Hotel Insider: Waldorf Astoria, Berlin, Germany
This is Waldorf Astoria's newest hotel, and there's a buzz around the place. The doorman guides us past what will, one day, be the wall of fame. But until more celebs stay, there are just six scrawled signatures. On closer inspection, they include Dustin Hoffman, Carla Sarkozy and John Goodman. The lobby is smart, large and international, with screens directing businessmen to their meetings. The reception staff are cheerful, polite and efficient.
The hotel has the first 16 floors in the Zoofenster skyscraper, sandwiched between the zoo and Berlin's popular shopping area Kurfurstendamm, in west Berlin. The city centre, with the main tourist attractions, is around four kilometres away, but the transport links are terrific, with underground and overground train stations and a bus station opposite. The distance turned out to be a bonus, as the assistant concierge suggested that we hire the hotel's bikes (€28 [Dh138] for half a day). Much of the journey was across a park, and there are cycle lanes everywhere, making it a great way to sightsee.
Attractive, if a little corporate. The views from the 13th floor are good, although the historic Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is encased in scaffolding and protective boarding. Like many city hotels, the room meets all the needs of the businessman, without feeling particularly memorable.
The hotel opened in January and, while it may not have the romantic attachment of New York's iconic building, it's keen to emphasise the brand. Old photos of famous guests sit in silver frames on side tables, providing glamour by association. Pierre Gagnaire, who holds 11 Michelin stars across the world and has been dubbed the Picasso of French cuisine, runs the restaurant. The hotel also boasts the only Guerlain spa in Germany.
Les Solistes is as much about the theatre of food as the food itself. There are two tasting menus: four courses at €115 (Dh565) and seven courses at €150 (Dh737). Though by the time that you have added the amuse-bouche and Pierre Gagnaire's grand dessert, which comes with its own amuse-bouche and then in two parts, each with four separate dishes, the four courses become seven anyway. The starter - salted cod with fresh herbs, jelly of white fish, sugar snap, crunchy fennel and Comté cheese and green velvet mousse of pollack - gives you the general idea. The all-day eatery is the relocated Romanisches, a famous old Berlin cafe where the literati would meet. You can go for coffee (around €4 [Dh20]), cake (typically €5 [Dh25]) or simple main meals. Breakfast is in the same room as Les Solistes, and is a European-style buffet.
As you would expect from Waldorf Astoria, the service is good. The concierge desk has a team of four, and the waiting staff in Les Solistes are extraordinary in their attention to detail.
The fire alarm went off, locking me in the '"silver princess palace" spa. What else could I do but try out all the lovely Guerlain make-up?
Berlin traffic. With less than 48 hours in the city, as soon as we arrived, we leapt on the number 100 bus to the Brandenburg Gate. A toddler could have walked faster.
A smart, 232-room hotel that feels more American than German, is convenient for the airport and has a great restaurant, cafe and spa, available at a good price.
The bottom line
If you book now and stay before December, it's possible to get a room for as little as €130 (Dh639). Hardenbergstrasse 28, Berlin, Germany, www.waldorfastoriaberlin.com, 0049 30 81 40 000.
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Published: August 29, 2013 04:00 AM