The world's best boutique hotels have been revealed
From wooden cocoons in Phuket to curated soundtracks in the Algarve, here’s an exclusive look at the winners of Mr & Mrs Smith’s 2016 Hotel Awards
Hotels just for sleeping in? Not quite. The fourth annual Mr & Mrs Smith Awards, run by the boutique and luxury hotels website, proved that at the world’s best hotels, sleep is often furthest from guests’ minds. This time around, the 12 award categories included four new contenders: Hottest Hotel Soundtrack, Coolest Creative Hub, Best Date-Night Bar and Local Hotel Hero). Expert judges including Lauren Laverne, Henry Holland and cocktail maestro Tony Conigliaro assisted the boutique hotel experts in their decision-making.
Loosen your collar for the World’s Sexiest Bedroom, work up a hunger for Best Gourmet Getaway and unwind with help from the Most Spoiling Spa. When it came to the big one – Best Smith Hotel 2016 – the company let the public decide. Here’s a full list of the winners.
Best Smith Hotel 2016
Time your poolside sunbathing right, and Halcyon House’s chef might serve you gelato from a vintage ice-cream truck while you’re lounging. Halcyon House – a bohemian beachfront hangout born from a faded surf motel – left a sweet taste in the mouth of the voters who hailed it Best Smith Hotel 2016 (not bad, given it opened in 2015). Wheel around Cabarita Beach on Halcyon’s retro bikes (or go full throttle in a rented Audi).
Palazzo Margherita, Basilicata, Italy
Francis Ford Coppola has a hidden talent – dressing hotels. The filmmaking legend owns this Baroque bolthole in Basilicata and it’s as dapper as Vito Corleone on his wedding day, thanks to a selection of ravishing salvaged furnishings. These include the Palazzo’s original, 19th-century chandelier and a vintage bar from Turin. Walls are dressed in retro Le Manach fabric. Suite No. 4, designed by daughter Sofia Coppola, is particularly come-hither: picture pastel-shaded frescoes, chevron floor tiles, lacy wall friezes and a small garden-spying terrace.
World’s Sexiest Bedroom
Keemala, Phuket, Thailand
Is that the sound of knickers dropping and buttons popping? Keemala induces swift disrobing via its lofty pool villas, which come in various madcap guises: bird’s nests, seed-pods, thatched hobbit holes – each is a cocoon of woven wood, with a glass wall overlooking lush rainforest, rugged mountains and the glittering Andaman Sea. Pulse-quickening extras include the four-poster bed, al fresco bath tub and private lap pool. Feathers, optional.
Best Date-Night Bar
The London Edition, London, United Kingdom
Pleased as punch? You will be at Punch Room, the London Edition’s bookings-only bar: an oak-panelled space that riffs on 19th-century gentlemen’s clubs and aristocratic uncle’s libraries. There are 10 punches to pick from, including a gin-infused number with jasmine tea and oak moss; your host will ladle up your chosen poison with suitable theatrics.
Best Gourmet Getaway
The Old Clare, Sydney, Australia
Clare is a clever old thing, having lassoed not one but two world-class chefs to add sparkle to her kitchens: Brit talent Jason Atherton (of Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social, in Mayfair) and homegrown star Clayton Wells (ex-sous chef at Momofuku Seiōbo). At Automata, Wells’s five-course tasting menus star dishes that over-deliver on their concise billing: a starter of “fermented cherry, black garlic and capers”, for example. At Kensington Street Social, Atherton rustles up typically accomplished Med sharing plates in an industrial-style setting.
Most Spoiling Spa
Amanemu, Ise-Shima National Park, Japan
A hotel that has hot-springs water coursing through its veins is bound to leave you feeling squeaky clean; Amanemu doesn’t disappoint. Built around onsen (hot springs) in the emerald-and-azure Ise-Shima National Park, Amanemu’s vast (215 sq miles and counting) water-inspired spa boasts two private onsen pavilions, a watsu pool and four suites. Treatments champion the nutrient-rich, salt-infused water – renowned for fixing joint and muscle pain and healing cuts – and salt from Ago Bay.
Hottest Hotel Soundtrack
Fazenda Nova Country House, Algarve, Portugal
It’s pretty hard to improve on rural Portuguese perfection – orchards, herb gardens, olive trees, saltwater pool and a 19th-century farmhouse, say – but Fazenda Nova has an additional weapon up its linen sleeve. Playlists come courtesy of co-owner Hallie Robinson’s dad, Nick Logan, who founded iconic 1980s magazines Smash Hits, The Face and Arena and used to edit NME. He has helpfully endowed the hotel with a heaving, genre-spanning vinyl collection for guests to play. The hotel also operates a liberal “Hey, this would be cool” policy during the day.
Pool with a View
Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Lake Como, Italy
Walking on water is a reality, not a biblical miracle, at Grand Hotel Tremezzo’s Water-on-Water pool. Set on a lake, with a beach just a trident’s throw away, it’s views of Lake Como views are eye-wateringly beautiful. Behold Bellagio’s green-and-blue splendour.
Above & Beyond
Awasi, Patagonia, Chile
Outside Awasi, all is wild and untamed; inside, it’s all sheepskin, wool and wood-burning stoves. You can even look forward to arriving at the local airport, since obliging hotel staff will meet you and whisk you away in a chauffeur-driven vehicle to a luxury, secluded cabin. Forget guidebooks – you’ll get a private guide to show you the less-known side of Chile’s breathtaking Torres del Paine National Park, Lake Sarmiento and the lush lowlands. Fact: Awasi is the only hotel in South America that includes a four-wheel drive and guide for each room.
Best Family Hotel
Treehotel, Norrbotten County, Sweden
Treehotel could provide proof of an extraterrestrial encounter: its sleeping quarters are six intergalactic treehouses, including a UFO (yes, really). Then there’s the bonkers Bird’s Nest, covered in fallen branches and twigs, as if a bald eagle noticed a gap in the market for avian luxury dwellings and took matters into its own wings.
Coolest Creative Hub
Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Broaden horizons (geographical and intellectual) at remote Fogo Island Inn, which occupies a stark-to-the-point-of-apocalyptic landscape that would suit a Georgia O’Keeffe canvas. Fogo has channelled the dynamism of its setting for its minimalist white-and-glass interiors. The perfect foil to those awe-inspiring views – best enjoyed with your in-room binoculars. The island’s culture has been shaped by local fishermen, boat-builders and artists; soak it up in the contemporary art gallery and the library stocked with tomes on Newfoundland.
Local Hotel Hero
11 Howard, New York, United States
It takes a generosity of spirit to hand your hotel’s facade over to a bunch of art students – even if they are acting under the guidance of a certain Jeff Koons. 11 Howard did exactly that, persuading th artist to commandeer a squad of local students into designing the hotel’s swirling, blue-and-white south-wall mural. The art trip continues inside. Admire Alexander Calder’s 1976 mobile (“Untitled”) in the lobby and Hiroshi Sugimoto’s prints in co-working space The Library. Or go exploring, New York-style, on Howard’s Boosted electric skateboards.
Sarah Jappy is a freelance journalist and contributing editor at Mr & Mrs Smith. For more information, or to book any of these hotels, see mrandmrssmith.com