Chile’s capital has acquired some signature luxury hotels, especially in Las Condes business district. Take Ritz-Carlton Hotel Santiago, a 15-floor brick building (think of lots of shoe boxes stacked up like lego, each box having the same sized window).
On top of the whole, someone has cleverly put a half-cylinder of glass tube running from one end to the other, or rather almost to the other. The other end does have an open terrace, which is great for sunbathing and, as the gal discovered, for looking out at the distant Andes mountains.
Inside this tube is the fitness complex. There is a 22-foot pool with good hot-tub, and at the end furthest from the open terrace, the space is divided horizontally. Downstairs is the spa, and upstairs a light and airy Technogym.
There is also space for a fitness bar, offering juices and plenty of free fruit. Have some cherries, offered a smiling young Chilean girl as some keen swimmers left. The tube also has lots of living palm trees, all in pristine condition.
Trees in pool areas really should be real (if this is not possible, have trompe l’oeil, as at Le Bristol in Paris, Chewton Glen in Hampshire, England, and The Merrion in Dublin).
There is masses of greenery, too, outside the 205-room hotel’s restaurants. Whereas nothing has so far been done to what looks like the mature-classic look of upper corridors and bedrooms, in November 2011 the hotel’s owners made the bold decision to kill the original grill and dining room and bring in, well, wow, open-to-the-public dining.
Several adjacent rooms offer different dining styles and, in each section, you can dine inside, or out. The terrace literally flows to the En Alcalde pavement sidewalk, with only a living hedge for privacy. At one end of the terrace a living wall is fed continuously by taps flowing into a water trough.
And the food is sensational, too. One of the restaurants is headed by Sergi Arola, who also manages to ‘do’ W Paris Opéra, also owned, like this hotel, by Meridia Capital, based in Barcelona, where Arola comes from.
Another of the new restaurants here is Estro, where you might start, say, with a mushroom salad. But this is not any old salad. It is a tower, layered with creamed manchego cheese and watercress and drizzled with truffle oil.
You are dining, by the way, at a simple wood table set with heart-shaped place mats made of dried salmon skin. Your bread ‘plate’ is a rough shape of stone with an indented semi-circle for lovely flavourful olive oil.
If you are smart you might choose a Lapostolle wine, from the hotel’s own private-label list. The owners, the Lapostolle Marnier family, apparently have always had a close affinity with Ritz-Carltons as it was César Ritz, who unknowingly was to give his name to this group, who suggested to the then-head of the Marnier family that they should add the name ‘Grand’ to their orange liqueur as it was, after all, such a special drink.
Now, in the 100 Bar here in the ‘new look’ of the hotel, you have hundreds of labels, set in glass cases around the walls of an area dominated by a high-up table used for special tastings and gastronomic dinners.
Oh the art of wine. No wonder Robert Parker in the USA, and Jancis Robinson in the UK, have made such renowned names for communicating what makes a wine great. But it is time to go outside the luxury hotel that is Ritz-Carlton Santiago and explore the Las Condes neighbourhood.
Go outside, turn right, and about ten yards along the pedestrianised En Alcalde road you come across the first of the street-set statues that make you smile. What is this guy doing? He does, by the way, allow you to see what the hotel itself looks like, from the street.