This article is sponsored by our partners, Mr & Mrs Smith.
Explore your sensual side with a coral reef backdrop, sip a cocktail flanked by elephants or get pampered in style at the boutique boltholes, luxury lodgings and relaxing resorts crowned the best in the world in this year’s Smith Hotel Awards. Shining a light on notable newcomers, stunning stalwarts and all-round amazing accommodation, the team at Mr & Mrs Smith pitted more than 950 hotels in the collection head to head, emerging with 12 luminaries of luxury.
The bold and beautiful interiors of El Fenn in Marrakech captured the imagination of the judges and public alike, enticing them with its colossal custom-built baths, six-foot-wide beds and creature comforts. The hotel’s impressive art collection boasts sculpture, paintings and photography by David Shrigley, Bridget Riley, Antony Gormley and Batoul Shimi, but they’re not the only standouts in this once-derelict riad. Perfectly polished tadelakt in arsenic-blue and rose-pink and carved cedarwood provide the backdrop to the artworks; camel-leather flooring, Berber rugs and traditional Moroccan tiling treat your feet. Rainbow-hued fabrics woven by loom cover the communal furniture on the rooftop terrace, continuing the jewel-coloured mishmash of patterns and textures.
There are no doors in the five ravishingly romantic water villas at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay; instead a private seaside staircase yawns down to the hillside. All the villas are set right on the ocean but Number Five is the best of the bunch, with an infinity-edge pool set amid the coastal rocks, a private ladder leading into the ocean and a coral reef as its backdrop. Guests can wake up to the gentle sound of waves and the view to match, or enjoy a bath for two in complete serenity as the sun sets. The deck comes complete with sunbeds and privacy courtesy of the surrounding rocks, meaning a steamy outdoor session isn’t out of the question. A dedicated butler, available 24/7, will look after your every whim, so leaving your wood-and-white villa is optional.
The magnificent master-in-residence, decadent decor and cosmopolitan crowds made the Elephant Bar at The NoMad Hotel the judges’ favourite. The mahogany pachyderms (after which the bar takes its name) guard the brilliant bartenders, who will whip up something from the fascinating cocktail menu curated by master mixologist Leo Robitschek. His passion for under-the-radar spirits, sought-after wines and craft-beer collaborations results in an intoxicatingly good selection. The Satan’s Circus cocktail, made with rye whiskey, chilli-infused aperol, cherry heering and lemon juice, makes a cheeky nod to the area’s mischievous past – it was once drenched in debauchery, with a number of dance halls and gambling haunts. Lashings of leather and dark-wood furnishings contribute to the sultry surroundings; the only thing sexier is the two-person-deep claw-foot bath tub, set beside the windows, in the Atelier rooms upstairs.
Hartnett, Holder & Co, the signature restaurant at Hampshire’s Lime Wood proves that sometimes two chefs are better than one. Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder are a delicious duo, presenting a clever blend of comfort cuisine and seasonal sourcing and merging Italian culinary ideologies with classic British dishes. The menu changes regularly; expect a choice of starters, pasta, meat, fish and sharing dishes. Hartnett and Holder aim to produce home-cooked food, grounded in a respect for local produce and served in a relaxed eating atmosphere. Their team also forages for fungi in neighbouring woods and hand-rear their meat and cure it in the onsite smokehouse, resulting in organic offerings that are guaranteed to tempt your tastebuds.
The recently opened Dormy House has become a hit with Cotswolds spa-goers, boasting not just one but five drawcards. This 17th-century farmhouse has been given a 21st-century twist, retaining its honey-hued exterior but with pepped-up interiors that emanate a clean-lined, Scandi-chic feel. The 16m candlelit infinity pool may be the centrepiece of the spa, but the rhassoul-mud room, fragrant thermal suite, Veuve Clicquot nail bar and host of Temple Spa treatments are equally attractive to pamper aficionados. An outdoor hydrotherapy pool and tropical rain shower complete the package. Fitness fans can work out at one of two gyms — one for a leisurely session and the Studio for pre-booked personal training sessions and a range of classes. Soothe sore muscles with a treatment in one of the six rooms; couples can share the experience in the double room.
Situated in the remote Cape Range National Park, Sal Salis is a prime example of how to protect a fragile eco-system. The hotel’s luxury seaside tents rely solely on solar power, use composting toilets and have a tightly controlled water system, reducing their environmental footprint. Besides other campmates, the only visitors at this secluded spot will be kangaroos, so guests can enjoy the splendour of nearby Ningaloo Reef in peace. Days can be spent underwater, mingling with the manta rays, dolphins, turtles and sparkling shoals of fish that also call this part of the world home. Each time someone stays here, the camp makes a donation to the Australian Wildlife Conservatory — guests contribute to the protection of the area as they enjoy it.
