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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

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Hotel Review: Hotel At Six, Stockholm, Sweden

According to the hotel:
Brunkebergstorg, Stockholm. A 19th century haven for socialites. And that’s where it all begins. A rebirth. A reimagining. A hotel to be seen. En vogue elegance in a new home. Where contemporary art meets design. Where dining revels in breathtaking views. Where sleep is nurtured by comfort. Where spacious comes as standard. Where detail intrigues with a twist. Where surprise is no surprise. 
The place, At Six. Sleep. Dine. Mingle. Surprise.
Welcome inside.

The first thing that comes to our attention is the amazing feeling of details. The hotel creates an atmosphere that embodies your senses and innovates your mind. It gives you a sensation to experience design, art and food in one and you can feel the touch of Petter Stordalen in many aspects of this hotel. This is a newly opened design and luxury hotel by Nordic Choice Group.

We stayed at a junior suite for one night and tried to maximize all facilities. The only location we could not use was the gym that was still under construction.

The junior suite on the highest floor was superb. Although the room felt more like a large executive room than a junior suite did not matter. The room had a fantastic view over Stockholm and the city hall from a fantastic balcony that stretches all over the room.
The details in the interior design was superb. Everything from the bed to selected furnitures such as the green marble working desk to the bathroom articles was done with precision and finesse. We loved the details that even the copper floor drain had the logo of the hotel.
In the room the minibar selection is not the standard wine and alcohol. It is local produced juices, sodas and other beverages. It also offers a full bar function with a shaker, high end crystal glasses, martini glasses and snacks. I love the fact that they also had “Happy Socks” and “Bed and Boxers” products you could purchase in room.

Breakfast was fantastic with a great selection of the classics and more modern and fresh complements such as freshly made ginger/apple juice. A remark is that coffee that is not standard brewery costs extra, that is something I would expect in a high end hotel. If I would like to have a Cappuccino or a Latte then I think an high end hotel like At Six should offer it complementary (if you compare with other 5 star or similar hotels around the world).
The hotel offers three evening restaurants; TAK, Dining Room and Blanche & Hierta. TAK is a fantastic Swedish and Japanese fusion restaurant on top of the hotel with an amazing 1000 sqm terrace. The amazing Chef Frida Ronge is a dynamic and creative chef that amazes us with great satisfaction.
The Dining Room offers an all-day dining experience and the food is superb. The Chef is Andreas Askling and provides food that looks like art and taste divine in your palate. One critique is that they charge you for stilled water and did not mention it was bottled. In my belief is that when the water is as fantastic as it is in the Nordics, people will expect it to be complementary and not charged, especially when the service is not mentioning the fact.
Blanche & Hierta was not fully functioned and could not offer more than a wine bar at the moment.

The staff at this hotel is very service minded. They offer you guided tours and display and information about the art and design in this hotel. The restaurant is fantastic and the in room service offers great service that you would expect in this kind of hotel. You never feel that you are asking too much when it comes to service or demands which is a great sign.

We could not use the gym however the staff offered to try their next door hotel gym instead until the gym finished its construction. We skipped this part however one very nice feature is that the hotel have a “no clothes, no excuse” policy. This is the first hotel that I have visited were they offer high end training clothes from J.Lindeberg, for free, to train if you happen to forget your training gear.

We enjoyed this hotel in many aspects and I must say that the rooms are fantastic. We loved the service and the detailed design in this facility and would definitely recommend this to our network.

Final Grade: 4,5 out of 5

Written by Alexander Yü and Sofie Yü

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Hotel Review: Gran Ventana Beach Resort, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

According to the hotel website: The Best All-Inclusive Puerto Plata Destination Playa Dorada, a gated oceanfront community on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, is home to Gran Ventana Beach Resort, one of the country’s friendliest, most welcoming hotels. Located directly on the beach, our Puerto Plata beach resort boasts three pools, a kids club and an airy, cool and fresh lobby. We also offer a superb, all-inclusive value for families, couples and group vacations.

We at Western Taste had the pleasure to try this hotel and all its facilities for 2 weeks.

We had 2 rooms to review. One beach front Superior Room and one beach front Suite.
Both rooms was functional and had everything you needed and would expect in a 4 star hotel. The interior in the rooms was rather old fashioned and the quality in furniture and decor was rather old. The bathroom in both rooms was old with shower without handle function which is never seen anymore in modern hotels. It would be much better with a rainfall shower and updated bathroom interiors. We also had problems in our suite with warm water function that did not work for almost half of the time during our stay. Both rooms had great balconies overlooking the ocean. The suite had a better view since it was higher up and totally private without insight.

Food & Beverage
I am sorry to say that the food is not impressive. Some of the restaurants delivered with good standards however it was not a fine dining experience or an innovative food and beverage selection. The wine list was very short and exactly the same in all three of the restaurants. They offered an Italian, Ocean Grill, Caribbean Cuisine and an all-day dining buffet restaurant. The starters and the main courses was ok however it seems as if the style of cooking had stopped since the 90s and not changed. I miss the lack of seafood innovation with fresh fish, grilled prawns or other interesting aspects that could be infused in this hotel. The dessert in all the restaurants was very bad, especially the Italian and the Caribbean. All of the desserts was made in beforehand and not to order which means it stood for a long period of time in the heat and tasted very bad such as the crème brulee which was just a piece of dough in the end.

This is one of the strong points of this hotel. The service was excellent with dedicated workers that tried to take care of all guest with best intentions. Everyone is very friendly and after a few days you basically know every restaurant worker, beach service, cleaning or reception staff by name.

Amazing beach that stretches for miles. The water is clean and goes a long way out. The beach is very large which means children can play very easily and if you are part of the VIP members service the staff brings you food and beverage to your sunbed/chair. Some sales people are a bit to close and askes to many questions but it is still ok.

Pool Area
The pool is large and has a swim up pool bar. The drinks in the pool bar is ok but not the best. It would be more interesting to go for fresh fruit juices and cocktails as well.
One constant noise of music is pumping in the pool area which is rather annoying and I feel sorry for the people living with balconies towards the pool area.
One very strange aspect is that they have a kid’s pool without sun protection. This means that no children can play in this pool when the sun is gazing in this area. This is something the hotel needs to change asap for kids safety and sun protection. We actually asked and noted this to the hotels Instagram site and the answer we got was that they did not have a kid’s pool which is even stranger since their in room information says clearly: KIDS POOL.

Kids Area
There are a few playgrounds however they are not that good and very limited. The kids access is also rather difficult. There is no easy access for instance to the Vintage Club and the Carribean restaurant which is the bar area for VIPs. There is a large staircase all the way up and if your family has a tram with you it needs to be carried most of the time. This is also something that must be very difficult for handicap or dissabled people.

All in all the hotel was enjoyable. The staff and the beach provided a great experience. Without these factors the hotel is rather old, poor in food and beverage, no real spa and a very smal dirty gym. The rooms are outdated with old bathrooms. The food is ok however also the kitchen staff needs modernization and use its local produce in a much more efficient and innovative way.
We came during spring break period and during our stay we had a party group of teenagers that had a great time partying. We recommend that you book a room with an ocean view away from to pool area during spring time and you will most likely be fine.

I would have loved to see a beach live BBQ with a number of selected seafood, fish and other delights of the ocean. This could be done in the evening at the beach site with ana amazing view and experience. 
Also imagine a fresh juicebar that is opened 24/7 that can serve you cocktails with local fruits and freshly squeezed juices and smoothies.

Final Grade: 3 out of 5

Review by: Alexander Yü and Sofie Yü