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.
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.
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.
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