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MINIVIEW: Lough Eske Castle Hotel, County Donegal, Ireland

1024 576 Hamish Kilburn

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MINIVIEW: Lough Eske Castle Hotel, County Donegal, Ireland

Guest reviewer Stuart O’Brian checks in to the only five-star hotel in County Donegal…

The first indication of the attention to aesthetic detail that runs through the entire Lough Eske Castle hotel site is the six-foot bronze dragon that greets visitors at the top of its long, winding, forest driveway entrance.

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The hotel has experienced a recent change of ownership away from the Solis brand, but thankfully the new owners have seen fit to keep this magnificent beast on its staff roster, along with a dozen or so other animal (and human) sculptures dotted around the grounds.

This corner of Ireland’s North West coast is abundant in natural beauty, something the Lough Eske Castle hotel’s original architects, and its current custodians, kept front of mind when considering exterior and interior décor. On this visit in December 2018, with the mist hanging in the woods around the site and the outdoor winter wonderland Christmas lights outside, the sense of seclusion was palpable.

The ‘castle’ building itself has some history, built as it was by the local O’Donnell family in the 1400s, rebuilt in the 1860s, burned to the ground in the 1930s and then renovated in its current form in the mid-Noughties.

Aesthetically, the exterior has the feeling of two personalities – the restored grandeur of the castle building and the more contemporary dining/function rooms, plus courtyard and garden accommodation that sit somewhere between the two. In fact, if you approach from the ‘alternative’ rear entrance and its views of the new-build accommodation building you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally stumbled into a different hotel.

Internally, the same merging of classic and contemporary styles, plus Gaelic flourishes, is to the fore. The public spaces are a mix of high-ceilinged larger rooms and cosy nooks, while the 98 guestrooms contain bespoke furniture and commissioned artworks, with décor neutral with wood panelling and space (especially in the huge MEPA-appointed bathrooms) in abundance. All rooms have oak furniture and the majority feature dramatic four poster beds.

freestanding bath in the middle of a modern bathroom

Image credit: Lough Eske

There are actually multiple room styles on offer, each sharing the same design cues but managing to feel very distinct – the Castle Suites are all regal flourishes, bare stonework, antiques and lead-lined windows, the Courtyard Rooms are converted stables, while the Garden Suites were built in 2007 during the renovation with a more modern touch.

Spas are a given in the world of five-star and Lough Eske Castle has a well-appointed annex in its gardens dedicated to wellbeing, with a glasshouse waiting/relaxation area, indoor pool with hydrotherapy/sauna facilities and secluded treatment rooms – all flooring here is either sandstone or wood, adding to the sense of class and closeness to the natural world.

And, of course, being in Ireland the hospitality on offer in the contemporary Cedars Restaurant (clean lines, floor to ceiling windows, views of the castle grounds) and Gallery Bar (floor to ceiling drinks cabinet, leather seating, oak tables) is casually exceptional.

Main image credit: Lough Eske

Andaz Singapore

Miniview: Andaz Singapore – Andre Fu’s design

609 393 Daniel Fountain

Conceived as a contemporary lifestyle destination that embraces the energy of Singapore’s urban spirit, architect Andre Fu and his design studio AFSO seek to capture the city’s eclectic shop-house experience of dining at Andaz Singapore.

Working within the framework of the modernist Duo development by German architect Ole Scheeren, Fu has fashioned a multi layered journey that conveys relaxed luxury yet captures the vibrant atmosphere of local areas such as Kampong Glam and Bras Basah Bugis.

As guests explore the hotel, they will experience a strong sense of discovery – an experience that is quintessential to Singapore itself.

THE ARRIVAL & PANDAN
The Andaz journey begins with a dramatic 8m high lobby where guests encounter an abstract interpretation of the traditional Singaporean shop-house façades which is a recurring theme throughout the hotel. The arrival experience also introduces the concept of a Pandan where guests are enticed by a spectrum of Pandan chiffon cakes and a selection of sweet and savoury soft buns to enjoy.

Andaz SingaporeALLEY ON 25
Conceived as the hub of the hotel, Alley on 25 brings the spirit of the local neighbourhood into a matrix of seven distinct shop-house experiences. Sunroom is an airy timber pavilion with an intricate checkered grid ceiling that has drawn inspirations from the works of modernist architect Schindler. Hanging ferns and greeneries are suspended from the ceiling to entice the guests with a sense of urban retreat. Icehaus , which is crafted in monolithic white Carrera marble has an open kitchen and views to a terrace of frangipani and guests can view live cooking preparations.

