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Monday, October 5, 2009

In Search of the Perfect Hotel: Inter-Continental, Warsaw


Introduction

Triple P has been visiting Warsaw for nearly ten years. Apart from a few early stays at the Marriott his preferred hotel is the Inter-Continental. Warsaw doesn't really have a "must stay" hotel. Most of the big chains are there but the only old style Grand Hotel is Le Meridien Bristol which is rather gloomy inside and needs, by all accounts, a major upgrade.


The views from the rooms on the high floors are exceptional


Location

The Inter-Continental could not be more central; right on the square opposite Stalin’s generous gift to Warsaw, the Palace of Culture. The hotel is within walking distance of the Central Station, close to the main government and private sector offices and only a short fifteen minute walk to the picturesque Old Town (in fact nearly all sensitively rebuilt since WW2).

9/10



Appearance

The monolithic appearance of the over 40 storey building is somewhat offset by the peculiar corner removed from some of the floors giving a triangular cross-section. Striking without being attractive.

5/10


The Lobby


Lobby and Common Parts

The lobby is that of a fairly standard business hotel with, perhaps, not quite enough seats. There is a small coffee shop off the lobby. Not very exciting and lacking in flair compared with, say, the rather newer Westin. The corridors are very utilitarian .

5/10


One of the Club Inter-Continental rooms we stayed in last year


The apartment bedroom


The Apartment living room


Rooms

Triple P has stayed in several types of rooms over the years. On this occasion he was upgraded to an apartment. These are really designed for longer stays and whilst they have the benefit of a lot more space the room suffered by not, for example, having a minibar.



The normal minibar has a very good selection of glasses. There's nothing worse than having to drink wine out of a tumbler


The bedroom was small but the bed was fantastically comfortable. A large collection of on demand films were available on the nice flat screen TV Including a very large selection of "artistic" ones). The room had the advantage of a chaise-longue and, if you had needed it, a kitchen with fridge, dishwasher and hob.

The kitchen area of the apartment


We have stayed in other types of rooms in the past and the corner rooms are probably the nicest, if somewhat smaller. The bedroom had been renovated more recently than the living room, oddly. Flat screen TV in the bedroom old CRT in the living room.



One of the standard rooms from a couple of years ago

Like all Inter-Continentals you can take a room on the Club floor which gives rooms with a better finish and access to the lounge which usually has a small office area and provides a free (but usually only continental) breakfast.
Triple P rarely uses the club lounge although he did pop up and have a free beer to take this picture of the lounge office area. It is on the 41st floor so does have magnificent views over the city. there is also a pool on the top floor but we have never used it.


Triple P is a platinum ambassador card holder which gets an upgrade, late-check out and usually a little welcome gift. This is often chocolate or something else Triple P has to feed to his companions but the wine, water and fruit was very welcome on this trip.

6/10


Bathroom

The bathroom was a fairly typical Inter-Continental one. Separate shower and a bath which was big enough for two and had room to hold bottles and glasses.


6/10


Bar

The One Bar is one of the better features of the hotel. It is windowless but has sensitive lighting, a clubby, library atmosphere and seats about 45. It has a live pianist most nights (although Triple P does not necessarily think that this is always a good thing). When the pianist takes a rest horrible euro Muzak takes his place, rather in the manner that terrible comedians used to come on between striptease acts in the fifties and sixties. Jarring. We once visited a hotel bar in London where Dr B, a German resident in Switzerland whose father had been an officer in the Afrika Korps (his son exhibited a character that suggested an identical heredity), gave the pianist £50 to stop playing.



The service in the bar is very hit and miss. Some of the waitresses are really, really lovely but getting served is not as automatic as it should be. One big disadvantage is that smoking is allowed in the bar and they stock a selection of cigars which are much smoked by Germans. At least, Triple P assumed they were Germans but B pointed out that they were in fact Austrians in that slightly condescending way that a master race always exudes. There are a lot of Germans who stay at the hotel. Given the historical significance of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of WW2 that month you would have thought that the Germans would be very unpopular. Polish opprobrium was reserved for the Russians, however, who had recently, sensitively, suggested that the Poles had brought WW2 upon themselves.



Triple P took a Naked Wyborova. The new deluxe Wyborova Exquisite with Lillet Vermouth. The drink was cold, with a light skin of ice flakes on the surface but the glass hadn’t been chilled. There were no olives but that may have been because it was a “recipe” cocktail. It was delicious, however and even without the chilled glass would score a 7/10. Perhaps a little on the small side.

