This is Seoul’s fashion-fun luxury hotel, says the gal. Its cathedral-of-light lobby includes a spiral staircase, 176 steps going up and up to the fifth floor, perfect for the ultimate catwalk descent or a bridal appearance, as long as she has no train to trip over. One afternoon two Seoul fashionistas, female, easily under twenty, spent at least twenty minutes photographing themselves posed against floral displays and walls. Both wore six-inch, (well, perhaps 12) tube skirts, black tights and vertiginous Victoria Beckham-high heels – one pair of heels were gold. Everything is beautiful, here, from the marble floors to the sculpted wood walls by elevators. And, talking of wood, look at the satin-smooth table top in Zest restaurant, inset, as it were, with water-free rivers of pebbles.
There is so much to admire in this 434-room hotel, now owned by London’s Canary Wharf proprietors, Toronto-based Brookfield, who are here spending C$2.6 billion on surrounding infrastructure, extending the International Finance Center IFC mall that already goes four floors right beneath the hotel and its adjoining Brookfield-owned office blocks. Coming up are more blocks, for offices and living, and there is another hotel. I love the sophistication here at the Conrad, the large and welcoming real-flame fireplace behind the concierges, as you go in, and the 37th floor Club lounge with its own virtual golf. And, everywhere, a sense of fun. See the pumpkin sandwiches on one of the buffets.
I dined with Mark and Jo Meaney, whom I had last seen in Singapore. Of course it had to be 37 Grill and Bar, which you enter past 20 locked compartments for regulars’ own bottles. I loved the choice of seven different steak knives (I went for Laguiole) for my Hanwoo, Korea’s grain-and-grass fed answer to Japan’s premium beef. Hanwoo has the flavour but not quite so much fat, those pundits say – Kobe and Wagyu ribeye are roughly 70% fat, Hanwoo is about 45% fat, and the best beef in the US is about 25%, and of course Hanwoo, like the others, does go well with a glass of Nuits-St Georges, in this case Dme Henri Gouges 2013. And then I went back up to lovely suite 3406, with its cuddly dark-chocolate Boca Terry robes – see a video below, which also shows, in detail, the highly-imaginative tea welcome, including dried flowers and instructions how to make traditional Korean floral tea. The Victorian-style china is Miranda Kerr, also known as Mrs Evan Spiegel of Snapchat fame and fortune, designed for Royal Albert and made in Indonesia.
In the morning I had the great luck to go back of house, where the 525 team members of this luxury hotel spend most of their waking hours (and some of their sleeping hours as the video below shows dormitory-style crash pad sleeping areas, for men and for women). Really, their facilities are superb. They enter along a long well-lit corridor, both side walls hung with framed black and white photographs, one of each employee, from new hire to GM. These images are professional portraits, and the subject is given colour versions, framed prints and online. There is a 24/7 Technogym, exclusively for team members, and their dining room looks fun. Yes, this must be a jolly good place to work, and learn, and network. NOW SEE MORE OF THE EMPLOYEES’ FACILITIES, AND THEN SUITE 3406