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Friday, 4 January 2019

Hotel Reveiw: Haymarket by Scandic, Stockholm, Sweden

This is our first overnight experience at Haymarket by Scandic in Stockholm. We have visited the bars and restaurants before however never stayed a night over. This time we did it with the whole family to rate it from a family perspective. We booked a suite on top floor so we could have a good view over Stockholm scenery. The main reason for this was because we stayed over New Year’s Eve for a celebration and experience.

Hotel and design:
The hotel is a beautiful hotel on the exterior. A classic Stockholm 1900 high level building that extracts luxury and power. It is made with classic stone construction which gives the surrounding a much higher and luxurious feeling. It suits the concert hall that is opposite however the cinema and the rest of the buildings are strangely made together.
The inside is a stunning 20-30 art deco design with fantastic feelings from Jazz, Greta Garbo and the amazing time of glamour of the jazz age. We love the details in the lobby, restaurants and the rooms. Our suite was on the top floor with a very nice open layout. One sleeping area, one living room area and one dining area (with dining table and minibar). The room was nice and the design delivered. However the view was not that good. It was quite hard to see the fireworks and since we specifically asked and called both the lobby, twice, before and the booking it was not delivered or thought upon.

Service of the hotel was average. The problem with Scandic is that they have a central booking that you are connected to when you want special requirements. This gives many, what ifs, and could be a problem when it comes to internal communication. We tried to call the hotel lobby many times a few days before to make sure our room was in order however the lobby did not answer at all. We tried later with the restaurant, also without results. This forced us to call central and all they could do was to take a note upon check in, which it was too late.
After several phone calls we finally got reach to the lobby and they could help us. They said that check in was 15.00 and we asked for earlier check in possibility, the lobby said it was no problem however when we arrived at 13:30 the room was not ready. When we asked for earlier check in the girl in the lobby said it will cost you an extra 150 sek. After a few debates they took it back and we got an early check in not until 14.30.
When we came to the room we asked for an ice bucket to chill our Champagne. The lobby said that we should go downstairs and pick it up ourselves. If this was a standard Scandic Hotel or some 3 star hotel than we could do it but this is marketed as one of Scandic Hotels absolutely most amazing hotels and to have an international standard people expect you to bring extra towels, slippers, ice buckets or other needs without question. Especially considering the price.

Food and beverage:
The food was stunning before however this time we could not rate this hotels dinner food. The reason is that they only offered tasting menu and since we came with two children that was out of the question. This was strange to me since they had another restaurant/cafe that they could offer a la carte menu but both the lobby and restaurant said it was not opened for dinner service, however when we came we saw that they offered simple dishes for dinner. Again, bad internal communication makes it confusing for guests. Fortunately I am a good friend with the owner of Grodan in Stockholm and we had a fantastic New Year’s Dinner in the ABBA Room with terrific service.
The cocktails was a very plus in this hotel. I loved the details and the extent that the bar tenders delivered. The outfits on the bartenders were perfectly dressed for the occasion and the hotel design. I hope their dresscode is not only for New Years because it was a big plus for the mood and surrounding.

The location is great. It is in the city center and close to everything. The only thing is not that much happening in the evening surrounding the hotel except the hotel. But walking distance to most of things is not that far.

Other amnesties:
The gym is a very small and not at all good. It feels like they did not know what to do with this amazing open space in the middle so they placed a small gym instead. There were some balcony on top floor however closed during New Year’s which was rather odd. This could be opened for the floor guests to enjoy.

Overall we loved the hotel, the design, cocktails, feeling and party vibes with class. However service needs to improve in lobby and when guests calls in. Internal communication is a big problem when it comes to all Scandic Hotels and when it comes to a high end hotel like Haymarket the guests expects more.

Final Grade: 3 out of 5

Written and experienced by Alexander Yü

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Hotel Review: Marriott Resort & Spa, Merlin Beach, Phuket, Thailand

5-star hotel Phuket Marriott Resort & Spa, Merlin Beach, lies beautifully on a secluded stretch of Tri-Trang Beach. Secluded but yet close to the excitement of Patong.

The rooms are spacious and includes every technology and amenities you need. The andaman sea view is spectacular. They offer luxury bedding and the beds are very comfortable. However, the mosquito protection doors out on the spacious balcony needs a upgrade.

The cleaning was a very positive experience. As soon as we had a bisquit accident all over the floor or sand that followed from the beach, the housekeeping came straight away. Can not complain about the cleaning, neither in the rooms or in the hotel area.

Food and Beverage:
Marriott offers four different restaurants, all very good. The Italian offered excellent wood oven pizzas, delicious pasta and desserts. Thai cuisine was a favourite with many typical Thai dishes prepared by a excellent staff. The Beach Grill made us wanna come back night after night because of the service minded staff, magnificent beach view and great seafood. Last but not least the all day dining that offered different buffets every evening, with vary results. Not the same uniqe tastes as the other restaurants and maybe a restaurant you’ll visit if the kids are very hungry and grumpy and none of the other restaurants are opened. All restaurants offered excellent service.
Not to forget the Beach bar that offers excellent music and drinks almost directly on the beach. Perfect for the couple to sit and watch the sunset or for the family, kids playing in the sun while you relax in a beach chair with something cooling in your hand.

The gym was no different from other resort facilities of this standard. There were, as always, some tools that were missing such as a bench presser for example. The gym had an ok size but would have been even better with a little bit larger size. I wish that fresh fruits could have been placed in the gym, just as an extra touch of quality.

Other amnesties:
The spa was maybe a bit small, and no really serenity space inside to sit and wait for your appointment. However, the different massages was very good in price and very qualified therapists. Well worth a visit.

Marriott offers three different pool areas. One very well equiped for kids and teenagers with water basketball, waterslide, splash area, which is connected with the Main pool where the excellent pool bar is placed. The pool bar offers a well range of nice cooling drinks and smaller dishes.
The third pool is located a short walk away, in the more quiet area where they also have a Nice juice bar with fresh squeezed juices.

All in all, Phuket Marriott Resort & Spa, Merlin Beach, is a well worth visit, for both the family or the couple. If your looking for a secluded well serviced hotel with their own private beach, this is it. There is not much to complain about. We would love to go back.

Final Grade: 4 out of 5

Written and reviewed by Alexander Yü and Sofie Yü

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