Pretty good bar food and generous nibbles with the drinks

6/10 but loses a point for allowing smoking so 5/10

Restaurants

There are two restaurants: Frida Kahlo, a Mexican restaurant and DownTown the usual breakfast/lunch/dinner effort.

The first night that Triple P was there his companion was hungry so they only stayed in the bar half an hour (the cigar fug was getting oppressive as well). It has become something of a tradition for Triple P and B to eat at Frida Kahlo the first night of their stay. A large bowl of tortilla chips (the Mexican version not the Tex-Mex Doritos type) with Guacamole and salsa appeared whilst they perused the menu. An amuse bouche of a shot glass of carrot soup was delivered. Triple P pondered on whether he should have this but B pointed out that given he had had more than a few tortilla chips then the additional glycaemic effect of the carrot soup would be minimal. In fact B managed to eat 80% of the chips.



For wine they ordered an old favourite of Triple P’s; Beringer Fume Blanc. Triple P’s light starter of a Caesar salad turned out to be not light at all given the addition of not only chicken but large chunks of Polish sausage as well. However, the Caesar dressing (like the salsa) appeared to have been made in the kitchen and was not out of a jar.






B had seven spices soup. She is unusual for a German in liking spicy food.






For a main course Triple P had the sizzling beef fajitas served in a rather dubious cow-shaped cast iron dish. B had a much more refined looking Guinea Fowl risotto.



They had lunch there on the last day and had a Spanish rose; Val de los frailes 2008 which was quite the darkest rose Triple P had ever had. It looked more like a Beaujolais or a Veneto red. It was dry but not super dry as some of the newer Spanish roses can be.

Honestly, Frida Kahlo, is really only a slightly better than a hotel canteen style restaurant but it has more atmosphere than Down Town.


Just to give you an idea thera re arond 4 Zlotys to the pound!
One thing it did have, unexpectedly, was five really sensational wines on the list. Whether they ever sell any and whether they have been stored properly (we have had an indifferently stored Mexican red there in the past) we are unable to comment on.



Experience of the Down Town restaurant was confined to breakfast. A light and airy room with a glass wall overlooking the Cultural palace. Like most hotel restaurants these days it did not offer an a la carte breakfast. This means that if you want a cooked breakfast, as Triple P invariably does, particularly when accompanied by a companion, it is pure chance whether the various dishes are hot, warm or cold depending on when they have been replaced. One unusual feature was the presence of a harpist which gave a more relaxing atmosphere than the usual piped music.

As for the hot buffet it wasn’t bad: two sorts of pork sausage, thick grilled ham as well as the inevitable lacquered streaky bacon. There were baked beans, grilled tomatoes with cheese, grilled vegetables, rosti potatoes, scrambled eggs and an egg station where you could get freshly cooked fried eggs or omelettes.
There was also the usual fruit, cereal, yoghurt and other girls’ food. A Japanese section completed a pretty good buffet, although it could not match the one Triple P had at the Warsaw Marriott once which also offered steak and por chops! Even though the restaurant was quite large it did get crowded. Triple P did try to have lunch there before B arrived but it had been completely booked up by conference attendees. Triple P thinks that if a hotel is running conferences then food should be delivered in seminar rooms and not, essentially, closing down a restaurant that should be catering to other guests.
5/10

Staff and Service

Like most Eastern European countries service can be patchy and levels of English can be variable. The level of English spoken by Poles compared with, say, people from the Baltic States was always slightly lacking although Triple felt this had improved; no doubt due to the numbers of Poles who had been working in the UK. The service in Frida Kahlo was noticeably a step up on other parts of the hotel but still not, overall, up to international five star standard.

5/10

Clientele

Rather two many international conferences were taking place for Triple P’s liking, resulting in far too many people wearing badges around their necks. Standard conference and business people. Dull. Thankfully very few families.

5/10

Ambience

Not really a place with atmosphere or style. Not a hotel that impresses locals when you tell them where you are staying.
5/10


Overall 56/100

Not a brilliant score but I expect I will stay there again as the location is so good. I have popped into the newer Westin and it looks even more cafeteria like and Le Meridien Bristol is too far from the centre and gloomy. Warsaw needs a better hotel!

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