The Ampersand team reveal their own favourite hotels
Not all luxury hotels are alike. There are so many different types of luxury – there is the classic 'gold taps and white-gloved butler' formula. There are hotels with a more Zen aesthetic and an understated style of service. The different variants on style and design are endless – from colonial to ultra-modern, design hotels, boutique hotels, historic havelis and palace hotels to eco-luxe resorts, glamping (glamorous camping) and even high-end homestays. The diversification of luxury hotels in the last two decades means that, now more than ever, there is the perfect one to suit each of us and the style and brand of our favourite hotel often says a lot about us! All of the hotels in our portfolio have the Ampersand stamp of approval but as individuals we each have our personal favourites and, in many ways, we are the personification of these hotels...
Ellie Boulstridge – If I were a hotel, I would aspire to be Sher Bagh in Ranthmabore National Park, India. It is perfect in every way. Let me count the ways – nostalgic tents right out of a 1920s colonial hunting camp, a roaring campfire in the middle of a welcoming circle of antique canvas chairs, ‘Tigertini’ cocktails served at sunset, oil lamps that hang from branches to light up the earthen paths and the most personal service I have ever received by well-meaning and elegant staff. And all of this in the middle of a lush forest crawling with tigers, sloth bears, sambar deers – an area formerly used as a private hunting reserve of the Maharaja of Jaipur. Rarely do you find a hotel that manages to so successfully capture a lost luxurious era while remaining completely at the top of the contemporary hotel game. Sher Bagh is the perfect place to get away from it all and plunge into an exotic landscape full of authentic, quirky and unique touches. Be greeted by the staff with fresh lime juice and dine on eggs Benedict at the end of a bumpy morning game drive; sunbathe by the fresh-water pool facing the rugged savannah-like landscape and soothe your aching muscles in the intimate spa tent... Not to be missed!
Catriona Deredas – I absolutely love The Leela Palace in Delhi, India! Low drop crystal chandeliers that sparkle against a wealth of flowers of all different colours and species, tall cream carved ceilings and wide corridors with wonderful artwork – the public areas are just perfect! Match that with well-designed bedrooms with sumptuous bed linen and divine smelling toiletries, and you have died and gone to hotel heaven! The Leela Palace in Udaipur is another fabulous hotel with wonderful rooms overlooking the lake and the famous Taj Lake Palace. The pool service here is second to none with a constant replenishment of ice cold water and towels, with the odd treat of frozen fruit and fresh sorbet. The Leela Palaces have uber luxury and decadence down to a fine art and I could not be more in love with this hotel brand in India.
Robin Smith – Misool Eco Resort in Indonesia... Why do I love it? It is extremely remote and a stay there promises an experience like no other. The underwater landscape in Raja Ampat is the most bio-diverse in the world and the scuba diving is out of this world. The property itself has wonderfully understated and comfortable rooms that overlook clear tropical waters. But really it’s all about the diving and snorkeling; every dive is different and you never know what might cruise by. Finally, the fact that it’s so hard to get to adds to the experience all the more... once you’re actually there!
Sacha Smith-Laing – Anything Aman... I’m a self confessed ‘Amanjunkie’. I have been staying at the Amanpuri, the original Aman hotel on Phuket, Thailand, since I was little as my uncle was the GM there. I think it has infiltrated my travel DNA as wherever I go now I crave the understated Asian design and the softly softly approach to service. Even when the Aman steers away from its trademark minimalism and does historic restorations, it does so with a superb level of taste and a lightness of touch. The Amangalla is the perfect example – set in the heart of the 17th Century Dutch fortified town of Galle, Sri Lanka, it is the ultimate colonial tropical fantasy: rattan furniture, polished teak floors, high ceilings, superb arrack sours and finger-licking seafood curries. The history of Amangalla is fascinating: it was the site of the original hotel to open up in Galle, the New Oriental Hotel; before that it was the headquarters for the Dutch commander and his officers and later a billet for British soldiers. I love that the Amangalla’s architect, Kerry Hill, has maintained the unique history of the building allowing you step right back to Galle’s colonial heyday.
James Jayasundera – I am half Sri Lankan and I used to holiday there every summer as a child. I love the energy in Colombo and I feel it is like a second home to me. Nowhere brings the memories flooding back like the Galle Face Hotel – a true institution which offers an authentic taste of classic Colombo and, for me, a wonderfully nostalgic hotel. However, even if you don’t share the memories and associations that I do, any guest will feel that they are staying somewhere with a story and a past. The location is unbeatable, just opposite Galle Face Green where local families from all walks of life meet to fly kites, gossip and relax. The property has a windswept terrace and it is a must to enjoy a cocktail here when you first arrive to drink in the tropical heat. Inside, it has classic old elevators, high ceilings and wonderfully worn wooden floor boards, and if you leave your window open you can hear the waves crashing at night. It is important to point out that this is not picture-perfect, flawless luxury – the décor is smart but not slick and the glamour is faded, but the charm factor gets a perfect 10 from me.
Kottarapattu Chatthu Kuttan is one of the oldest serving employees in the world and has been working at the Galle Face Hotel for 70 years!
So, do tell... if you were a hotel, which one would you be?