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Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Article: Hotel Review Elite Hotel Carolina Tower

My first thought was: - A hospital hotel? Why would that be interesting? 
However I was wrong, this hotel provides modern interior design with a fantastic skyfloor view were a quite small gym and "spa" overlooking the Stockholm skyline. They also have a skybar (not opened yet), however unable to review. 
The restaurant is a Italian terrazzo with simple dishes such as pizza, selection of cold cuts and from the grill.

The rooms are designed with a modern interior and very contemporary. We enjoyed the soft beds and the baths that had a great size. All standards were imbedded in the room such as slippers, bathrobes etc.

As usual cleaning is an issue. Even though this is a new hotel you still can se dust in the corners and sometimes under the curtains. Something cleaning management should overlook.

Food and Beverage (Haga Bottega):
The restaurant is at good standard and we like the hospitality. The staff is very friendly and can provide extra changes in the menu if children gets a bit picky. The wine selection is good and we enjoyed their Barbera d'Alba.
Breakfast is ok, however we feel that this hotel should provide more fresh ingredients such as more fruit variety and there was no waffles or pancakes. Also an egg station is in order, all modern and new hotels in Stockholm have today an egg station were you can order your personal omelet.

Other amnesties:
The gym is way too small and could be made to something ells or changed to a spa facility. The view is amazing and you can see all over the city. This should be their selling point however the skybar is limited to conference bookings only and the "spa" is only a sauna with a view. Much better commercial use could be implemented here.

All in all we enjoyed this hotel and we loved the staff in the restaurant. The hotel staff is also very professional and we liked the design of the rooms. What could be improved is a better use of the skybar and skyfloor. Also a much more focus on the breakfast could be implemented such as a bubbly alternative for breakfast during Saturdays or Sundays. It cost almost nothing for the restaurant but it is a very good touch for the loyal guests that stays during the weekend.

Final Grade: 3 out of 5

Written and reviewed by Alexander Yü and Sofie Yü

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Article: The Semla from Vetekatten

This amazing traditional pastry that we try each year with a new bakery is just getting better and better. The rich and perfect cream, puffy and perfection in texture of bread and finally the almond icing that is made to superb balance is not only goooooood to eat all together but a historic pastry that have lived through the Swedish culture and history for hundreds of years.

We at Western Taste loves the Semla and this year we have chosen to try it from the famous and historical cafe house of Vetekatten in Stockholm.

Vetekatten dates back all the way to 1928 and was founded by a woman calls Ester Nordhammar. Back in those days women had just received the right to vote in Sweden and very few business owners was run by women. Ester was 42 years of age and had a long background as a baker. She had a vision to start a bakery that was simple enough for everyone to enjoy and was decorated as a traditional minister home. She also had a goal to only hire young women, in fact no men worked at Vetekatten until 1961, the year Ester passed away. She wrote in her will that the bakery should continue to its 4 partners.

When you enter this fantastic bakery you can feel the historical ambiance. There are two sections in this coffee house/ bakery; one that is kept as the original bakery intended to be, the other one is modern although still honoring the tradition.

The pastry; Semla is judged in 4 categories; Looks, Bread, Cream, Almond Icing and "All in All".

The tasting panel consist of 10 different people.

Looks: 4
Comment: the roof was cut perfectly and the size of the pastry was superb, however the bun was a bit too large compared with the roof.

Bread: 4,5
Superb taste and perfect texture.

Cream: 5
Amazing cream with a perfect sweetness balance.

Almond Icing: 5
Absolutely perfection with a superb mixture of sweet and consistency.

Final Grade: 4.5  

Written by: Alexander Yü

Friday, 29 December 2017

Hotel Review: Elite Hotel Academia

From a family perspective with two adults and two children we set to try out the newly opened Elite Hotel in Uppsala. It is branded as a 4 star hotel, like all Elite Hotels in Sweden. We booked a family room with bath/shower and two double beds.
The hotel has a golden exterior design and offers conferences, a gym and three restaurants. They also offer in room service and minibar.

As usual we are doing a full scale review so here goes:

Large family room with a modern interior design. We loved the size of the bathroom and the large bath so both children could play and almost swim in. The bed was very comfortable and we enjoyed the size of the room.
Cleaning on the other hand was not as high in standard and we found several “bad” spots such as many dust collections here and there. Something that bothered me is also that they did not have slippers in room but you had to ask front desk for it.

Room Service
The food was great however the communication between the call and the execution was not. First the menu in the room did not say room service it was made out as Bishop Arms (one of the restaurants). When we called the front desk they did not know either and when we finally established it was the room service menu they did not understand what we ordered because the person behind the phone did not know the menu. Room service and F&B needs to work with their internal communication much better.

Front Desk
Very nice design on the front desk however the construction was made very strange. When you enter the main entrance you are not welcomed directly. The front desk is in the other end of the main floor and you have to walk all the way to the “back” to check in.
It feels also that it is two different hotel operators inside the building. One that manages the conference and one for the hotel rooms. The design differs to a small extent from the breakfast restaurant to the hotel lobby were the lobby clearly has a more premium feeling than the restaurant/ conference section.

