The awards were presented in Las Vegas at Virtuoso Travel Week, the largest luxury travel trade show in the world, and are also featured in the September issue of Virtuoso Life magazine.
HOTEL OF THE YEAR: ASHFORD CASTLE
“Ashford represents a time stamp of the eras,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Julie Smothers of Montgomery, Alabama. “Its staff members are like warm and inviting walking history books.”
The magnificent five star Ashford Castle is set in 350 acres, on the picturesque shores of Lough Corrib. Dating back to 1228, the castle now enters a new chapter in its history, as part of The Red Carnation Hotel Collection. With 82 guest rooms, a wealth of activities and thoughtful touches, enjoy acclaimed Irish hospitality on a grand scale.
BEST BAR: CONNAUGHT BAR IN LONDON’S THE CONNAUGHT
“The Connaught Bar surprised me,” admits Virtuoso travel advisor Cliff Morgan of Westport, Connecticut. “The space feels like a beautiful living room with a very approachable staff. Watching the bartenders is part of the experience – drinks are created and served like works of art.”
Ultra-stylish décor and mouth-watering cocktails put the Connaught Bar in Mayfair into a league of its own. Inspired by English Cubist and Irish 1920s art, with textured walls shimmering in platinum silver leaf overlaid with dusty pink, pistachio and lilac, designer David Collins has produced a gem of a London bar.
When you order a martini at the 121-room Mayfair hotel, the bartender rolls out a trolley loaded with Tanqueray 10 gin, Snow Queen vodka, and other spirits, as well as a wide range of herbal and spice extracts, from lavender to coriander to cardamom. And unless you’re with the British Secret Service, your drink is stirred, not shaken.
BEST RESTAURANT: EPICURE IN LE BRISTOL PARIS
“Epicure is a unique three-Michelin-star experience,” says Paris-based Virtuoso travel advisor Victoire Spoerry about the 188-room property’s formal restaurant.
At Epicure, Eric Frechon has created a temple of gastronomy that is absolutely French, his signature style is all about terroir, a sense of place, this is after all Paris the gourmet capital of the world. Frechon also delights in matching unusual ingredients to astounding effect – vive la difference. His foie gras, smoked oysters with a duck and green tea bullion is one of those unforgettable dishes people travel to Paris to experience. Frechon’s career began shucking oysters and today he holds the prestigious ‘Meilleur Ouvrier de France’ and three Michelin stars.
Beyond the considerable talents of his right hand Franck Leroy, Epicure’s sommelier Marco Pelletier, Frechon is also keen to praise restaurant director Frédéric Kaiser; ‘he has rare savoir faire, he knows the produce, has technical ability and loves to host. Guests take a seat in Epicure and relax, while Frechon, Kaiser and the team stage a spectacular show. Epicure can be enjoyed every day of the year, with tables laid formally in an exquisite garden setting throughout the summer.
BEST DESIGN: THE RITZ-CARLTON, KYOTO
“You must see it to believe it,” says Manhattan-based Virtuoso travel advisor Takami Yao. “The hotel has a beautiful way of expressing Japanese Zen, with soothing waterfalls, washi-lantern-lined walkways, and traditional lacquer-lined cabinets.”
Opened in February 2014 as the first luxury urban resort in Japan, The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto sits serenely on the banks of the Kamogawa river, with sweeping views of the famous Higashiyama mountains. The resort features 134 guest rooms and suites, four restaurants and bars, The Ritz-Carlton Spa, and four different types of banquet rooms ranging from corporate dinners, to meetings, exhibitions and private events.
The resort also boasts a unique partnership with Pierre Hermé Paris, creator of Haute Pàtisserie, showcasing popular creations and introducing an exclusive range of signature desserts. Blending the centuries old traditions and rich culture of Japan’s ancient capital with modern luxury, The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto brings to life the cultural heart of Japan. The hotel is in close proximity to Kyoto’s popular downtown areas including Gion, Pontocho and the city’s retail and entertainment district.
SUSTAINABLE TOURISM LEADERSHIP: THE BRANDO
“Located on Tetiaroa Atoll, roughly 30 miles north of Papeete, The Brando exemplifies ecotourism at its best,” says Virtuoso’s director of sustainability, Costas Christ.
