2014 Best of the Best Hotel Awards

The Winning List

Virtuoso advisors pick their favorite hotel spa, restaurant, family program, and more.

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Best Restaurant: L’Abeille, Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
Sustainable Tourism Leadership: Cuixmala Costalegre, Mexico

Hotel of the Year: Rosewood London
Why they love it: “Rosewood London incorporates a sense of home while encapsulating the city’s hip vibe,” says Dallas-based Virtuoso travel advisor Arlene Thompson-Brantley of the 306-room property. “The live jazz at Scarfes Bar brings guests and locals together and makes for electric evenings. Pewter candlesticks and wood-burning fireplaces create a cozy feel. The hotel’s little touches go a long way—such as, when it’s time to check out, housekeeping leaves a quart-size bag for your carry-on liquids, along with a small cloth bag for you to take soap home. And you do!” Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.

Best Restaurant: L’Abeille, Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
Why they love it: “Opulent and low-key is a hard combination to find, but Shangri-La achieves it,” says New York City-based Judy Stein, who calls the prestigious 16th arrondissement address “one of the finest dining experiences in Paris.” The 101-room property’s three restaurants serve up a range of gastronomic experiences, but two-Michelin-starred L’Abeille shows off chef Philippe LabbĂ©’s classic savoir faire with such dishes as hen with foie gras, wild pigeon, and two courses of Brittany blue lobster (steamed claws, roasted tail). Or put yourselves in the chef’s hands by ordering the tasting menu, which simply states each course’s main ingredient—Iberian suckling pig, for example. The hotel’s Shang Palace serves genuine Chinese cuisine, while La Bauhinia brings together French and Asian flavors. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.

Best Spa: The Bulgari Spa, Bulgari Hotel & Residences London
Why they love it: “The Bulgari is such a calm, soothing environment, with a signature green tea scent that makes you see, smell, and think in rejuvenating green tones,” says travel advisor Jessica Ourisman of Berkeley, California. “You’re instantly drawn to this gorgeous space, crafted with onyx, oak, and Italian glass mosaics, and may never want to leave.” The 85-room property’s spacious spa, with 11 treatment rooms, a 25-meter pool, and a comprehensive gym, offers signature treatments that range from a 30-minute express eye session to diminish fine lines to multiday detox regimens. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 spa credit.

Sustainable Tourism Leadership: Cuixmala Costalegre, Mexico
From Virtuoso’s Director of Sustainability: “Cuixmala is a well-deserved winner,” says Costas Christ. “The resort has protected 25,000 acres of rare dry tropical forest along Mexico’s Pacific coast, among the world’s most biodiverse and richest natural habitats. By drawing 99 percent of its staff from nearby communities, the 36-room property also ensures that locals reap ecotourism’s economic benefits, and it supports an environmental education program in local schools. From eliminating plastic water bottles to producing 75 percent of its food from its own organic farm, Cuixmala has shown that protecting the environment is at the core of its mission.” Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily, a welcome bottle of organic mango liqueur, and a one-hour lagoon tour.

Best Family Program: The Pinocchio Experience, Rocco Forte Hotel Savoy Florence
Why they love it: “Recently, a client took her family to Florence. She wanted to go shopping, but her children obviously didn’t,” explains Seattle’s Robert Peyton. Luckily, they were staying at the 102-room Hotel Savoy, which offers the Pinocchio Experience, a hands-on arts-and-crafts workshop that brings out the budding da Vinci in every child. After renowned art restorer Barbara Bersellini helps children personalize their own pencil box or jewelry case with inspirations from the famous fairy tale, she finishes the projects as professional-quality souvenirs. “The kids had a great time, and the parents were happy,” says Peyton. “No one could have asked for more.” Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.

Most Innovative Guest Experience: Desert Adventures, Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara United Arab Emirates
Why they love it: “My clients love going to the serene Qasr Al Sarab to reconnect with family and recuperate from the stress of city life,” says Paris-based Virtuoso advisor Victoire Spoerry. This elegant 206-room oasis in the middle of the Liwa Desert near Abu Dhabi makes use of its sandy setting with activities such as dune bashing, camel riding, and desert safaris. But perhaps the most unique is land sailing, which lets the entire family navigate the desert in three-wheel go-karts powered by Arabian breezes. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 resort credit.

One to Watch: Park Hyatt New York
Why they love it: The new Park Hyatt New York’s 210 guest rooms are practically palatial by Manhattan standards and feature architectural screens that transform the space into a series of multifunctional chambers. Palm Beach’s Corinne Levine is also excited about the property’s location, across from Carnegie Hall. “They have an exclusive partnership for tickets and special performances,” she says. Bonus: The hotel’s pool features underwater speakers piping in a custom soundtrack from the venue. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 hotel credit.

Best Bar: King Cole Bar, The St. Regis New York
Why they love it: “Take a seat with a view of the bartenders,” says Melbourne, Australia-based advisor Lisa Borowick. “Watching them mix drinks is the best entertainment in New York, akin to a theater show. The appealing cocktails let the barmen’s love of the craft shine, but it’s their attention to detail that makes the drinks stand out – the kitschy monogrammed stirrer, sparkling glasses, perfectly cut lemon squares, and even the crunch of the celery stick in the Red Snapper! It’s an experience I highly recommend.” A power-meeting institution since opening at the 229-room hotel in 1948, the softly lit salon features a magnificent mural by Maxfield Parrish. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and afternoon tea once during stay.

Best Design: Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace Saint Petersburg
Why they love it: “There’s a soothing elegance to the gold-and-cream palette and exceptional upholstery and design throughout,” says travel advisor Leslie Fambrini of Los Altos, California, of Russia’s 183-room hotel. “The gilded ceilings remind you of the opulence of the nearby Hermitage, and the Sintoho and Percorso restaurants put a contemporary spin on this authentic nineteenth-century palace with their incredibly chic style. This hotel is a work of art in itself.” Virtuoso
travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 spa credit.

Hotelier of the Year: Rainy Chan, The Peninsula Hong Kong
Why they love her: After stints in Maui, New York City, and Bangkok, Rainy Chan returned to her hometown of Hong Kong in 1994 and worked her way up to become the first woman to manage Peninsula’s 300-room flagship property. Her worldly know-how has won over loyal travelers from around the globe. “There’s nothing Rainy will not do for a guest,” says Vicki Parnell of Dallas. “Many years ago, I had a client who wanted to propose to his longtime girlfriend while in Hong Kong. Rainy arranged for them to take an evening helicopter tour of the city, landing on the Peninsula’s rooftop helipad, where they had a white-glove private dinner and he popped the question. Each year for their anniversary he tries to top that experience, but he says it’s yet to happen.” Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 hotel credit.

Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, September 2014.