Food & Beverage
The food in this hotel is good. They have three units were one is Elite Hotels standard restaurant; Bishop Arms with the normal large beer selection and burgers, fish n chips etc. The breakfast restaurant with conference lunch etc is also very pleasant. We enjoyed the breakfast selection however would love to see more fruit choices and perhaps an egg station with cook to order on omelets or some sort.
The highlight of this hotel is their sky bar and restaurant. It is located on the top floor overlooking the entire Uppsala City. You can see from the castle, the church to the newly build office building, the Jewel. The restaurants is owned by the famous Michelin chefs Melker Andersson and Daniel Couet. The food is a fusion restaurant with influences from the Nordic, Vietnam, South China, North China, Japan and Korea. We adored the view, wine selection and the amazing tasting menu that was prepared for us. The name of this superb restaurant calls Miss Voon a continueing from the Stockholm original branch.
The hotel also have a Sunday Brunch which is a popular destination for the people in Uppsala. Here you can find everything that you hungry for in a brunch and we must say that it is one of the best in the city.

The training facility is very good. Not many hotels have this size of a gym anymore, especially in the Nordics. With this gym we were quite happy with it and could do a full training if one is creative.

To sum up we enjoyed this hotel very much and would recommend it to other visitors. There are some points that they need to improve however these attributes should come later when the hotel have had its run for 6 months. We will most likely revisit it again for an updated review in the future.

Final Grade: 3 out of 5

Written by Alexander Yü and Sofie Yü

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Article: Clarion Hotel Review

Think of one big hotel brand in the Nordics that has international standards. It is very hard to find a Nordic hotel brand in the same category as InterContinental Hotel Group, Ritz Carlton Group, Marriott Group, Starwood Hotel Group, Hilton Group or Accor Hotel Group. Almost all hotel chains in the Nordics are either super boring, sad cheap hotel brands or old and dusty. There are some small boutique hotel chains that have put down an effort that stands out but you cannot compare these hotels with the big league of international hotel groups.

Well I was rather wrong, there is one brand that stands out and that tries to place themselves on the top league of international standards and have many possibilities to roll it out to an international market (currently only operating in the Nordics today). The brand I am writing about is: Nordic Choice Hotel Group. Under the brand there are several levels; Clarion, Quality, Comfort and some independent hotels such as At Six (previous review). However the sad thing is that it is part of a much larger hotel group calls Choice Hotels which is an US company. To my knowledge Nordic Choice Hotels makes their hotels much better in standard and service than the mohter company. This means that the owner Petter Stordalen has purchased the rights to only use the brand Choice to operate in the Nordics. I just had to check this out.

All in all Nordic Choice Hotel Group has the rumor to have the best brand in the Nordics when it comes to hotels so me and my family decided to take one week of this year holiday to review 3 Clarion hotels around Sweden.

The hotels that we stayed at were:

Clarion Malmö Live, Malmö Sweden
Clarion Grand Hotel, Helsingborg Sweden
Clarion Sign, Stockholm Sweden

These are the reviews:

Clarion Malmö Live

This hotel has everything that a business traveler or a family oriented holiday needs. The hotel is made with true international standards with large open spaces, great conference section and a superb congress hall. The gym is fantastic and I enjoyed the breakfast very much. The staff is very professional and friendly and they have a roof top skybar and restaurant on the 25th floor overlooking Denmark and the city of Malmö.
Our family got a great family suite with two rooms and a great view over Malmö. The height of the ceiling was fantastic although some detailed cleaning could be improved as in most hotels these days.
We highly recommend this hotel for food and beverage, drinks, the room quality are good and staff is great.

Final Grade: 4 out of 5

Clarion Grand Hotel

The city of Helsingborg is an expanding and a very fun small town in the south of Sweden. When we arrived to this hotel you could feel the pulse of many and that this hotel most likely is fully booked. The service and staff is friendly and very helpful which is the strong point of this hotel. The rooms are designed with a classical ambiance since its location and property. The restaurant Kitchen and Table that follows all Clarion Hotels are good in standard and we enjoyed it as we always do. However the cocktails in this hotel is not in good standards. If you were to compare the drinks with Malmö Live, Clarion Grand Hotel is far behind in quality and execution. The bartender even asked me if the cocktail was to satisfaction and I told them to take a course in Malmö Live because this was not the same standard and I did not get any response. If you are at a restaurant and the food tastes bad or the meat is not prepared properly the chef sends out a new one. I think it goes the same way when it comes to cocktails and drinks, or am I wrong?
The breakfast was of ok standard but I would say that Malmö Live still delivers better. I ordered omelets for me and my wife and we got it served burnet to sh*t. I kid you not it was toasted. I told the waiter and she just laughed and walked away.

Overall the hotel was good but the food and beverage is a bad number at this hotel.

Final Grade: 2,5 out of 5

Clarion Sign, Stockholm Sweden

As always Stockholm delivers and we loved this congress/hotel/spa experience. It is fantastic for kids to have a roof top pool to play in and a great spa for massage and relax. The restaurants is great and the service is superb. We loved the breakfast and brunch at this hotel since they have a lot of programs for kids and family.

The rooms are a bit boring and the interior in the rest of the hotel is a bit outdated however this is not an issue since the staff is great. But if you are to compare with Malmö Live which is our favorite the grade has to be lower.

Final Grade 3,5 out of 5

Written by Alexander Yü