Sometimes it is the little things about luxury hotels that make them stand out – sometimes there is one main memory, sometimes more. Swissôtel Quito fits into the latter category. Take the food. Some dishes, says the gal, were absolutely outstanding. A simple mango sorbet was one of the best in the world, served with great passion in the hotel’s Italian restaurant, La Locanda (the hotel’s top chef, Maurizio DiMunno, is Milanese). Unusually, for a 240-room central city hotel, there are no fewer than seven eating venues.
This is because the hotel’s owners know they cannot raise room rates, which are far lower than they would like. They need, therefore, to find other ways of making money. Hotel GM Gino Casagrande says he has over 400 outside members of the hotel’s lower-floor health club, which has an indoor-outdoor pool, a two-floor gym and a 13-room spa. Year-round he has lots of meetings in the hotel, and there are four annual party times, Christmas, New Year, Mother’s Day and December 6th, celebrating the day in 1534 when Quito was founded (this turns into a week-long celebration).
Of course there is bedroom income, and knowledgeable travellers choose a room with access to the really good top floor Club (the floor is numbered E1 to avoid calling it floor 13). Amazingly, this offers substantial buffets at breakfast, and at lunch, and at dinner. It is really stylish, and remarkably generous. I loved it up there, looking out at the city-wide view. Is that Cotopaxi, Ecuador’s highest volcano (5,898 metres a.s.l), in the distance? Look in another direction at the winged Virgin of Quito, the world’s tallest aluminium statue, high on El Panecillo hill.
Dinner in La Locanda was, however, the highlight main meal during my stay in this luxury hotel. What with live Andean music wafting through from the adjacent lobby lounge – which is, by the way, filled day long with local businessmen discussing their business, be it exporting bananas, oil, shrimp or roses, or evening long with social group – all this helped to create the atmosphere. After the mango sorbet I went on to a Locanda tartare, of excellent Angus beef topped with a raw egg yolk, surrounded by pickled radish, sliced carrot and tiny blobs of Peruvian yellow pepper aioli. Our wine, however, had to be Chilean, Frontera Cabernet Sauvignon Concha y Toro, the house pour.