Hello. My name is *see above* and I am a hotel snob.
They got me early, “they” being my mother, who has hair like Rita off Coronation Street and pronounces maintenance “maintainance”. We were on our yearly schlepp from Manchester to Down South, this time West Sussex. Normally we’d stay somewhere lovely and chic, like a pastel guesthouse in Dartmouth – a lovely and chic Devon town near a dreamy place called Blackpool Sands, which I thought was hilarious seeing as, aged seven, I was already hip to the fact that the other Blackpool’s a shithole.
“Turn the car around Paul, we’re not staying here”
Instead, there we were swishing through the gates of Butlins Bognor Regis, inside a brown estate car that smelt of Elnett and Cough Candy Twists, because a neighbour who lived in a mock-castle had been and said it was nice and my mother had to be the judge of that.
“Turn the car around Paul, we’re not staying here.”
Butlins has, since most of our salad days, had money spent on it and isn’t utter whack anymore. But Paul drove us somewhere as lovely and chic as he could find at a tantrum’s notice before disappearing to attend “something urgent” in Manchester – which is funny because, aged seven, I was already hip to the fact that nothing’s urgent in the North West. Thus began my trajectory of only nice things please.
Once upon a decade ago what is now the Andaz Liverpool Street was The Great Eastern Hotel and it was lovely. It was a Conran hotel when that still meant something, and it was a place where the right people turned up to parties to do unspeakable things to cute people. Very nice, thank you!
They did things like ship entire beaches in, sometimes even little seas, and people danced and took drugs and played dress-up and twirled. I once fell from a fourth floor internal balcony and bounced right back up again, which tends not to happen in a Hyatt.
Hyatts are vanilla. You and I won’t even stay at a Hyatt when someone else is paying, which got them to thinking…
Andaz is a Hindustani word meaning “unique style”… It’s also two letters away from being a Randy Crawford song
Let’s buy this gargantuan, labyrinthine Victorian pile they call The Great Eastern and turn it into the first in our new brand, Andaz. Andaz is a Hindustani word meaning “unique style” and someone got paid a lot of money to come up with that. It’s also two letters away from being a Randy Crawford song.
Too big to be boutique, they’re instead “boutique-inspired”, a semi-inspired idea to shoehorn some USPs into a brand that’s a bit meh. It’s one of, oh, Christ knows how many subdivisions of Hyatt and straddles the big ol’ luxury one (the Park Hyatt) which includes the Place Vendôme in Paris – the most expensive kind of bland that money can buy – and the Grand Hyatt diffusion line, which is like the Park lot I just mentioned only with furniture that looks like it was bought online.
And therein lies the problem. How do you convince clever and taste-making people, who don’t have gonks stuck to their computers, to stay at a Hyatt without them cringing all the way to the breakfast buffet? Well, it goes something like this:
1) Call it Andaz. Doesn’t even sound like a Hyatt! More like an Antipodean biscuit!
they’re everywhere, scattered, like so many Antony Gormley figures
2) Give staff iPads. Goodbye common-or-Hyatt check-in desks, hello “lobby-hosts”! These lobby-hosts are dressed in off-the-peg cool, are really friendly and give you a number on a card so you can call them at any time, which seems a tad intrusive, poor them. And they’re everywhere, scattered, like so many Antony Gormley figures.
3) Make a standalone Andaz website featuring men with hefty beards and so many tattoos they look like public toilet doors. This, of course, indicates “hipster”, but even Next has stopped using models with beards.
4) Art. Art is good and good people like art. And make sure it’s bloody local art, too, which in this instance means roping in artists from East London. And bloody good they are, too. In my room – “Room With a View” – Patrick Vale and Paul Davis have created One Day Walk, a beautiful map taking up an entire wall and taking in their favourite local spots, like the awesome St John Bread and Wine over in Spitalfields, and cute, punch-your-heart-independent Columbia Road Market which, I hear, is about to get its own Byron. Which makes me want to kill people.
5) Get all design-y on its ass: fill a lobby with low-lying Italian chaises longues in various browns, objets de Ligne Roset Sale, and pictures that come with the frame. There’s so much floor space at this hotel, with a higgledy layout, that you get the impression that them at the top couldn’t quite work out what to do with it. So there’s a pub-out-of-a-brochure here, a restaurant so opulent it gives you the willies there, an atrium that is neither mickle nor muckle plonked somewhere in the middle. Who knows, maybe this was part of the brief – “less hotel, more village, people!” – but it’s a bit Barbra “I thought it would be nice to create a street of shops” Streisand, and it sets off my OCD like a right bugger. And it’s all mostly at odds with the beautiful Victorian fabric of the building. The rooms and suites, however, do work. They’re big, sturdy things, handsome and uncomplicated with Eames chairs and Jacobsen lamps, though I’d consider getting rid of the twigs-in-a-vase because it isn’t 1993. Oh, and there’s even a Masonic Temple, if you look hard enough, which is spooky and random and extraordinary.
6) Make the food good, which they have. The showstopper restaurant, 1901, is impressive in both how it looks and what it serves, the latter being locally sourced (of course!) British stuff. It’s in the hotel’s original ballroom and if they played around with the seating and shoved Chef on Saturday Kitchen on the BBC there’s no reason why it couldn’t become a destination restaurant.
7) Pump it full of its own scent. Not a new idea – Hotel Costes in Paris is probably the best example of this – it’s a sentient way of playing with your emotions, goddammit.
8) Get you pissed. Guests are invited for complimentary wine at approximately sunset each evening, and they don’t need to ask twice.
Look hard enough, though, and it’s still a Hyatt. Yet some – including Hyatt, I imagine – would suggest this quandary is actually one of its greatest assets. That the glittering infrastructure of an international brand offers familiarity plus a level of service that has to be upheld otherwise shareholders are going to start ripping new arseholes; cover this in glue and roll it in local charm-by-numbers and hey presto, you’ve got a non-chainy chain (like Byron!) that appeals to hen parties who are a cut above, but scared of booking into Ace Hotel down the road.
This is entry-level boutique. And it’s mostly a very nice thing. Contrived and safe maybe, but sitting quite prettily between edgy and swit swoo, Andaz equals cool for the masses. And even a hotel snob would probably approve of that. C
Andaz Liverpool Street, 40 Liverpool Street, London EC2M 7QN, UK
020-7961 1234; andaz.hyatt.com