Hotel Insider: The Langham, Chicago, United States
As I step out of the cab, a doorman in a bowler hat says: “Mr McKenzie? First name Rob?” How he knew my name, I have no idea. It’s not like this is a tiny hotel: 316 rooms. He walks me inside, where three greeters await. One escorts me to the elevator. The main reception desk is on the second floor, but I am staying at club level, on the 12th floor, with check-in on the 13th (or, as they superstitiously call it, 12C). As Tommy, one of the two receptionists, walks me to to my room, a porter hauling my luggage appears out of nowhere.
The Langham, which opened last year in a 1971 Mies van der Rohe tower, is beside the Chicago River in the city centre. The area’s architecture is stunning and you are only two blocks from the shops on Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile and lots of restaurants nearby. It’s lovely to sit in The Langham’s 13th-storey club lounge at 6am (thanks to jet lag) and, through the floor-to-ceiling windows, see the pink hues of predawn over Lake Michigan to the east, and, across the river to the south, the yellow-lit cupola of the 1927 Jewelers’ (CCT) Building against the deep blue sky.
The Langham’s emphasis is on the rooms rather than the shared spaces. For family groups, the hotel can join three rooms together to make a four-bedroom suite. Overall, the clientele felt very American – a father and son going to a Chicago Cubs game; a smart-casual exec cheerily saying into his mobile phone: “Oh that’s perfect. We just won’t hire her.”
At 800 square feet, my club suite seems big enough for battleship manoeuvres. When I wake in the dark on my first night, I wander around disoriented for quite a while – which way is the living room, where is the bathroom and when will I reach a light switch? The room is so big, when the phone rings, I worry that I might not get to it in time (oh, the hardship). The bed is like a cloud, the decor has elegant textures, the tub is wide and deep, with a separate shower stall. The bathroom amenities carry the Chuan Spa brand. Wi-Fi is free.
Excellent. On my first day, I tell reception that I’m meeting my adult daughter at Lou Malnati’s for pizza and wonder how far the walk is. Within minutes, an envelope containing a printout with directions has whooshed beneath my door.
The hotel’s Travelle restaurant has a Mediterranean theme. The service is helpful and our shared “Seacuterie” appetiser (small platter US$27 [Dh99]; large platter $49 [Dh180]) – a wooden board with squid, smoked salmon terrine and other seafood treats – is so surprisingly filling that we skip the mains and go straight to dessert, a worth-the-calories Nutella baklava ($9 [Dh33]). My dining companion says that it feels like she’s back in Abu Dhabi – if the lounge band had played Hotel California, her déjà vu would have been complete.
At the press of a button, my room’s three sets of drapes open for stunning views of the City of Big Shoulders. Press a separate button, and the sheers provide a measure of privacy from passing pigeons.
I wasn’t a fan of the frosted glass bathroom doors, as I walked into one, which hurt. Also, the staff say “wonderful” a lot; even if accurate, returns diminish from repetition.
As Chicago endeavours to build an international tourist profile (currently a mere three per cent of visitors to the city are from overseas), classy hotels such as this make the sales pitch much easier.
The bottom line
Doubles from $343 (Dh1,260), including tax. The Langham, 330 North Wabash Avenue, Chicago (www.chicago.langhamhotels.com; 001 312 923 9988).
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Published: May 1, 2014 04:00 AM