For anyone wanting a destination wedding in Prague, this luxury hotel – Mandarin Oriental Prague – could well be your choice. Above is the ballroom ante-room, ideal for cocktails before going into the main room, with crystal chandeliers hanging from the high ceilings. To the left is the view from the terrace leading off the upper floor of the two-floor Presidential Suite: you look down over the hotel’s own garden (apparently its new rooms with French windows opening into the garden are also very popular). Look over rooftops, too, to the hilltop Prague Castle, and see, says the gal, why this is often called the city of a thousand spires.
Since I was last here a lot has been done to the 99-room hotel, once a Dominican monastery – for a start, it is now owned by China Energy and Finance Corporation, one of the many investments China’s sixth largest company has made in town (it is majority owner of Slavia Prague, and it has 70% of the club’s Eden Arena, for instance). Here at the hotel they found renovations already done. The former restaurant has been redone, with a dedicated street entrance and a light-bright entrance from the lobby via an attractive bar with a splendid array of assorted gins, and whiskies. The simplicity of both the lobby and the bar are such that I wanted to congratulate Tim Mutton, CEO of the London-based design and concept consultants, Blacksheep, but frankly its website is such a kaleidoscope I found it positively migraine-inducing.
Through in the new restaurant, Spices, all is calm and peaceful. The low-vaulted series of rooms, a reminder that parts of the hotel go back to the 14th century, are palest-grey, and stone-topped tables have curvilinear teak Lazy Susans in the middle to allow sharing dishes to be rotated. The menu is cleverly divided into three, south-east Asia, north-east Asia and south-west Asia. I went all-Japan, first choosing three-each pieces of sake, salmon sashimi, and maguro, tuna sashimi. Next came a vegetarian tempura mix. I heard how business here at the hotel is actually increasingly leisure, not business-business, and the top market is from the US, followed by UK (apparently Prague is doing very well this year at the expense of Paris).
Food in Prague deserves to be even better known than it is, and Mandarin Oriental Prague is already marketing tickets to the city’s annual three-day food festival, which starts 26 May 2017 (tickets make great Christmas presents, and offer yet another reason to come to Prague, I was told). I think this luxury hotel’s spa must also be a big draw, at any time. You are welcomed in what is a deconsecrated chapel, and then, once signed in, you walk across a glass floor above ruins dating back to the year 1340 – the ambience, and the attraction of a full-day Mandarin retreat, with 120-minute time ritual, 90-minute customised Aromatherapy facial and another 120 minutes for your manicure and pedicure, helps explain why typically guests staying here chalk up 2.5 nights. The full-day retreat, by the way, does come with a spa bento box meal, hopefully with some of that fabulous Japanese food from Spices, though if you need kosher, no problem (we do it regularly, I was told).