Aunties Wok & Steam is an eatery dedicated to the art of steam and wok cooking and has been designed to evoke a lively market dining experience. Decked with tilted metallic windows and timber furniture upholstered in olive green and lemon yellow, this intimately-proportioned dining room offers panoramic views of the city and exemplifies a genuine street-dining spirit. Other shop-houses guest can visit are Bar Square, Smoke & Pepper, Plancha’Lah! and The Green Oven.

Andaz SingaporeTHE GUEST ROOM EXPERIENCE
In-keeping with the alley concept, the experience of the guestroom also embraces the neighborhood spirit. Conceived as a contemporary bungalow, Fu has introduced whimsical moments throughout the room – from the entrance doorbell that is housed in a bespoke post-box, the shop-house doors in bold mango yellow to the floor-to-ceiling ivory paneling. The room experience is also punctuated with ethnic touches in aubergine and mustard yellow to celebrate Singapore as a city.

Andaz SingaporeMR STORK
Nestled high above the hotel is Mr Stork – the destination rooftop bar set within a lush tropical landscape and cobbled paving. At the heart of Mr Stork is a free-standing bronze pavilion, designed as an installation with radial tilted fins reminiscent of a classic wind-mill. The journey is also layered with a series of private tents where guests are invited to escape into a rural dreamscape. The exposed aggregate and tropical landscape reinforce the idea of an urban yet rustic al-fresco experience.

singapore.andaz.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home

11 Cadogan Gardens

11 Cadogan Gardens, London

1000 552 Molly Dyson

Guest reviewer Molly Dyson shares her experience of the newly refurbished 11 Cadogan Gardens in the heart of London. . .

I arrive at 11 Cadogan Gardens just after 3pm on a Friday and the buzz going on around the property is refreshing. It’s a bank holiday weekend, so there are a few families milling about and the attentive staff are on hand to open doors and check in new guests.

Daniela at reception happily tells me I’ve been upgraded to a signature suite on the third floor and assures me I’m going to have a wonderful stay. As soon as I turn around, Concierge Emelson is waiting to take my bag and show me the way to my room, which includes a ride up in the vintage lift. Emelson tells me he’s been working at the hotel for a while and suggests a few things to see in the area. He’s especially proud of the recent refurbishment to the property – my room was only finished two weeks ago.

Signature Suite - 11 Cadogan Gardens

My suite is light and airy, which is somewhat unexpected in an old building such as this. The room is nicely laid out, with a couch and television at one end, a desk with foldout dressing table in the middle and a massive king-size bed at the other end.

The bathroom is a wonder on its own; a separate waterfall shower and toilet cubicle break up the space. I’m pleased to see the bathtub is the perfect size for a Friday night soak and fluffy white robes have been provided for added comfort.

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RELATED: 11 Cadogan Gardens unveils new interior by JSJ Design
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I head back down to the lobby for a tour with Petra, who tells me the refurb is quite extensive and took around a year to complete, with every care taken to preserve some of the hotel’s original features. Along the way we visit some of the property’s other signature suites, two of which feature their own private entrance – perfect for shopping trips.

11 Cadogan Gardens

We finish our tour in the drawing room for a cup of coffee while I look over the afternoon tea selection, which is themed around the Chelsea Flower Show. Downstairs is the restaurant Tartufo, where guests can dine on a sumptuous truffle-based tasting menu.

In the evening, my plus one and I find a quiet corner in the richly decorated bar to nurse cocktails and Prosecco after dinner before retiring to our suite to veg out in front of the television. The super-soft bed with its fluffy duvet calls my name before too long and I get one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time.

If you’re looking for a place that’s a bit quirky and stylish for any reason, I highly recommend 11 Cadogan Gardens…

Based on a stay in April 2016. Photos: 11cadogangardens.com

The Landmark London hotel

The Landmark London, Marylebone

900 573 Daniel Fountain

One of the many things I love about London is the way tradition and modernity seamlessly merge – it’s impossible to ignore its ‘grand old dame’ vibe and yet it’s often at the cutting edge of numerous fields; architecture, cuisine, music, art. And if a hotel typifies these two faces of the capital, it’s The Landmark London.

