Mr & Mrs Smith, a hotel booking website that likens itself to a travel club for hotel lovers, recently crowned 12 boutique hotels that excel in certain categories such as Sexiest Bedroom and Best Date-Night Bar. The panel of travel-savvy judges included fashion designers Jenny Packham and Olivia von Halle, Singaporean chef and founder of Wild Rocket Willin Low, and bar guru Zdenek Castanek, among others.
“Discerning travellers these days aren’t looking for cookie-cutter style or run-of-the-mill experience,” says James Lohan, co-founder of Mr & Mrs Smith. “They look for design details, a noteworthy neighbourhood, and food worth writing home about. It’s not enough just to provide a room anymore. You have to offer an experience.”
The first Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Awards was in 2014. “As a travel club, we like to do things a little differently. Our awards are a chance to champion those one-of-a-kind places that have made a real impact on us,” enthuses Lohan.
Here are some of our favourites from the list of award winners.
Best Smith Hotel
Villa La Coste Provence, France
With creative input – whether in architecture or the art that enliven the space – by the likes of Tadao Ando, Frank Gehry, Paul Matisse, Ai Wei Wei and Oscar Niemeyer, this contemporary hotel situated within organic winery Chateau La Coste boasts towering glass panels and dramatic shades of white.
The hotel’s restaurant, Louisson, is a wonder in itself – a glass box that juts out over the water. In the centre of the room, two chrome-covered figures dangle from the ceiling, reflecting the light streaming in from all sides.
Downstairs, you will find pieces by Andy Warhol, a bar designed by Hong Kong’s André Fu, and a cosy library stocked with books on art and architecture.
As for the main attraction – the rooms themselves – there are only 28 suites, every one of them equipped with modern bespoke furniture including a four-poster bed, artistic sketches such as the ones by Tracey Emin as well as marble bathtubs and high-tech Japanese toilets. The outdoor terrace looks out to rolling hills of grapevine, the perfect spot to work up an appetite for the wine dinner later that evening.
Best Smith Villa
Annandale Scrubby Bay, New Zealand
Nestled within the rolling hills at the mouth of Scrubby Bay, the oak and cedar bungalow feels rustic but it has all the mod-cons of a luxury stay, from a heated pool to a chrome-accented kitchen.
Built by Kiwi architect Andrew Patterson in 2013, it blends into the dramatic natural landscape of Annandale’s coast. From afar, the building seems much smaller than its 448 sq m but at close range, its real scale comes into focus. As you drive up, you can also see right through the house to the crashing surf on the other side.
A view like this always works up an appetite, so thank goodness for the in-house professional chef, an award winner no less, who makes everything fresh from the farm. Burn off those calories with a number of outdoor activities including hiking, biking, kayaking and boating.
World’s Sexiest Bedroom
Soneva Jani, Maldives
Think Maldives and tropical paradise comes to mind. And nowhere on the atoll is this more apparent – or more intimate - that at Soneva Jani on Medhufaru Island. Each of its 24 well-appointed water villas boasts a private pool that opens out to its own private lagoon.
In the master bedroom, you can literally sleep under the stars thanks to a retractable ceiling that opens with just a push of a button. Don’t worry about the sudden shower when you snooze – a sensor detects water droplets and automatically closes the ceiling.
Most Spoiling Spa
Les Sources de Caudalie Bordeaux, France
Designed to look like a country village from an antique postcard, Les Sources de Caudalie’s Vinothérapie Spa, the birthplace of the renowned Caudalie brand of beauty products, features 19 treatment rooms and a small indoor swimming pool with built-in seats from which to admire the hotel’s picturesque grounds.
The spa takes vinotherapy (main ingredient: the grapes used to make wine) seriously and it is almost a temple to wine. In fact, its pampering menu reads like a wine list: Sauvignon massage, crushed Cabernet body scrub, Merlot wrap and Premier Grand Cru facial. All the benefits of wine but none of the hangover.
Best Pool with a View
Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa Atacama Desert, Chile
Built on the site of an ancient cattle corral, on the edge of San Pedro de Atacama, the Tierra Atacama Boutique Hotel and Spa is known for its iconic attractions and breathtaking views of vast open fields and the desert landscape.
Chilean landscape artist Teresa Moller has transformed the grounds, preserving the ancient algarrobo and chañar trees, and restoring the adobe walls. The best spot to enjoy this amazing sight? Either one of the pools on the ground that overlooks the Licancabur volcano.
Above & Beyond
Chamba Camp Thiksey Himalayas, India
Boutique retreat Chamba Camp Thiksey brings a personal touch of luxury to the Himalaya. Accommodation is in the form of nine luxury tents and four presidential tents. Each tent is spacious, comprising a bedroom, an en-suite bathroom with hot showers and a veranda.
All tents also come with large windows allowing guests to enjoy their beautiful surroundings. Air-conditioning and heating are also provided. As icing on the cake, there is even a private butler on call 24/7 to cater to your every need and ensure your comfort throughout your stay.
Best Gourmet Getaway
Zaborin Niseko, Japan
A secluded luxury ryokan in the woods of Hanazono in Hokkaido, cuisine plays an important part in the Zaborin experience. Native chef Yoshihiro Seno personally prepares the kaiseki, the traditional multi-course Japanese fine dining, using ingredients from the forest and the nearby lake. But it is not only dinner that one gets to savour Yoshihiro’s expertise – he also cooks breakfast with vegetables harvested that morning itself.
Local Hotel Hero
Dedon Island Resort Siargao Island, the Philippines
Located on the island of Siargao, an island sometimes referred to as the surfing capital of the Philippines, Dedon boasts nine beautiful villas surrounded by pristine waters, sandy white beaches and colourful corals.
If the name sounds familiar, that is because the people behind the resort is Dedon, the German luxury outdoor furniture brand.
A believer in environmental sustainability, Dedon the resort boasts its own organic garden where the restaurant’s herbs and spices come from. In return, the kitchen provides the compost for the garden. Water is heated by solar power while steps are being taken to reduce the use of plastic.