The luxury Conrad Seoul Hotel has been closely involved with fashion since it opened, November 2012: it works closely with Seoul Fashion Week, and at all times fashionistas are in and out of the 434-room building. The gal was keen to catch up with the hotel‘s Hanseatic GM, Nils-Arne Schroeder. His Korean wife, Renate Lee, works for Louis Vuitton, as a kind of super-duper concierge. She has just returned from escorting a loyal Seoul-based couple, who obviously spend more than a few dollars at Louis Vuitton, to Paris shows – they stayed, incidentally, at Hôtel Plaza-Athenée Paris, where the LVMH family seems to put all its honoured fashion guests.
We met up for brunch at the appropriately-named 37 Grill and Bar, on the hotel‘s 37th floor. We sat in a semi-enclosed end room, at The View, a table that is very popular for proposals (they have sold it five times, consecutively, for Valentine’s day this coming Sunday, February 14th, 2016). We had glasses of Heidsieck and looked looked across various bridges on the Han River. We turned to look at the wavy-roof of Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market, Seoul’s version of Tsukiji, in Tokyo – the hotel suggests guided tours of this fascinating market, only 500 metres away. I take a photo and there is surprise: all smartphones bought in Korea must make a noise when taking a photo, to protect people’s privacy.
I hear that The Beach Boys will be visiting on March 21st, 2016, playing to an audience of 900 – and there will be plenty of cameras-a-poppin’ then, of course. Another thing I learned at that brunch. Your age goes by a calendar year. Born on February 20th? No problem, your age goes from January 1st of any year through to December 31st of that year, then you add another year, though not for official purposes. How confusing. How is your gym going, I ask. Very well, I am told. Koreans are fitness fanatics and they use hotel gyms as social clubs. Here, the eighth floor gym has 450 outside members, who pay a US$50,000 deposit, fortunately refundable, plus $3,000 a year, non-refundable. As well as using the 24/7 gym, by the way, some hotel guests get amazingly aerobic workouts by climbing the hotel lobby’s spiral staircase, which winds all the way up to the fifth floor.
That staircase makes a great catwalk, which brings us back to this luxury hotel‘s connections with fashion. If there had been time I would have checked out some of the stores in the integral four-floor mall, organised by Taubman, out of the USA – the mall also has nine cinemas, which apparently show movies nonstop from seven a.m. until three a.m. After that, presumably, some of these intrepid Koreans then head for their gym… Today, meanwhile, we concentrated on the extremely elegant buffet. Brunch here is serve your own starter and dessert, with, in between, your choice of lamb, beef, pork, salmon or prawn brought to the table, with style.