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Monday, 30 November 2020

Hotel Revisit: At Six, Stockholm, Sweden

Covid-19... what a sad happening and definition for 2020. When the whole world stopped and the economy droped for events, food & beverage, aviation, turism, hotels and many more industries. 

Since Covid, we have had very little acitity here at Western Taste due to the restriction of travel but also new experiences. So we revisited some of the hotels and restaurants in our own country; namely Sweden :)

Last time we visited At Six they gave us an experience we did not see in Sweden before. You have to understand that we do not have 5 star hotels that can meet international standards like the Four Seasons, Carlton Hotel, The Ritz, Shangri-La or JW Marriott. We have very few differences and very boring chains such as Scandic HotelNordic ChoiceElite Hotel Group and Radisson Hotel Group. Most of these hotel groups have gone fat and happy and gave very little changes to their rooms, serivce upgrade and experiences. The only one that challenged them was a man calls Petter Stordalen who is the owner and creator of Nordic Choice Hotels (one of the four). He started up a few boutique style hotels that changed the perception of hotel experince and started to challenge all other groups to do the same. He used what he learned from the top brands and influenced it into his chaine and gave spirit and passion back to the Swedish hotel operation.

Grand Hotel in Sweden has been the only hotel in Sweden that have had 5 star standard however it feels old and outdated at many times.

Our favorite hotel in Sweden are two brands, One is The Bank Hotel and the other is At Six. That is the reason we went back to this amazing hotel and this time during Covid-19 period which was interesting. We were here before during its first year and it gave all and now it feels a bit slower. The paste has wind down like an fast moving clock, however this is expected since distance, longer que and slower paste seems to be an everyday melody these days.

The food was still at its top and we loved the Dining Room stil for dinner and breakfast. For dinner we can surely recommend the deep fried shimeji mushroom, roasted pumpkin, fried deer. The breakfast is fantastic and one of the best you can find in Sweden. All ingreadiences are eco-produced and freshly made. We love the overnight oats with berries and fruit and that all staff have masks and very service minded at all time.

Thank you to the team at AT SIX yet again for your outstanding service and comfort, we will for sure visit again and this is a very plus since we live in the same city :)

Grade: 4 out of 5

Written by Alexander Yû

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Hotel Review: Re-visit Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort

After a long 12-hour flight with a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old child from Stockholm, Sweden to Krabi, Thailand you feel a bit tired. However, when met upon the airport with Sofitel car to greet us with water and smiles the experience begins. When our 5-year-old daughter was 2-years-old, we came to this hotel the first time visiting Thailand. Since then we have been traveling to Thailand every year and since our son made 2 years of age, we felt it would be great to re-visit this 5-star resort.
Reviewing this hotel again has been fantastic and we have judged it upon a family perspective with 5 aspects as presented below:

Upon arrival to this large resort next to a fantastic long beach and a short 9-hole golf course (that is part of this hotel), the lobby greats you with a large open area. We love the traditional Thai/French décor of dark wooden furniture and hand-crafted design in the high ceiling details.
We are greeted with cold tea and cool towels to wind down which is a very soft and lovely way to welcome your guests after a long travel in this warm and humid weather.

– tip to Sofitel! Since this is a French hotel brand it would have been nice to been offered a glass of sparkling wine as well. 

After a short and very smooth check in we are shown to our hotel room. We booked a luxury room with pool and ocean view, which we enjoyed very much. Even though we were 2 adults and 2 small children a single room worked at Sofitel since the luxury room was quite large with 54 sqm. The standard and design of the rooms are good however needs some update on décor. It is a shame that there is almost nothing on the walls. It would be nice to have some art or historical paintings on the walls in the room. The bathrooms are a bit unmodern and needs to be upgraded, bits and pieces seems that it is falling apart sometimes and needs to be checked. A rainfall shower would have been great in today’s 5-star standard.
 We enjoyed that they have Loccitane shower and bath products.  The bed is large and very spacious however very hard and not the most comfortable sleep the first 4 nights or so however after a while you get used to it.
The minibar offers standard products. We like that they had a porcelain kettle.

– Tip to Sofitel! Make the mini-bar more interesting and upgrade the offer. There are many hotels today that makes the rooms more interesting with a in room bar experience, with a small mixer, more upgraded glasses and drink menu that you can do yourself from the mini-bar.

Food & Beverage

Maya Restaurant (International)
The all-day dining was also were the breakfast is served, the food delivered a rather good quality, we enjoyed the international cuisine and the level of an all-day dining. We had our lunch most of the time here and not buy the pool because of the service and quality of food. In the evening it was sadly very empty. Very little guests came to their special dinners which was a bit sad because the food was actually very good. However, if you would compare prices with local restaurants on the beach with a 5-star hotel the difference is quite high so I would guess that was the reason.  
We enjoyed the breakfast very much were the waiters knows your name and after only 2 days they could notice your favourite part and what coffee/tea or beverage you preferred.
The staff at this restaurant is very good. We loved the waitress and waiters, they new us buy name after a day or so and gave us very good service. They made an effort to satisfy us and our children needs, and we really enjoyed our family morning, lunch and some evenings here.

The Venezia (Italian)
Great Italian food and fantastic stone oven pizza. The wine list is quite good but as most in Thailand and with its tax system it is very hard to find great value or fair priced wine lists, if you are to compare with Europe. However, we enjoyed the restaurant, its service and quality of delivery.

White Lotus (Thai & Indian)
If I would choose a restaurant in Krabi to dine in I would pic White Lotus many times over. I really enjoy its dishes, level of delivery and its fantastic service. I think it is hard to compete with the restaurants on the beach that costs half the price of this restaurant however the level of quality at White Lotus is much higher than the local Thai restaurants. The spices and the quality of food is fantastic, and we really enjoyed both the Thai and Indian dishes on the menu.