Zoos are one thing; 4,000 jaw-dropping acres of pristine natural wilderness (with a world-class spa and restaurant) are quite another. Families are in for an-eco adventure of a lifetime at Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, the luxury lodging just out of Sydney. Kids and adults alike will love looking for the local wildlife — including wallabies, wombats, kangaroos and cockatoos — in jeeps, by bike, on foot or even horseback. Knowledgeable guides can lead the whole clan on a wildlife, Aboriginal history, colonial heritage or guided mountain bike tour, all included in the room rates. The Federation-style bungalows are sumptuously styled — with stained-glass door panels, natural stone, timber and fabrics — they’re also perfectly positioned to take in the stunning surrounding scenery.
The only thing old-fashioned about 1888 Hotel is its price tag — its gorgeous young staff and vibrant interiors make it seem far more expensive than it is. Smack bang in the middle of Sydney, the hotel’s rooms feature reclaimed Ironbark beams and period windows combined with the most mod of cons, including an in-room iPad and a designated ‘selfie spot’ in the lobby. The bedrooms are stylish and cosy, with natural light, exposed brick walls and punchy Australian artworks. Those who want to take full advantage of the hotel’s location should stay in the Attic, which boasts the best views of the harbour city; a sociable lounge area; and a sun-kissed patio, perfect for soaking up those afternoon rays. A smart bar menu and delicious food courtesy of 1888 Eatery and Bar cap off the thoroughly enjoyable experience at this harbour-side haven.
Monastero Santa Rosa’s high-rise heated infinity pool has set a new standard for man-made bodies of water. Carved into the terraced clifftop with jaw-dropping views of the Amalfi Coast, its beach-like edge offers the perfect perch to enjoy an unbroken panorama of the Bay of Salerno. The clever lighting and perfectly placed sunbeds make it the ideal spot to spend an afternoon, before watching the sun set over the coast. With a perimeter that blends seamlessly into the horizon, you’ll struggle to figure out where the pool ends and the sea begins. When you tire of the view, turn back towards the 17th-century monastery for a treatment at the Santa Maria Novella-stocked spa or a meal at the Santa Rosa Ristorante, where chef Christoph Bob plucks produce from the surrounding gardens to produce extraordinary interpretations of traditional Campanian dishes.
Luxe Kangaroo Island resort Southern Ocean Lodge offers cool and contemporary suites and all-inclusive rates in one of the world’s most secluded and serene locations. Sitting at the bottom of South Australia, this designer haven is the last stop before Antarctica, making it a superb spot for some solitude. The calming suites take full advantage of the outdoors, with jaw-dropping views from the freestanding tub, fireplace and spacious private terrace, complete with a dreamy day bed. Luxury lovers should opt for the opulent Osprey Suite: the separate lounge, freestanding handmade stone bath and terrace spa are incredibly indulgent. The multifaceted lobby features a bar and restaurant, walk-in wine cellar, a shop selling local produce and a sunken lounge with a French fireplace suspended from the ceiling and enough books and magazines for even the most literary of lovers. All food, drinks and activities are included in your fare, so once you arrive, there’s no need for arithmetic.
Perched by Piccadilly Circus, Ham Yard Hotel’s vintage-inspired bowling alley, rooftop terrace with Soho views and restaurant-supplying garden are just the tip of the iceberg at this designer den. Featuring designer Kit Kemp’s signature multipatterned, multi-oloured style, the spacious bedrooms are individually designed with their own mix of art, textures and bright bursts of colour. The headboards are particularly impressive; so is the compact kitchen stocked with Sipsmith spirits in the larger rooms. If the hustle and bustle of London gets a tad tiring, guests can retire to the Ham Yard theatre—– continuing the crazy colour scheme with tangerine seats, electric-blue walls and fuchsia silk curtains — for a film screening, or head to the retro bowling alley for entertainment of a different kind. The honesty bar in the guests-only library will keep everyone’s thirst quenched when the competition heats up, and the bustling restaurant will keep every guest well-fed.
The Best Smith Hotel is a competitive class: with over 950 hotels to choose from, the winner has to be doing some spectacular things to take out the top gong. This year, breathtaking Brazilian beauty Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa won the judges over with its stunning beachside location, dedication to sustainable tourism and interiors you’d expect to see in a design magazine. Tucked between clifftop Trancoso and postcard-perfect Bahian beaches, the hotel boasts ten restored fishermen’s casas and treehouses bestowed with island-chic styling. The traditional touch comes courtesy of mini stained-glass windows and small oratorios in these rustic-chic villas, whose other features include outdoor showers, private plunge pools and repurposed pipes made from eucalyptus.
The beach bar (complete with a restored fishing boat as its counter) and restaurant look over the glittering, aventurine-quartz lined pool, offering a shady spot to escape the Brazilian heat. No stay is complete without a visit to Almescar Spa, home to Bahia’s first Vichy treatment suite. Warm water pours down from carved eucalyptus trunks in the tree-flanked pavilions and therapies use indigenous ingredients such as cacao and almiscar.