Designed to reflect the Polynesian lifestyles and culture, the all-inclusive resort features 35 deluxe villas, each with The Brando’s own private beach area and plunge pool and offers carefree luxury in the midst of pristine nature. Exclusive and private, the access to The Brando is a 20-minute flight from Tahiti by Air Tetiaroa to Tetiaroa’s airdrome.
Now, The Brando is first of all an Eco Hotel. Its management has implemented a number of innovative programs and new technologies so as to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality.
Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) harnesses the cold of the ocean depths to provide low-energy, highly efficient cooling for all the buildings, reducing energetic demands by almost 70%. Solar energy produced by photovoltaic solar panels along the airstrip provide for half of the resort’s remaining energy requirements ( demonstrating how to turn a typically unused space into a productive one) and the solar heating system supplies the entire amount of hot water used by the resort. A coconut oil (biofuel) power station provides the other half of the resort’s energy needs. Fueled by locally produced coconut oil, this renewable power source also supports the local economy. Flow-batteries for the storage of energy generated by solar power are made primarily of recyclable materials and have a service life of thousands of deep discharge cycles.
BEST SPA: THE DOLDER GRAND
“The Dolder Grand’s 43,000-square-foot spa feels cozy because it’s broken up into peaceful, separate spaces,” says Palo Alto, California-based Virtuoso travel advisor Suzanne M. Bouldoukian.
Encompassing 4,000 square metres, the multi-awardwinning Dolder Grand Spa offers a unique range of activities for your well-being – an oasis of relaxation and recuperation for body and mind. We invite you to immerse yourself in health and well-being, and restore your body and soul to physical balance and inner harmony. The Dolder Grand Life Balance programmes will help you do just that. Children must be at least 12 years of age and accompanied by adult for admission to the spa.
ONE TO WATCH: ROSEWOOD BEIJING
“I love Rosewood Beijing’s boutique, residential feel,” says Athens, Georgia-based Virtuoso travel advisor Catherine Whitworth. “Its local artwork makes a dynamic, bold, and quintessentially Chinese statement, and the hotel design creates a comfortable vibe with a lovely sense of place.”
Located right at the heart of China’s bustling capital, Rosewood Beijing is a place where age-old traditions merge beautifully with this era’s exciting possibilities. The experience subliminally and symbolically mirrors the ageless Chinese concept of journey and welcome: of travelers arriving at imposing city gates and passing through fine gardens, engaging with their hosts and delighting in unexpected experiences and surroundings, before finally, as though ascending through a classic Chinese mountainscape, arriving at their own private aerie and relaxing retreat.
Rosewood Beijing’s structural form and abundance of landscaped outdoor space, the curated artwork, the choice of refreshing or stimulating retreats within the hotel, and culinary experiences designed to enchant with authenticity and style — all combine to create a landscape of surprising discoveries, sensory engagement and authentic experiences.
Ancient Chinese artistic legacies and cultural beliefs are reinterpreted in novel ways, resulting in stunning artworks that enrich the public and private spaces. The collection also serves as a doorway to China’s distant past, peeling back the layers of the present to reach the core of Chinese culture – its old customs, ancient rites and enduring art forms.
HOTELIER OF THE YEAR: ANTONIO SERSALE, LE SIRENUSE
“Antonio Sersale is the best of the best,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Mimi Davenport of Atlanta. For just one example, she recalls the time a client broke her foot at Pompeii. Sersale personally made sure she received treatment and had room service brought to her balcony.
After starting his career as a trainee at The Leading Hotels of the World, Sersale has managed his family’s 58-room hotel since 2004, introducing a writers conference (celebrating ten years in March) as well as Franco’s Bar, which is named for his father and debuted on a scenic terrace above the hotel in July.
The palazzo that now houses the property was the Sersale’s seaside retreat, and anyone who stays cannot help but be swept up in the passion and good taste of this family. The majolica tiled rooms are filled with museum-worthy antiques, hand-picked mostly by patriarch Franco Sersale.