Glowing Hospitality from the Golden Age

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Lanie Goodman   Contributor

Forbes Travel visits the historic Waldolf Astoria Amsterdam where hospitality still glows from the Golden Age.

As Forbes Netherlands publishes its inaugural edition in 2021, Forbes Travel visits the historic Waldolf Astoria Amsterdam where hospitality still glows from the Golden Age.

If walls could talk, the exclusive luxury hotel Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, opened in 2014, would doubtlessly reverberate with fascinating tales of its former residents, which include a great number of illustrious Dutch families and two of the city’s mayors. Located on a UNESCO World Heritage site overlooking the Herengracht Canal, the elegant 93-room hotel is unlike any other in the city, comprised of a cluster of six beautifully preserved grand canal palaces that date back from the 17th and 18th centuries.

But beyond the stately historic architecture, this grande dame was, in fact, dreamed up to suit an elusive caliber of uber-luxury. Now, more than ever, bespoke service has become paramount; as soon as you open the door, a Personal Concierge is assigned to you, to cater to your every whim, which might include anything from private canal boat tours to VIP opera tickets. With a highly-praised twoMichelin star restaurant, Spectrum, a Guerlain Spa and the largest private garden in Amsterdam, the Waldorf Astoria is, above all, a veritable urban oasis where guests often have the impression that they’re the only ones in the house. In lieu of a front desk in the impressive marble-clad entrance hall, you are graciously whisked into two beautiful period rooms that set the mood. The attentive staff— everyone from the bellhop to the concierge— is stylishly decked out in uniforms designed by renowned Dutch couturier Jan Taminiau.

Call it quiet glamor, a seamless mix of new and old.

Natural light from a glass-sided lantern roof subtly showcases one of the Waldorf’s historic features —a painstakingly renovated four-story monumental wooden staircase by Daniel Marot, the architect of Louis XIV, conjuring the grandeur of days gone by.

Add to that the hotel’s latest addition, unveiled last September: the sumptuous Mayor’s Residence, adjacent to the hotel with a separate entrance. This private 9-bedroom palace built during the Golden Age in 1665, was once the home of Henrik Hooft, one of Amsterdam’s most influential mayors, and has since been the residence of some of Amsterdam’s wealthiest families. At €24,450 a night, guests can lounge in their own dining room while their private chef whips up their heart’s desire, or enjoy the total privacy of the Guerlain Spa with a Personal Therapist, then take a plunge in the indoor pool.

Unsurprisingly, Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam has hosted a steady stream of high-profile figures that include the likes of the King of Morocco, Paul Simon, Adèle and Lady Gaga. More recently, the hotel was chosen by Forbes Monaco as the temporary “support office” for the upcoming launch of the new Forbes Netherlands.

Upstairs, the spacious suites are a medley of soft muted greys and cream with a touch of Vermeer blue to tie in with the shade of the canals. This however, is not by accident.

“When we started the renovation work on the hotel with the architectural agency GA Design from London, we had one person scrubbing the old wood for an entire month to find the layers of paint that had been there for hundreds of years,” says Roberto Payer, the general manager. “Eventually, we found all the original colors that were used back in the 17th century.”

In one of the most prestigious rooms, the Van Loon suite, located in the Mayor’s Residence, was also the former headquarter of a celebrated merchant who headed the West/ East Indies Company and enriched the Netherlands through trade. “We decided to leave an unpainted place in one of the alcoves that shows guests what we discovered,” says Payer.

“Every artwork we have in the hotel was handpicked,” he adds. “In that particular suite, we even have a painting on loan from the Van Loon Museum, which is right around the corner.”

And of course, each of the rooms in the hotel is unique. Take, for example, the luminous sprawling Brentano Suite with sweeping views of the canal, named after the former owner of the family palace, Josephus Brentano, a celebrated Dutch Italian 18th-century art dealer who received crowned royalty at his home.

When it comes to detail, the spirit of these Neo-Renaissance townhouses abounds with meticulously restored touches: painted frescoes and panels, decorative gabled ceilings, authentic period chimneys or loft-like rooms with exposed 400-year-old pine beams.

In the hotel’s Maurer dining room, you can also view centuryold painted panels of Dutch bucolic scenes or have a peek at a cabinet of rare painted porcelain.

Opened in 2019, the gastronomic restaurant Spectrum is where 44-year-old Chef Sidney Schutte masterminds his wildly original take on contemporary cuisine. Specially designed according to the chef’s own wishes (“the kind of décor that won’t draw your attention away from his dishes,” Payer explains), the restaurant earned two Michelin stars only seven months after opening. Don’t be surprised if you find a crisp-fried tulip on your plate—the creative combinations of ingredients on the 9-course prix fixe menu are as visually stunning as the explosive mix of delicate textures on your palette (think marinated watermelon, dried lemongrass, tomato horseradish, pistachio and mint). “Sidney even invented a version of our famous Waldorf Salad, known worldwide, using exactly the same ingredients, but he turned it into a dessert,” says Payer with a smile.

Running the length of all six mansions is the 300-square-meter hotel garden, open exclusively to guests, where in season, you’ll find 11,000 tulips in bloom. If you can tear yourself away from their rainbow-shaded petal paradise, the lively Utrechtsestraat district, lined with small boutiques and fine restaurants, is just a short stroll away.

 

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Lanie Goodman   Contributor

Born and raised in New York, Lanie Goodman is an arts and travel writer based in the south of France since 1988. She is a contributor to publications such as T-Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast Traveller and Departures, and the author of Romantic French Homes . Formerly a Professor of French Literature at CUNY, she teaches courses in journalism and cinema at the SKEMA at  Sophia-Antipolis. Lanie covers arts , travel and lifestyle at Forbes Monaco.