Story by Barbara Angelakis
Photos by Manos Angelakis
Van Baerlestraat 27
1071 AN Amsterdam
Entrance by Car: Paulus Potterstraat 50,
1071 DB Amsterdam
On our recent trip to Amsterdam we flew KLM that amazed us by departing New York on time and arriving early, a rarity in today’s busy travel scene. By pre-arrangement, we were collected at Schiphol Airport and driven to the Conservatorium Hotel in a luxurious black Tesla model X with the Falcon wing doors… a first for me. This limousine sized car maneuvered through Amsterdam’s tiny streets - more suited to bicycles than limousines - with ease, and deposited us in the Conservatorium’s elegant courtyard.
I was excited at the prospect of staying at the Conservatorium and seeing how this historic neo-gothic building was adapted into a modern 5-star hotel while still maintaining a nod to the past. As an example, during construction of the atrium lobby, an old bronze bell clangor was found buried in the foundation and became the inspiration for the charming collection of rescued bells resting on the reception desk. While we were registering, I could not resist ringing the dozen or more antique bells. One in particular resounded in the elevated lobby space topped with a glass ceiling, causing the bell’s sweet refrain to vibrate back to me. I made it a point to ring that bell every time we passed the reception and the staff gave me a knowing nod and smile.
The building was designed by Dutch architect Daniel Knuttel in the “Oud Zuid” (The Old South) area of the city at the end of the 19th century to house the Rijkspostspaarbank. The buildings grandeur was in part responsible for the regeneration of the declining Museum Quarter (Museumplein) that is now one of the most distinctive and elegant of Amsterdam’s neighborhoods. In the 1980s the building was turned into the Sweelinck Music Conservatorium and although they eventually outgrew the space and moved into a larger facility, students still return to play live music at the hotel in what is now the cultural heart of Amsterdam. The Conservatorium opened as a hotel in 2011 with 129 rooms and suites as one of The Set Hotels group. Renowned Milan-based designer/architect Piero Lissoni expanded the existing structure by adding a modern glass addition and topping it with a glass ceiling, thereby creating the atrium and lobby. In the interiors, he used soft natural tones accented with popping color details to decorate the rooms and public spaces. The resulting hotel has repeatedly enjoyed the distinction of being crowned the number one luxury hotel in the Netherlands.
The Conservatorium is perfectly located for visiting some of the world’s greatest museums. Across the street is the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art; down the block is the gem of the Van Gogh Museum, while within a short walking distance near the Vondelpark - created in the style of an English landscape garden - is the world-class Rijksmuseum; the renowned Royal Concertgebouw; and least we forget, the designer-fashion district of posh shops along P.C. Hooftstraat, one of the city’s most opulent shopping streets that will surely satisfy even the most demanding shoppers.
The Reception, Lounge and Brasserie are situated under the Atrium’s glass ceiling, and floor to ceiling windows provide a view on the outside world. The brasserie offers all-day dining and a spectacular breakfast with an elegant buffet spread, as well as made to order menu items.
The Lounge is a comfortable space to relax, make new friends, or to enjoy coffee, teas and cakes. One day, while waiting for our car, I struck up a conversation with a friendly wheelchair-bound English woman being lovingly attended to by her daughter. They were spending a few Mother/Daughter Spa days at the Akasha Hollistic Wellbeing Centre in the Conservatorium’s lower level and thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Located on the hotel’s ground floor is the Van Baerle Shopping Gallery, home to elite brands befitting the Conservatorium’s elegant standards.
Making an unusual decorative statement, and with an homage to the hotel’s musical history, hanging from the ceiling in the Gallery is a grouping of violins. But the original, still brightly colored tiles that line the hallways and stairwells with Art Nouveau floral designs and with a nod to the original purpose for which the building was built; piggy banks, spider webs, etc., plus the eleven Province Crest tiles that together, at that time, composed the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is a delight and a must-see walk-through even for the non-shoppers visiting the Conservatorium.
Due to the landmarked status of the original building, renovation was limited by its configuration resulting in 40% of the rooms being duplex. In all, there are sixteen different room categories and we were fortunate to get deluxe room 716. Incorporated in its design are windows framed by the exterior Gothic arch along with original ceiling support beams that add a note of whimsy. There are two artists-in-residence suites – one by painter Jasper Krabbé and one by Marie Cecile Thijs - a photographer whose work is on display at the Rijksmuseum - available for long-term residential stays.
A word about the staff at the Conservatorium, you will have to travel far and wide to find a more gracious welcome; from our initial greeting by the doorman to the Guest Service Center personnel seated at a large table in the lobby, there to attend to every detail to make your stay enjoyable and more importantly, stress free; we felt like honored guests.
No luxury hotel the status of the Conservatorium would be complete without an award-winning restaurant. So, in addition to the Brasserie located next to the entrance and lobby, there is Taiko, a contemporary Asian fusion restaurant under the direction of Executive Chef Schilo Van Coevorden. The restaurant’s name is derived from a traditional Japanese drum called a “Taiko” and each guest is drummed into the restaurant by a costumed drummer situated at the entrance.
The acclaimed kitchen is led by Head Chef Hugo Engels and we ordered his Omakase; Omakase is a tasting of the chef’s choosing, using the freshest ingredients in the kitchen. In this case the Omakase is presented as a written tasting menu incorporating elements from different Asian cuisines including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai etc. The dishes were delectable and very interesting both visually and taste-wise. Manos had his with paired wines that included a number of sakes, plus some very nice European whites and at least one that tasted like a Thai Tiger’s Blood.
Located in what was the original building’s library, the walls hold displays of scrolls and books and the addition of large trees casting shadows on the ceiling in the dimly lit space adds an artistic air. The open-plan kitchen is a touch of informality but the professionalism of the waite staff reminds you that you are indeed dinning in a gastronomic showcase. This was our final dinner in Amsterdam and a lovely ending to an unforgettable visit to the Conservatorium Hotel.
© December 2018 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.