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Seoul’s super-duper new luxury hotel

Lubosh Barta in front of the lobby's 24/7 fire

Lubosh Barta in front of the lobby’s 24/7 fire

Jeff Leatham, eat your heart out, says the gal. The Paris-based American floral choreographer has a rival (but then we all love competition, right?). Nicolai Bergmann is a Danish floral artist who claims to have invented flower heads, fresh or dried, in boxes, as shown above. He used to holiday at Four Seasons Koh Samui, when Lubosh Barta was GM. Lubosh Barta then moved to open the stunning Four Seasons Hotel Seoul, and he persuaded Nicolai Bergmann to set up shop, here, in an open-plan ground floor area of this luxury establishment. The 317-room hotel occupies a whole square block, and that ground floor, with four main entrances, also has a hipster-beloved deli, a lobby lounge where slightly-older couture-wearing fashionistas perch, and a bar for any age.

A starter bedroom

A starter bedroom

Lubosh Barta wanted to be an ice-hockey professional back in his home city, Prague, and he is intensely proud of anything Czech – his eyes lit up when he showed me the Lasvit chandelier in the two-bedroom Presidential Suite. Main designer throughout is Su Teo, of LTW, and I loved the clean look of the starter rooms, which seem larger than 460 sq ft. And I loved 2617, a 730 sq ft corner suite. Its two outer walls were zigzagged, which mean the bedroom, actually at the corner, had 14 facets, either all glass or all champagne-coloured fabric, plus the two inner walls, which were flat. I looked down to Gwanghwamun Gate and beyond to Gyeongbokgung Palace: in the far distance a blue-roofed building is where President Park lives.

Books in suite 2617

Books in suite 2617

I hope she has some books as well-chosen as those I had in my suite: I could read up on Korean ceramics, and Korean patterns, and study Nicolai Bergmann’s Florescence. Yet again I am reminded how a few, not too many, thoughtfully selected books can make any stay so much more meaningful (I think of The Betsy on Miami’s South Beach, and Four Seasons Langkawi). The books here are so suited to the locale. I also have a welcome that is essentially Korean, namely china bowls with fried sweetened rice puffs, plus black rice- and mugwort– flavoured lotus root chips, and honey-preserved ginseng. I save my appetite for dinner, but first there is a tour of restaurants. André Fu has designed the Chinese restaurant, a pale jade-coloured Old Shanghai salon, and the two-floor Japanese, like a giant bamboo box.

Market foodhall has living wheatgerm and a floor that looks down to ruins below

Market foodhall has living wheatgerm and a floor that looks down to ruins below

The US firm AvroKO has designed the mammoth basement-floor Market, an amalgam of London’s Harrods Food Hall and the David Jones‘ halls in Melbourne and Sydney. Food stalls are all around the 200-seat space, where some of the tables are on glass floor panels, under-lit to look down to ruins below. Hidden around a corner from here, by the way, is Charles H, the hotel’s must-visit but no-sign cocktail bar (and it IS worth finding…).  AvroKO also did the all day Boccalino Italian (try Milanese chef Loris Pistillo’s poached Korean calamari, and, also local, his marinated and grilled Spring chicken, with herbs and garlic, with a good Italian red, say Barbaresco 2010). There were lots of locals dining here. They have quickly adopted this new hotel as their A-list base. The gym, for instance, will eventually work up to 1,200 members, who pay US$100,00 deposit, held for at least five years, plus $3,400 a year – for this they get freshly-laundered kit, an 80-foot pool, and separate-sex wet areas (in the women’s, the sauna is clearly signed 85°, the steam room 46°, and big bubbling pools in the wet area are 42.8°, 39.8°, and 19.8°, and the changing area has eight completely private make-up booths, with Hollywood mirrors and toiletries – there is also a napping room, with beds, and a relax room with massage chairs and bluetooth televisions. Oh yes, and they get discounts on the superb spa, and on dining.

ps: see below on the 28th floor Club Lounge’s excellent breakfast