From the outside, its archetypically Victorian façade immediately gives away the building’s roots as one of London’s great railway hotels – one of several constructed during the golden age of steam travel; the other tell-tale clue being its adjacency to Marylebone station. It was a labour of love for one of imperial Britain’s greatest railway visionaries and entrepreneurs Sir Edward Watkin, who had plans for Marylebone to become an ‘international hub’. The latter never came to fruition, but his ambitious plans for a hotel (then called the Grand Central) were imagined in 1899 and his vision can still be seen today.

Landmark London hotel

Looking down at the Winter Garden on the ground floor of the atrium

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Inside, all the trappings of modern luxury expected at a five-star property ease you back into the 21st century. The beating heart of the hotel is the grand atrium with its Winter Garden restaurant and elegant public spaces. The glass ceiling of the eight-storey-high atrium allows natural light to stream in and gives the room an almost Greenhouse-esque and tropical feel. It’s a magnificent space to be in, and the hotel’s management have made the wise decision to use it for food and beverage as well as breakout offerings. This is best illustrated by the Gazebo, where guests can take afternoon tea or grab a bite to eat, but can also double up as a space for a drinks reception for the hotel’s numerous corporate events.

Landmark London

One of the public spaces – complete with grand staircase – of the Landmark London

Indeed, the Landmark’s corporate offering has recently undergone a freshen-up and it now boasts some of the most exquisite rooms for hosting small exhibitions, conferences and meetings in London. While most hotels in the capital can and do host corporate guests, few can offer more sumptuous surroundings. The 11 meeting and event spaces – with a capacity ranging from intimate 6-person interviews right up to 750-people drinks receptions – not only incorporate the elegance of the hotel as a whole, but also provide functionality and the state-of-the-art technical facilities required. As superb as both the majestic Grand Ballroom and Empire Room are, for me the ‘jewel in the crown’ is the Drawing Room where stunning wood panelling, unbelievably detailed ceiling work and elaborate light fixtures give the room a distinct feel from the other offerings, a perfect setting for parties of up to 150.

With the hotel having gone through a series of renovations throughout its various incarnations and long but not-always illustrious history, I was fascinated to discover that the current, healthy selection of 300 rooms and suites is less than half of the building’s original 700-room offering. This slimming down has allowed for larger-than-usual room sizes – especially considering the NW1 location of the Landmark. From the 35sqm Superior rooms to the 52sqm Family rooms right up to the 160sqm Presidential suite, the hotel prides itself on its spacious rooms with king-sized beds, flat-screen televisions yet traditionally, classically luxe décor. And it’s easy to see why. The furnishings and upholstery continue the theme of opulent golds, creams and browns in the public spaces which is perfectly juxtaposed by the cool, black-and-white marbled finish of the bathrooms. This is indulgent and decadent design, without being tasteless or tacky.

Landmark London

I’m next shown the spa, pool and gym facilities, which again considering the location are fantastic. And utilising the space well, designers have even managed to include a small but well-equipped gym as well. I’m visiting the Landmark for a separate F&B event, which allows me to see the TwoTwentyTwo Restaurant and Bar (named for the hotel’s 222 Marylebone Road address) and the Mirror Bar (named for, well, I’m sure you can work it out…) both of which contain refined, chic and ornate interiors. The former delighting with its extensive fine wine collection in library-style, glassed casing; the latter tapping into the Victorian heritage of the building and creating an intimate and relaxed spot for pre-dinner cocktails or after-dinner nightcap.

I leave the Landmark after my all-too-brief visit remarking what a fine job several people have done in nearly 120 years in maintaining this gem of a building. Indeed, as designers will always say, success comes when good design is incorporated with functionality. The Landmark undoubtedly ticks the box for the first factor. And it’s hard to find better examples of a structure still completing the task it was built for, so long ago, with such aplomb. Is it entirely perfect? No. No hotel ever is, but renovation work and refurbishments are still planned in a bid to improve areas that require them, and this will only work to make this hotel even more appealing than it currently is. One can only trust that as the hotel develops, improves and modernises, it still holds on to its opulent, traditional and heart-warming charm. Here’s hoping…

Based on a tour in May 2016
Photos: Daniel Fountain // landmarklondon.co.uk