Luxury Hotels

Berlin’s memorable 25hours luxury hotel

Monkey Bar, always a-buzz

Ah, differentiation in luxury hotels.  There is lots of differentiation to be found at 25hours Bikini Hotel Berlin. This is an extraordinary luxury hotel, managed by a unique GM, Dirk Dreyer, a one-time professional DJ who then spent years in music. Although he is now a full-time hotel person, he retains his music. As well as running this hotel, Dreyer also looks after music for the entire 25hours group. As always, there was a line in the ground-floor lobby, waiting to be allowed into the dedicated elevator that takes you up to the rooftop, to Monkey Bar, one of Europe’s best bars, a haven for all ages: the enthusiastic mixologists and servers look after over a thousand covers a night, no reservations but their colleagues down at ground-floor level sensibly stagger those allowed up.

The kitchen works at lightning speed

The adjacent NENI, by contrast, is absolutely reservation-only and if you do not have a table you will not get in – this is a 149-room hotel that regularly does over 450 covers, total lunch and dinner, in its restaurant.  At lunch you look down, right into Berlin Zoo.  At dinner you tend to look in, at the other diners, many locals who know this is a jolly good place to eat, at extremely reasonable prices. I That night, I was dining with Dirk Dreyer. Like many of the tables around us, we shared a mezze starter (see above), choose your own three plates, which come on one of those curate’s stands normally associated with afternoon teas.  We had a babaghannouj, a plain hommus and a beetroot hommus and, having lived in the Middle East, I must say this was entirely authentic and so so flavourful.

Accor foodies have great taste

NENI, in case you wonder, is named for the four sons of chef Haya Molcho, an Israeli chef who lives with her mime-artist husband Samy in Vienna: their sons are Nuriel, Elior, Nadiv and Ilan (take the first letters of their names and you get – NENI).  There are already several NENIs in 25hours hotels, including the just-opened lively hotel a few metres from the front entrance to Gare du Nord, Paris, and there will be another NENI in the Dubai hotel, opening shortly.  The NENI concept is, honestly, such a favourite, for all ages – Dirk and I coincided with a lot of Accor foodies that night and they, too, raved afterwards about the food, and the service (Accor bought 30% of the 25hours brand in 2017).  The whole evening was indeed memorable.

Dirk Dreyer

I had time to find out about Dirk Dreyer. This unusual GM had realised back in 2009, when he was Berlin-based Senior Product Manager for 313 Music, that it was time for a change. He wanted to stay in Berlin.  He had conversations with leaders of many industries, and after a couple of glasses of wine with the GM of Lux 11 hotel he found himself accepting an offer to run its second property (172 rooms and all F&B leased out).  He knew nothing about running hotels but he had stayed in them, around the world, sometimes three nights every week.  As he recalls, now, he read some books, talked with people, and started. The first morning, he does admit, he was somewhat nervous, but after two years working for the Lux 11 people he was headhunted by the franchise holder to launch Indigos in Berlin: he next moved on to the NH Group and then finally he got the call he had been waiting for. He had long wanted to work for Christoph Hoffman, who telephoned to invite him to run 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin (he started April 2017). Well, Dirk Dreyer says, 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin is a luxury hotel with food and music, and fashion and fun, and being in charge of this is not unlike running a night club.

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Luxury Hotels

Simply Sunday – yes, a top luxury hotel CAN manage without its signature chef

The bar

Looking like an Old Master of the Dutch School, what you see above is the luxury version of the Robuchon ‘fish and chips’ – lobster and chips – at Hôtel Metropole Monte-Carlo.  Joël Robuchon, he who had accumulated a total of 32 Michelin stars, had done all the food at this luxury hotel since 2004. By ‘all the food’ the gal means the hotel’s Joël Robuchon Monte-Carlo Restaurant, with two stars, and his one-starred Japanese place, YOSHI by Robuchon. He oversaw poolside food, and lobby snacks, and room service. For the annual Monte-Carlo Grand Prix, his team helped convert a meeting room overlooking the circuit into a Krug tasting room.

For the 2019 Monaco F1 GP, May 23-26,  he will not be around. Tragically, and much to everyone’s surprise, he died August 6th, 2018. The gal wanted to see how the hotel was managing without him. The answer, to be honest, is brilliantly. After the initial shock of losing the culinary genius, it seems the various teams are more than ever determined to keep standards up and higher. I had eaten in both Joël Robuchon Monte-Carlo Restaurant and YOSHI by Robuchon. This time, we ate in the bar, and what an absolute delight it was.

