).
We’re planning to introduce you to our secret hotel spies and let you read a snippet of their boutique hotel review from time to time (hopefully a little bit more frequently than we’ve managed so far!). Our globetrotting tastemakers and connoisseurs of cool are a stylish, highly selective bunch who know a romantic guesthouse or city luxury hotspot when they see one, so we know you’ll enjoy meeting them.
Following hot (ahem) on the super-high and saucy heels of burlesque beauty Dita Von Teese, we bring you the original ‘Mr Nice’, the legendary Loaded columnist, author and bon vivant Howard Marks. To quote the Daily Mail (not something we do often), he’s ‘a folk legend… He sounds like Richard Burton and looks like a Rolling Stone’. Kick off with his brief blography, and move on to savour a snippet from his review of Masseria Torre Coccaro, a family-friendly boutique hotel in Puglia. Finish off with an extract from Riad el Fenn, guiding you round this creative-luxe riad in Marrakech.
Howard’s experience of overnight accommodation is singular, following several years as an international fugitive staying in five-star hotels throughout south-east Asia; then nine years in European and United States prisons. ‘Mr Nice’ has written several books about his experiences and, over the past decade or so, he has penned travel articles for The Observer, Time Out, and The Daily Telegraph on South America and the Caribbean – as well as taking on under-the-covers assignments for Mr & Mrs Smith, of course.
An open 17th-century chapel beamed out light and revealed crucifixes, while white-tuxedo-clad men and elegantly dressed Italian models crowded around the massive grand piano that dominated a fairy-lit courtyard… The hotel was hosting a full-scale wedding. Couples whirled rapidly in a clockwise circle around the courtyard, accompanied by the hectic rhythms of tambourines and mandolins. Then they suddenly stopped and whirled anticlockwise for a while, before changing direction again. ‘That’s the dance they did in The Godfather,’ said Mrs Smith. ‘It must be a Mafia wedding. How exciting!’ There’s nothing like letting your imagination run a little wild to kick-start a Smith sojourn in Puglia…
In a terrace adorned with large wicker baskets and aluminium buckets of red, pink and orange flowers, a team of bustling waiters brought us menus, an amuse-bouche of mango-wrapped salmon mousse, and a dish of fresh organic vegetables served with a bowl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Later, as we sat sipping grappa, while seven able-bodied men carried the grand piano back to its home in one of the several lounges (all of which exhibit art from local galleries), we had a rare moment of total agreement: it was the best food we had ever eaten.
We climbed up the steps to our room, which had an open fire and a private roof terrace with small plunge pool. Scented candles flickered seductively. Bowls of roses perfumed every corner. A giant powerful showerhead towered over a deep marble bathtub surrounded by various oils, salts and erotic products. Mrs Smith turned on the taps. The massive bath filled with hot water immediately. Twenty minutes later, we were lying in our hooded and tasselled dressing gowns on a huge firm bed with plentiful pillows and the finest of linen listening to the silence. Unexpectedly, we fell asleep.
Next morning, we went to the rooftop terrace, overlooking the snow-covered peaks of the Atlas and replete with corners containing woven-leather chairs, daybeds and giant cushions to make one’s own… Freshly squeezed orange juice, strong coffee, beetroot marmalade and warm croissants took seconds to arrive at our chosen table. Smells of rosewater and incense and songbirds’ melodies floated over us; we drifted back into dreamland. Carved wooden doors, ornate metal jalousies, antique mirrors, intricate carvings and lanterns in alcoves, and faded rugs reminded us where we were. Perhaps we should explore…