Luxury Hotels

Kimpton’s Hotel Allego is luxury in theatre-land

Many nooks and crannies…

The gal moved south, to Chicago’s Loop, with its theatres and bustle and noise.  What looked like a small boutique hotel next to the Cadillac Palace theatre on West Randolph Street turned out to be a Big Surprise.  Kimpton’s 19-floor Hotel Allegro is huge, with 483 rooms, admittedly bijou, and the public areas are dramatic. Go up the statement staircase to the second-floor lobby and you pass nooks and crannies, as shown in the photo on the right.  There are so many areas to make your own, says Iris Junge, the Assistant General Manager who was in charge of the hotel that day.

Iris Junge

Local designers Lisa Simeone and Gina Deary, who also did the considerably more staid Waldorf Astoria Chicago, have added flourishes and swirls here at the Allegro – I love the lobby’s massive Saraj Rasleu’s woman’s head (as at the top of this story), adorned with real jewels. The hotel is connected internally to restaurant 312, on the corner of La Salle and West Randolph, but it is the lobby which is heart of the hotel, both during breakfast time’s complimentary beverages-only help-yourself bar (from 6 to 10 a.m, according to the outstanding A4 information sheet in my room) and again, from 5 p.m., for Kimpton’s signature hour-long hosted cocktail party.  My night, Prosecco and sangria were being poured, into coupe and tulip glasses, by the head housekeeper and the director of leisure sales.  We love doing this, probably twice a month, they said – I realised this nightly cocktail is a joy to colleagues as well as guests.

Cocktail time..

Iris and I later walked through to 312, a two-floor typical classic diner with fixed booths suited for size-0 models rather than sumos.   Chef Luca Corazzina’s menu is real Italian, with such dishes as Ippglosso, roast halibut on cauliflower purée, and watercress, red onion and fava beans: your bill, by the way, comes in the very-American format of having suggested tips already included, for 18%, 20% and 22% – one extra, which was new to me, was also seeing, on the bottom of the bill, ”looking for a private event? contact Carolyn Orlando #312 32 7118”. Clever. But there are so many clever memories of this hotel. Room 1012 was certainly compact but the two scarlet-lined fitted cupboards had all I needed, and a standing six-foot high mirror had a ledge for holding small things, plus two extremely useful hooks. Back after our really enjoyable dinner, I found a tea kettle and an elegant tray with macaroons and all ingredients, and instructions, for making apricot-peach fruit tea, from scratch.  What a typically thoughtful touch.

.. and after-dinner fruit tea

I wonder what German immigrants Emil and Karl Eitel, who asked architect C.W. Ceolbapp to design this block in 1926, would think of this fascinating hotel today?  When Kimpton bought it in 1998 it was the Bismarck, probably as sinkable a name as Titanic. The conviviality today is infectious: the lobby’s breakfast and cocktail socialising encourage conversation, as do both working out in the excellent Precor gym (24/7) and waiting for the elevators (‘which is going to come first’ becomes a guessing game when those in the groups that constitute around 60% of guests are all trying to go down, or up, at the same time). I want to return at a weekend, by the way, to see a Waggin’ Weekends cagnolino menu in action.  Bring your pooch and choose a $4 treat, namely peanut butter biscuits or beeficle, or a $7 main (chicken with pasta, or salmon and white rice). Cleverly, they also offer upselling. Choose a treat and a main, for $9 total, and you save a couple of dollars. Iris Junge says this hotel is effortless luxury but honestly I would say Hotel Allegro is extremely thoughtful, with panache. AND NOW SEE A VIDEO OF ROOM 1012


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Luxury Hotels

A group’s head office is as beautiful as its luxury hotels

Mark Hoplamazian

Hyatt is not only headquartered in Chicago but it has 20 hotels there, including the massive 2,019-room Hyatt Regency Chicago (this hotel is two towers, built in 1974 and 1980). At luxury level, nothing beats the unforgettable Park Hyatt Chicago, completely rebuilt in 2000 – its art includes an original Miró drawing and, also on the seventh floor, some whimsical sculpture by Japanese artist Mieko Yuki (she also did the tiny heads in elevators at sibling property, Park Hyatt Tokyo). But that day, the gal headed for another art experience, Hyatt’s new corporate headquarters

The deliberately bare-look ceiling

I was amazed by even the atrium of 150 North Riverside Plaza, a 54-floor cantilevered skyscraper by architects Goettsch Partners.  Since it was finished in 2017 it has variously been called the tuning fork’ or ‘the guillotine’ – critic Blair Kamin describes it as a ‘persuasive blend of the pragmatic and dramatic’. Tenants already include not only Hyatt Corporation but Grey Street Capital, The Pritzker Organization, Strategic Hotels and Wanxing.  All those working there have the pleasure, when coming into the atrium, of looking at Judy Suh’s 150 medium stream art, shown above.