Designed by Jacques Garcia, this theatrical ground floor area flows from lobby lounge through a series of intimate rooms. Aromas and accessories are themed every season (right now, a winter looks includes stone-like paper table mats, with low-stemmed white lilies on each table).  We were surrounded by Monaco residents who may dine here three or more times a week – locals are not inclined to entertain at home.  Whereas in the two-star restaurant I might have chosen the Discovery Menu, or a Gluten-free Vegetarian menu with roast artichoke, here in the bar choices were everyone’s favourite comfort foods. Robuchon had provided, here, raw purple artichoke salad with parmesan and rocket, and two versions of fish’n chips, the usual and, at twice the price, lobster and chips, as shown above. Somehow perfect comfort food, served by model-like but genuine young ladies in black cocktail dresses, at a characterful bar surrounded by books, provided the perfect at-home evening in Monte-Carlo. Just as I found in Paris a few days ago, get the bar right and the rest of a luxury hotel’s reputation follows. And the same applies to pop-ups.  Every Summer, this hotel invites a guest-chef to the poolside Odyssey seasonal restaurant, designed by Karl Lagerfeld (now there is another genius we all miss): this July and August, the guest chef will be a Robuchon follower, Rodrigo de la Calle, whose two restaurants in Madrid, the Michelin-starred El Invernadero and Paella Power, are complemented by two, both called Puerto 20, in Beijing.

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Luxury Hotels

Still more on Berlin’s luxury hotel and memorable dining scene

Hide from the world at ITB

During both IHIF and the following ITB there are not only a plethora of work-related happenings but also so many social events. At ITB, with a total of 170,000 travel enthusiasts traipsing around, it was a blessing to find at least two ways to hide from the real world. A few hours later, the gal left Messe Berlin and ITB for the relative calm of the annual Steigenberger Kitchen Party, hosted by Deutsche Hospitality CEO Thomas Willms. He introduced the CEO of the company’s newest brand, Zleep (years ago, the woman painting a sign slipped and her brush put a Z instead of an S…). The hundreds of guests who seemed to arrive exactly at the starting time of 7 p.m. seemed to be at least 98% German, and the few others included Egypt’s top entrepreneur, Naguib Sawiris.

Markus Semer

And then it was on to the Adlon Kempinski, first to say hello to Kempinski CEO Markus Semer, who was sadly going to yet another evening event. I, however, was honoured to be invited to the Champagne-and-more gourmet dinner that Kempinski’s CCO Amanda Elder hosted for top accounts and at least two Ministers of Tourism (my table was mainly Cuba and Dominica dominated). Forty of us in all tasted incredible dishes created by Hendrik Otto, Chef of the hotel’s two-Michelin Lorenz Adlon.  Even we sat down we were amazed – see the table setting, above, with bread rolls nestled in among tiny rocks. We started with beef tartare, sour cream, pickled radish and beets, with veal extract and beetroot reduction poured over, and this went with Special Cuvée Brut Bollinger.

Hendrik Otto’s beef tartare…

I am not joking, it really was Champagne the entire way. We progressed on to Blanc des Blancs Brut Ruinart, and thence to 2008 Grand Vintage Brut Moët & Chandon, and finally to Rosé Terroirs Brut A.R. Lenoble – Damery (some probably went on further but I left as soon as the cigars, hand-carried from Havana by Xavier Destribats, appeared).  And what else did we eat?  Well, the menu went on to yellowtail mackerel with marinated mushrooms, brown butter cream, caviar of char and lime leaves infusion. Next came fried seabass with steamed fennel, fennel cream, and tomato mussel broth. There was only one dessert listed, a plate with an individual Manjari (Madagascan 64%) chocolate soufflé, raspberry-thyme sorbet, vanilla foam, and caramelized and salted chocolate, but as I was leaving at least two other desserts were arriving.

.. and his yellowfin tuna

I may have said it before but Amanda Elder certainly does know how to throw a good party (another unmissable IHIF/ITB event, for those lucky enough to be on the annual list, is the Tuesday night family-dinner that Servotel hosts in The Grand, an old-East-Berlin relic of a house with still-battered walls but superb food to complement a genial group of conversationalists).  I do wonder how many mega bashes today’s top travel professionals can take.  Years ago Travel&Leisure was renowned for its party, as were One&Only and Ritz-Carlton. Frankly, what Kempinski did this year showed that a luxury hotel can truly differentiate. AND IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE AMANDA ELDER INTRODUCING HENDRIK OTTO IN THE ADLON KEMPINSKI’S LORENZ ADLON KITCH, SEE THE VIDEO BELOW


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