One of the things Arnaud de Saint-Exupéry was insistent about when he was in the planning stages for the 164-room Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills was that his 400-strong team, who include 100 part-timers, would not wear ‘uniform’. He commissioned a mix-and-max wardrobe incorporating styles and fabrics traditionally used by blue-collar workers in Japan. Shirts for the girls come in soft blues or purples, with characteristic black and white undersleeves: others wear black suits, and their male colleagues can express similar personality, with an earring here and arguably long hair there, as long as it is all tasteful and not over the top.
OK, arrive at the hotel, in the burgeoning Toranomon area that is about to have a pedestrianised ‘Champs Elysées‘ path to Shinbashi, and first, before you get upstairs, you are waylaid by two tantalizing eating places, right there. One is a Bebu burger bar, with beer on tap. The other is the patisserie, specialising not only in the macaroons that seem to be de rigueur throughout the entire world but also, somewhat uniquely here, in éclairs. They come in a variety of sizes, single bite, two bites, or big enough to share. Of course you can have cakes, too, and they also look enticing, but I took an elevator up to the 51st floor lobby, a whimsical, high-ceiled theatre with so many interlinked rooms that you feel many acts are going on simultaneously.
This is indeed true. There is no lobby as such, merely a living room with big tables where you can sit, lounge, have coffee or something stronger. You wander one way, towards the concierges, and admire a chair with a 12-foot high back of wood panels that seem to float and intertwine. Overhead, hanging from the 16-foot ceilings, are more floating, intertwined wood panels, sculptures by a Brit named Charlie Whinney who brought all his pieces here and then put them together, linking them in situ. All areas seem to lead you, by the way, to what is really the crux of this play, Andaz Tavern, an all-day restaurant with plain wood tables, some set in little nooks and crannies for best views of the city outside but seemingly far away from the madding crowd in the main space.
As with all genuine taverns, the menu here is simple, printed in big letter on an A3-sized card. My artichoke salad, with avocado, burratini, rocket and pumpkin seed oil, came with a small glass of drinking vinegar, and then we shared one of the best sellers, a Yamanashi herbed chicken, served whole, with root vegetables, in a traditional clay pot (how nice when a luxury hotel dares to serve simple comfort food). After all that, it was even more necessary to get up the following morning to work out on the Technogym Artis pieces in the gym, manned from five a.m. ….