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Hotel Unique—São Paulo, Brazil

Av. Brigadeiro Luís Antônio 4700, Cor. Rue Henrique Martins, Jardim Paulista, São Paulo

So states the website for Hotel Unique. And we agree. Tucked into the leafy tradition of the Jardins district, this huge inverted arc is an eye–popping structure outside and a unique experience inside.

Hotel Unique

Designed by prominent Brazilian architect Ruy Ohtake and completed in 2005, the Unique is the newest of a handful of truly luxurious hotels in Brazil’s largest city.

The curved base of the building holds a copper–clad lobby, stark in white marble with steel-framed glass walls and partial ceiling. We’re greeted by men in black – bellmen and security – and enter through three-story high doors. Lobby furnishings are blocky and minimal yet relieved by unexpected flourishes of baroque and unusual art forms. A huge equestrian statue of St. George slaying the dragon looms unexpectedly in one corner, and we’re intrigued. How did St. George get to Brazil?

Hotel Unique Library

Another corner holds elegantly curved shelves offering 300 books on design, architecture, art, and photography with lounge chairs that invite you to escape into their pages. The adjoining bar is a quiet spot to meet with friends over a refreshing caipirinha, the traditional Brazilian cocktail made with cachaça, (cane spirit), sugar, and fresh limes. Music–loving entrepreneur-owner Jonas Siaulys makes sure low–key hip–hop rhythms, not Brazilian sambas, fill every corner of the hotel.

At reception, we’re seated comfortably in French provincial–style armchairs and offered champagne, water or coffee, during a relaxed check–in procedure. Access to room floors in the low–light elevator is by key card only and non–registered visitors are helped to go non–stop between the lobby and Skye restaurant so they can’t access guest rooms.

Six floors with curving hallways hold 85 standard, deluxe and premium rooms and 10 suites ranging in size from 370 to 3,350 sq ft. The unusual suites lying on the ends of the floors incorporate the rounded shape of the hotel and feature “infinity walls” – hardwood floors that arc seamlessly upward to form walls.

The rooms hold all the mod–cons including MP3 and P2 cable connections. Wi–Fi cards are available for a fee and free hi–speed Internet is in the lobby. Superior rooms are surprisingly small considering the rates here and there’s little space for luggage. There’s a minibar, gum and condoms beside the bed, but no tea or coffee service. About five o’clock a waiter arrives with tarts but turn–down service seems to be by request.

Hotel Unique Room

Beds are comfortable and you can ask for specialty pillows. From the large porthole window, we look over tree-lined residential streets toward the high-rises of the Paulista district. Reminiscent of Swedish-modern, decor is white on white, subtly accented by green-tinted glass and light hardwood floors. No curtains here—pushing a button slides a wall panel over the window.

Another window separating the bed area from the bathroom can be raised to permit conversation between the spaces and a luxury feature is the Italian jetted tub. The shower stall is roomy while the shower head offers a satisfying drench of hot water. Years away from being new, rooms could use a little care around the edges but everything is spotless and service is prompt. Air conditioning is controlled at the front desk and, in our case, is unfortunately focused onto the bed rather than into the room.

The rooftop penthouse, the Skye, is outstanding and offers three separate environments: main dining room, comfortable bar, and pool deck. We enjoy the red–tiled pool, umbrellas, and comfortable lounge chairs by day. As evening deepens, we return to an area that has morphed into a lively and casually elegant scene as hotel guests mingle with the locals who come to see and be seen. Outer glass walls allow a spectacular view day or night.

São Paulo has a large Japanese community and the Skye restaurant serves sushi and sashimi with flair. The extensive menu also offers pizzas from the woofid–red oven and Brazilian delicacies with a European touch. Dinner reservations can be made only by guests and, although there is a closing time for visitors, the bar stays open until the last hotel guest chooses to leave.

The basement holds a huge events center as well as a health facility that includes wet and dry saunas, heated pools, exercise equipment and a spa service on request. Since locals and other visitors come to the events center and the restaurant, security is obvious at entrances, in lobbies, at the elevators and around the rooftop. In a city the size and complexity of São Paulo, we find this to be comforting yet not intrusive.

With its eye–catching design, fine cuisine and hipster touches, the Hotel Unique lives up to its name. While you may enjoy a great evening on the rooftop deck like we did, the sky–high room rates are among the highest on the whole continent.

Web Address:
Total Number of Rooms and Suites: 95
Published rates: $685 to $1,410

Review by Paul and Lorie Bennett, photos courtesy of Hotel Unique.