I thought I would kick off the new year by writing about how a branded experience can surprise and delight through multiple touch points. I stayed in this hotel with my sister and parents over the Christmas period. We were doing some geneaological research into my Dad's family in Hamburg (the name Arning comes from Minden, Germany and many of them lived in Hamburg, there is even an Arningstrasse across the Elbe river).
It is such a relief being able to go onto Trip Advisor and give someone a positive review. My stay at SIDE was one of the best hotel experiences I have ever had. I stayed at SIDE for the first time in 2001 just after it had opened and so relished the opportunity to go back. Whereas on the first occasion I was just wowed by the design, this time I was impressed by the whole The service was impeccable, the food is to be relished and the SIDE brand concept follows through on their promise of 5 star excellence throughout.
My experience is that some design / boutique hotels present a luminous patina of sophistication but that patina is often weaselly. It hovers over an absence of care, shoddy service and a soulless brand. This is true than more than one joint in NYC.
YOu know who you are. SIDE hotel, Hamburg in contrast is an establishment that exudes class and thoughtfulness from every pore. Everything worked, but there was a warmth to the kraftwerk. Vorsprung Durch Technik. It was like Audi built a soulful hotel without the brushed steel and the clinical edge and dodgy Liefenstahl choreography.
The atrium is a stunning space giving on the one hand a shrill and vertiginous welcome to the hotel. The narrowness of the space and the sense of floors extending up above is like something out of an updated German Expressionist painting. It dwarfs the visitor and gives the hotel a narrow and elongated profile but over time you get used to the scale and it is all counterbalanced by the warmth and friendliness of the service. This was knowledgeable and helpful to a fault. Ferret out the address of a jazz club for me? No problem. Do you have any sellotape to wrap these Christmas presents? Yes, sure and would you like me to decorate it with some ribbon too sir? Yes please. What is this lounge music you're playing? I like it. It's from a CD sir (I receive the playlist written out in immaculate handwriting later at dinner); thought they'd forgotten me but they hadn't.
Like other hotels I have been to I have admired (the Sukhothai in Bangkok), the use of black hardwood across decor and soft lighting created that brand idea of solidity with organicism and warmth so that the Bauhaus was balanced with some sequoia sinew.
The hotel mixed colours in different zones but this just worked. Luminous white and blue downstairs in the toilets, ochre in the spa and the walls of the elevator changed colour chameleon like as the lift speeded you from our ninth floor bedroom downstairs.
The rooms were fantastic, from the subtle click open of the doors to the SMEG fridge like cupboard, it was all white and sculpted but balancing the warmth and minimalism.
The restaurant agai followed the no nonsense profile of the other rooms but had hanging from the ceiling like a couple of chrysalis air bags Tizani Chandeliers - that we were told were worth about EUROS 15,000 each. Each of them was draped with filigree chain mail giving it that shabby chic, distressed feel. It somehow just complemented the ambience of the room however.
German breakfasts are always great but this one extended to all sorts of yoghurts, cured meats, halibut and sturgeon fish with a toasted bagel and of course the usual bewildering variety of bread (I could just about identify the pumpernickel!) on show.
The restaurant sources its meat from Argentina which means that the filet mignon was excellent. The burgers (and you might expect these to be okay give that we're in Hamburg!) were great - top quality ground meat served with a choice of French fries or allumettes. Overall, it was impossible not to be super impressed with this design hotel. It simply exceeded expectations at every turn - amenities, design, service, food and was actually quite reasonably priced too.
On arrival, I had it pegged alongside the Camino Real in Mexico City and the Sukhothai in Bangkok as my 2 favourite hotels in the world. I would say now that SIDE stands alone as not only a create hospitality experience but also a masterclass in experience branding - the funky lounge music in the atrium, the chunky menus, the neo-mosaic patterning in the pool. The only complaint I have is in being woken up by house keeping at 9am in the morning. But I guess this is Germany!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- As Hamburgs first 5* Superior Design Hotel, SIDE is directly located in the heart of the city. Built by architect Jan Störmer, designed by Matteo Thun and illuminated by Robert Wilson, space and light have been put perfectly in relation to one another. These are the factors, which essentially shape the heart of the hotel and make the SIDE a sensual location for the urban generation of today. The 168 rooms in different categories are minimalist in style, yet welcoming, comfortable and with a personal touch. Ten "flying" suites on the 10th and 11th floor are all decked out in white. A further highlight of the hotel is the Sky Lounge and the roof top terrace on the 8th floor which offer an impressive view over Hamburg. Both are perfect venues for summer parties, events or photo-shootings. On the ground floor, the [m]eatery bar +restaurant serves dry aged steaks, different self-made burgers and special tartars. Colourblocking is a key theme in the SIDE SPA. This wellness oasis is refreshingly colourful and luxuriously furnished ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Side Hotel Hamburg
- Side Hamburg