Koh Poda (pool bar & restaurant)
The problem with this restaurant is that the weather is so hot, and the location of this restaurant is were no wind blows. This makes it very warm to dine in the middle of the day, especially if you have young children. So, to be honest we only tried once and cannot provide a fair judgement.

Outside of these 4 f&b outlets there is the swim up pool bar that is connected to Koh Poda and an afternoon/ evening cocktail lounge calls Explorer Bar. They also have a membership area for Accor Premium members that serves drinks and simple food.

Overall, we enjoyed every restaurant we visited. The strong side of all restaurants are its staff and service. We really felt that we could connect with the staff and that they tried to provide us with great service but at the same time not to close or pushy. We visited the cocktail bar everyday and the bartenders are good here. They really make an effort to provide a great cocktail and if you want any suggestion outside the menu, they can surprise you with an even better one.
I must say that both the local Thai staff and the international staff was very good here at Sofitel. The strongest point of this hotel is its working employers and with this makes our stay more personal and pleasant.
We flew with TUI that really could learn from its member hotels on how to treat and work with its customer experience. TUI was unfortunately one day late on their home flight. All I needed to do was to ask this to the hotel senior staff and they helped us with fantastic support. We had to go by Taxi at 5:00 in the morning and our driver that we booked outside the hotel did not show up, in matter of minutes, Sofitel provided us with a car and drove us to the airport.

Other amnesties
On these holiday resorts there is not much you can expect on gym facilities however this gym is quite good and large in space. They also offer complementary yoga sessions in the morning, morning hike and runs and also other physical activities.

The kids club in this hotel is very good and spacious. They have games such as two PlayStation, kids’ corner for all ages and outdoor playground. The teachers are very friendly and good.

Pool area is fantastic. It is the largest pool in Krabi with over 7000 sqm and a swim up bar. They offer a few rooms with swim up access, an adult area with 18+ and a kid’s pool area. Considering the gigantic swimming pool, the kids’ area is very small. They could invest in a better slide for kids and other fun activities in the pool since many guests are family oriented.

The Spa is fantastic with superb service and quality massages. I, Sofie, had two massages and enjoyed both very much. One full body massage and one foot massage. Both made by women and the relaxed, calm and experience is done with great remarks.

Overall, we loved our stay here at Sofitel Krabi. The hotel offers great diversity of activities, fantastic food & beverage offers, and the strongest point of this resort is the staff with superb service. Everyone was very professional, all the way from senior management, lobby, bar & cocktail, cleaning to restaurant management and service.
We enjoyed all restaurants and the bar managers that served us very good cocktails knew us by name and felt like personal service.

The downside of this resort are the rooms that needs to be upgraded to an international 5-star standard. The beds need to be a bit softer, bathroom and shower needs an upgrade and a small aspect of decor on walls could be considered.

Kids pool area could also be thought upon a bit more. There is not that much to do other than swimming for younger kids. A larger slide or more fun activities in the pool could be a great investment for the hotel.

Review from 2015:

Final Grade: 4 out of 5
Comment: It is a very strong 4 however if the rooms were more upgraded it would have been a 4,5.

Reviewed by Alexander Yü and Sofie Yü


Monday, 4 March 2019

Article: Vetekatten wins the best "Semla" by Western Taste

If you want to understand the Swedish bakery and concept of "the Semla" you must understand its history and were it comes from. Every year the kingdom of Sweden celebrates the "fat" day were the population consumes this amazing pastry. It dates all the way back to the 1500 however it got its name from a certain King back in the 1700. 

King Adolf Frederick of Sweden died of digestion problems on February 12, 1771 after consuming a meal consisting of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring and champagne, which was topped off by fourteen helpings of hetvägg (semla), the king's favourite dessert.

Every year the Swedish population eats around 6 million "Semlor" on fatday and God knows how many for the whole year.

Many bakeries and coffee shops bake these desserts however only a few stands out and makes this a gourmet pastry. Vetekatten is one of them and one of the oldest cafe in Stockholm. It dates to 1928 by Ester Nordhammar. Their passion for amazing "fika" has become part of Stockholm history and tradition and delivers an amazing Semla for its population in this fantastic capital; Stockholm.

We judge the Semla on 5 categories:

4,5 out of 5

5 out of 5

Almond Icing
5 out of 5

5 out of 5

All in all, in mouth :)
5 out of 5

Yet again this little cafe delivers high quality products with fantastic service.

Written by Alexander Yü

Friday, 25 January 2019

Restaurant Review: PM & Vänner Bistro

Where is Småland, what is Växjö and wtf is PM? This is a question that many international guests askes themselves when they try to find their favorite local bistro with probably the best wine list in Scandinavia. It is not a list, it is more of a book when it comes to wine selection.

Here you can find all the big 5 Grand Cru houses represented and a lot of interesting wines on the menu. We love the story behind the boldness of PM and its effort to become the best wine destination in Sweden, and I must say it certainly have become.

During our evening we went for Champagne, white selection, red selection and we are pleased.

Thank you PM for great service, food delivery and fantastic ambiance in this little town in the middle of the forest somewhere in the middle of south Sweden.

In the family of PM you can find a hotel, Bistro restaurant, Fine Dining Restaurant that holds 1 Michelin Star, roof top bar and restaurant and a spa with swiming pool. 

Grade is only made on wine selection, delivery, service and surrounding.

5 out of 5

Final Grade written by Alexander Yü

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