I have only ever been to Amsterdam’s impressive Schiphol airport (where you can bring all the liquids your hearts desires onboard) so a late summer weekend getaway at the luxury Conservatorium Hotel provided a perfect reason to visit. Located in the upmarket cultural heart of the city next to the Van Gogh museum and picturesque Vondelpark, The Conservatorium’s prime location means Amsterdam’s treasures are a short stroll away.
Getting there – From London we had many options but we chose British Airways from London Heathrow. Flight timings meant that we maximised our time away and everything was on schedule. British Airways turned 100 on 25 August this year when they launched the world’s first daily international scheduled flight. This flight to Paris carried just one passenger and cargo that included newspapers, Devonshire cream, jam and grouse. Today, 45 million people fly with British Airways a year.
Location is really important in Amsterdam as although a lot of the action is very central, getting around is also super easy. From the airport, there are a multitude of options from the hotel’s chauffer driven car through to a very convenient direct bus which drops you outside the front door. The Conservatorium as is part of The Set Hotels with two other properties in London and Paris. The three founding hotels of The Set are all in the cultural heart of their vibrant cities.
As you enter The Conservatorium, the first thing that makes an impact is the amount of space and natural light which made us feel at ease thanks to a huge glass fronted atrium. The windows tax in Amsterdam is thankfully no longer in force as the ample amount of windows here would have been expensive to maintain! Today, this architectural masterpiece by architect Piero Lissoni combines a landmark heritage building that was previously home to a bank and music school with graceful, modern design chic.
Rooms – In a building with this much character and history, there are one-of-a-kind elements that really make accommodation stand out. Expect a range of exciting options including multi-floor duplex entry level guestrooms, a host of suites for every occasion and even a private wing of the hotel that is available for exclusive use.
Our one bedroom Junior Suite was tucked away on the 5th floor with plenty of focus on comfort and space throughout. We also enjoyed a large rainfall shower, the deepest two person bathtub with bathroom mirror TV, soft fluffy robes and much more. We slept so well and felt energised to explore the city.
The smaller details within rooms also create that 5 star luxury feel from the weather forecast for tomorrow left at turndown, relaxing sleep spray, well stocked minibar (look out for some naughty items you may have forgotten at home!) and powerful yet quiet air conditioning.
Staff are a wealth of knowledge about Amsterdam and have a genuine charm throughout. Everything felt very personalised from the doorman greeting guests by name, Marijana’s smile at breakfast through to an open plan drop in style Concierge area full of experienced local staff giving out insider tips including how to grab last minute tickets to the popular Anne Frank House.
In a short break city like Amsterdam, it was so useful to have staff expertise. As a nervous non-cyclist, it took some persuading but the Concierge was so right – Amsterdam is so bicycle friendly. Led by my amazing bicycle savvy partner, we navigated the streets and cycle paths on hotel bicycles which was a safe and very fun experience.
Dining – All dining at the Conservatorium is under the direction of the celebrated Dutch-chef, Schilo van Coevorden so you can be sure of quality. We didn’t have time to sample Taiko, their elegant modern Asian restaurant where you can expect sushi, sashimi and more unexpected ingredients like a foie gras gyoza or A5 Wagyu with caviar and freshly grated wasabi. To celebrate Taiko’s 5 year anniversary, look out for special 5 year dinners during November. The Brasserie is where we enjoyed a romantic dinner on their outdoor terrace. The menu had an international feel with a focus on some tempting Italian classics.
The measure of a confident skilled kitchen is in their raw food offering. Here, we started with some rich Royal Cabanon oysters from the Charente-Maritime region of Western France. We also sampled a lush veal tartare with a tangy horseradish aioli, cornichons and crispy mushrooms. A starter that can’t be missed is the king crab leg which is presented in its shell on a bed of crushed ice.
For main courses, we were talking about pasts so we went off menu when our waiter suggested a spaghetti vongole. Sometimes it is the simplest things that are the best. Fresh, al dente spaghetti was married with garlic, olive oil, white wine, parsley and of course a generous portion of fresh clams. To finish, what was described simple as “Lemon” was genius. The candied skin of a lemon was reshaped and surrounded a creamy lemon curd alongside a sharp lemon sorbet to balance everything out.
Breakfast was a very leisurely affair which goes on till 11am so plenty of time sleep in. As well as eggs and a host of a la carte options, be sure to visit their “Ice Table” and help yourself to fruits, yogurts, smoked salmon, fresh juices and other local delicacies. They even have a Bloody Mary station if you’re in the mood!
Akasha Spa – If you have time, the award winning Akasha spa is well worth a couple of hours. 1,000 square metres of luxury, the whole spa has a tranquil retreat feel to it where you can enjoy a 18 metre pool jacuzzi, sauna, steam, extensive treatments and a comprehensive gym with mesmerising colour changing ceiling lights.
Overall, if you are looking for luxury in Amsterdam’s finest location, The Conservatorium ticks all the boxes for a weekend getaway to this rather special city.
To discover more, visit: www.conservatoriumhotel.com
My top 5 tips for Amsterdam
1. Take public transport and walk – We had most fun on the trams and of course on our bicycles. Cycle to an area that you want to discover and walk around. If you aren’t cycling then mind the cyclists!
2. Book ahead for museums – The popular ones (including Van Gogh and Anne Frank House) can be super busy so try to plan ahead and book museums before you arrive.
3. Experience a canal tour – Take a short canal tour in one of the smaller boats so you can access the small canals and hear weird and wonderful facts about Amsterdam.
4. Eat Local – Dutch food is fun to discover and there are so many options. Don’t leave without experiencing a rijsttafel (which means rice table) where you try small, shareable Indonesian dishes served with rice. Long Pura was recommended by the hotel concierge and impressed. www.restaurant-longpura.com/
5. Explore more – There are plenty of day trips to be taken from Amsterdam. Within an hour’s train ride, you can be in Rotterdam or The Hague. If you want to see the famous Dutch tulips, the Keukenhof Gardens are only open for two months of the year (21 March – 10 May 2020). keukenhof.nl/en/
By Mark Captain