Alameda Campinas, 266, Bela Vista, São Paulo, Brazil
São Paulo’s first boutique hotel, L’Hotel has been around since 1996, long before the city’s three other boutique establishments, Emiliano, Fasano, and Unique, reared their fashionable heads. A strong sense of tradition and refreshing lack of trendiness set it apart from its more talked about and gawked about rivals and account for its staying power in a city that’s in constant flux.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be bumping into any rock stars or models in the lobby of L’Hotel Porty Bay São Paulo. This centrally located hotel tends to draw a slightly older, more understated clientele of domestic and international business travelers (diplomats are also fond of the place) who are more concerned with quality and discretion than contemporary design or state-of-the-art geegaws. The original owners were two Brazilian-Lebanese families who, inspired by L’Hotel’s Parisian namesake, were determined to bring European class and service to their enterprise. Although since its May 2009 purchase by Portugal’s Porto Bay group the hotel has undergone renovations of both its private rooms and public spaces, the original Euro–concept remains firmly in place.
L’Hotel radiates a tranquil, Old World elegance. Stepping inside from the sidewalk that’s only meters away from the busy bustle of Avenida Paulista, you could easily imagine being in Paris or Rome as you sip on a glass of complimentary champagne in the palatial lobby, resplendent with Italian marble and accessorized with oeuvres such as a 16th-century Flemish tapestry and a Louis XVI clock. The European motif continues in the polished wood and marble elevators that whisk you up and down the hotel’s 18 floors. Instead of of the usual long, institutional hallways, each floor, decked out in Persian carpets, overlooks the lobby in a slightly vertiginous fashion that mimics the central spiral staircase of the original Parisian hotel.
The decently-sized executive rooms feature marble tables flanked by neo-classical chairs, deliciously plump beds sporting fine linens, and gilt-framed reproductions of antique engravings. Such retro furnishings clash mildly with the beige wall-to-wall carpeting, widescreen TVs, and wooden fixtures and furniture that have been given a whitewashed, weathered look. Decorative inconsistencies aside, the rooms are warm and cozy, with plenty of lamps and walls painted in soft pastel tones. Mod-cons include a minibar, iPod port, a laptop-sized safe, and temperature regulated a/c. For more space, consider upgrading to one of the six similarly outfitted luxury suites, whose sitting rooms can double as a dining or meeting rooms and which have two bathrooms, or the grandly massive Suite L’Hotel, which adds another living room/bedroom (you choose) and boasts a total of three bathrooms along with butler service.
Although a little tight and very beige, the bathrooms are awash in Spanish marble (with deep sunken marble tubs) and feature that ultimate European treasure: a bidet. Toiletries are courtesy of L’Occitane and the comfy terrycloth robes and complimentary black–and–white Havaiana flip flops are ideal companions if and when you feel the urge to head to the modest top floor pool and spa. Framed by tiled walls and a slim deck, the pool is about sufficient for a dip or a spot of sunbathing beneath the retractable roof. The adjacent spa includes a small fitness room as well as locker rooms, a massage room, a Finnish sauna, and two wooden Japanese hot tubs accessorized with relaxing music and candles. Filtered water and green apples are on hand to keep you hydrated.
Unlike other hotels, L’Hotel ups its class factor considerably by not charging extra for services such as spa access, room service, and wireless Internet. Aside from Wi-fi access in rooms, the hotel boasts six compact, but very agreeable meeting rooms that happily avoid the general rule of locating conference rooms in windowless basements. Instead, they open up onto terraces where coffee or meals can be served.
Most meals are taken in the charming 2nd floor Trebbiano restaurant, a light and airy room whose terrace, splashed with greenery, possesses airs of a French café. The restaurant’s new chef is also French, which explains the impeccable omelettes and waffles (made-to-order) served at breakfast along with a small, but quality buffet that includes tropical fruits and fine French pastries (a plate of which also greets guests in their rooms). The lunch and dinner menus feature sophisticated dishes with a Mediterranean influence. For snacks and/or drinks, the adjacent pocket–sized, crimson–hued Il Piano bar is intimate and clubby.
Throughout the hotel, service is efficient and very attentive. American travelers represent the largest contingent of foreign guests (Brazil’s Citibank headquarters lie a block away), which perhaps explains the fact that everyone – from the reception staff to the maid who brings evening chocolates and turns down your bed – breaks into fluent English the minute they suspect it’s your native tongue. It’s these and other little flourishes – the soft, romantic lighting, the cool strains of jazz that accompany breakfast, the bowls filled with sweet-scented spices and dried petals that accessorize the rooms and public areas – that make L’Hotel an appealing choice for those seeking Old World quality and a whole lot of quiet only a stone’s throw away from São Paulo’s sometimes chaotic nerve center.
Web Address: www.lhotel.com.br
Total Number of rooms: 80
Published rates: R$279 to R$530 BB
Review and photos by Michael Sommers