A touch of Astor in Osaka


We review the St Regis Osaka, which attempts to transplant a little bit of classic, Astor-era, Manhattan glamour into one of Japan’s most neon-drenched urban hubs

A touch of Astor in Osaka

Happy hour is a state of mind, and there aren’t many places in midtown Manhattan that have such a gleeful pull at 6pm weekdays – The King Cole Bar at the St Regis Hotel in Manhattan, birthplace, allegedly, of the Bloody Mary, is an irresistible beauty. Its radiant Maxwell Parrish mural, originally commissioned by Colonel Astor (who founded the hotel, and was heading home to it on the Titanic in 1912) is bold, iconic, and sets the tone the minute you walk in. This is buttoned leather Establishment. Hot new bars come and go in the area, but there are some evenings when only a King Cole martini will do. Which is, we imagine, what the St Regis was aiming to replicate in Osaka, and which it does, to a point.

The difficulty with spinning an international brand out of one iconic property is that the original conjures up specific expectations. The St Regis in New York City is a luxury dinosaur. We’ve had such fantastic nights there: in the bar, the much-missed Ducasse restaurant and the hilariously vast Presidential Suite, that it’s become an integral part of the city for us. No matter how much they refurb it, it’s personality remains unchanged.

The St Regis Osaka doesn’t, of course, come laden with all that Manhattan history; there are no tales of Dali and Warhol enjoying a têteàtête, or disco-era rooftop discos and concerts

The St Regis Osaka doesn’t, of course, come laden with all that Manhattan history; there are no tales of Dali and Warhol enjoying a têteàtête, or disco-era rooftop discos and concerts – all that this St Regis wants to be is the best five star hotel in Osaka. And on many scores, it is. We certainly can’t fault the rooms. When we visited recently we’d been touring Kyushu and staying in ryokans with wafer-thin futons. The beds at the St Regis Osaka are huge and plush, with the usual mountains of pillows. The bathrooms are big and luxurious and stuffed with every useful amenity (note to European and American hotels – providing toothpaste is infinitely handier than a shoe shine mitten). After four days of changing slippers every few minutes and crawling across tatami mats, arriving at the St Regis Osaka is a joy. It’s also very easy to arrive at: instead of cabbing, we arrived in town by Shinkansen and got the train to Honmachi – the St Regis is in a glossy new build tower right above exit seven, on the “Champs Elysées of Osaka”, Midosuji.

The overall service at the hotel is excellent, although on our visit our concierge had some difficulty locating what we’d assumed was a fairly well known nearby Matsusaka beef restaurant. Breakfast, in the lofty dining room, La Veduta, has excellent choices of western and Japanese dishes, and the décor, with twisted rope chandeliers, is reminiscent of Marcel Wanders at his most playful.

Review St Regis Osaka

The St Regis Osaka

The only real problem that we experienced at the St Regis Osaka concerned that old hotel chestnut – troublesome wi-fi. Two of our party tried everything under the sun, using five different devices and making repeated calls to our butler. We ended up having to call out of the hotel, to DoCoMo, for service assistance. Sorry – off-site IT support is a total pain in the arse. It’s like relying on the local Starbucks to supply the coffee. It took 20 minutes to get one device connected. And then we were told that we’d have to go through the process again for another user. Who has the time? We were, however, assured that this was all a rare occurrence, and wouldn’t happen again.

To the bar then – the heart of the hotel, if you will. It’s a neat twist on the King Cole, with an intricate Japanese mural, created by local artisans, hanging above the shelves of premium liquor. The crowd is swish. The upholstery is midnight blue. It’s sophisticated for sure. In the evenings there’s live jazz, which is standard fare at the most upscale bars in Japan, and which we imagine some find agreeable. We’re in two minds – and both of them, ultimately, dislike it. The attention to detail is typically Japanese: although a negroni took an unforgiveable age to arrive, when it did, it came correct, with a giant ball of ice rather than the diluting muddle of cubes that lesser bars use. This is a very nice bar indeed to retreat to after a lengthy business dinner in nearby Kyoto, or Osaka itself. And while we didn’t see it in action, the Zen outdoor garden terrace looked lovely indeed.

The St Regis Osaka is a plush, glossy, solid reinterpretation of one very unique property. The original St Regis – and in particular its bar – is such a one off, that it would be a mistake to recreate it wholesale. But the same sense of luxury travels as well as anything. In future, we’ll just ensure we get our butler to sort our wi-fi while we’re down in the bar. C

St Regis Osaka, 3-6-1 2 Honmachi, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Japan
+81-66258 3333; stregisosaka.co.jp