Satin-smooth table tops

Up on the eighth floor it was horizontal rather than soaring vertical space that dominated.  As I waited for Hyatt boss Mark Hoplamazian I looked up at the ceiling, partly merely concrete-clad utilities. I looked out of all-wall windows down at the river: when Mark Hoplamazian arrived he enthused about the calming effect of being above the water, and he tries to spend the odd five minutes here and there just meditating and watching the myriad of craft, from kayaks to tourist cruisers, going back and forth.  He finds this new space, which houses over 1,100 Hyatt people, inspirational, though I heard from one of his colleagues that not everyone appreciates the hot-desking.

More of the light wall

Just on a short visit I did still have time to realise how sensual these headquarters, with their Gensler interiors, are.  Tables, set next to each other, might be marble, or wood, but all have satin-smooth edges.  On my way out, I looked again at Judy Suh’s incredible art work.  Born in Korea, she studied art both at Northwestern University and at the Slade in London, and this work, formed of 89 vertical LED blades, is total 22 feet high by 150 feet wide (it showcases Chicago’s arts and crafts). As I walked on I thought how so many Hyatts, especially Park Hyatts, similarly display the local, and traditional and modern art forms, and engage all the senses.  Of course Paris, Milan, Shanghai and Tokyo are top of any arts list when it comes to unforgettable luxury hotels.

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Luxury Hotels

Decorated towers in culturally-aware Chicago

Tower outside the hotel…

Four Seasons Hotel Chicago has a decorated tower outside, on its East Delaware Place sidewalk. The gal remembers when painted cows first appeared, in Zurich, and now cows, and bears and even towers, have migrated to the world’s greatest cities.  It is a clever idea.  Sassy luxury hotels and others sponsor such works for the benefit of a charity, and the people of that city.  Four Seasons’ tower, part of 51 unique towers in the 2018 Lighthouses on The Mag Mile project, was decorated by a Disability and Human Development DHD research specialist, Kaitlin Stober. This is all the more appropriate as this year’s charity is The Chicago Lighthouse, working for access and inclusion for people with disabilities. artist Kaitlin Stober

Kaitlin Stober painted the surface of her tower with patches of dandelions growing against a multi-coloured brick façade. “My work, and the accompanying audio/written commentary, provokes consideration of disability inclusion and disability rights through metaphor. Dandelions, despite similarities to some commercially valued flowers, are widely regarded as weeds. They are often uprooted and discarded, left to grow through the cracks or on the margins of our manicured society. This is comparable to the historical segregation, institutionalization, and marginalization of persons with disabilities, many of whom are still excluded from considerations of mainstream society”, she says.

‘Concierge’ in ladies’ washroom

The 343-room Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, owned by JMB Urban Investment, has been involved with art since it opened in 1988.  Today there is a brilliant painting down at ground floor level – see it, above.  Called Bene come il sale(as good as the salt), it was painted 1989 by Frank Stella.  There are also amusing artworks.  The ladies’ washroom, for instance, has a real circular dial phone, red, on a stand. This is in effect an emergency ‘concierge’. Above the phone is a label that says ‘if only Lydia had known about the “need it now” phone she could have saved her tears.  By picking up the red phone, she could have asked for any last minute personal items she needed’.

Alium’s tuna tartare

I was back at the hotel for a quick lunch at Allium, and while enjoying a really tasty tuna tartare we discussed art – the Art Institute of Chicago has a John Singer Sargent exhibition – and culture generally.  Hamilton is on at CIBC Theater all this month, and, to celebrate the centenary of Leonard Bernstein, born 25 August 1918 in Lawrence MA, the Chicago Symphony plays two special concerts, on 18th and 19th August. Four Seasons Hotel Chicago is right in the thick of worthwhile offerings in this gorgeous Windy City, and no wonder it attracts a culture and luxury seeking clientele.


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