Panama City, Panama
Panama City's premier boutique hotel exudes a patrician sophistication that combines with its superb restaurant, hip bar, and an unbeatable location in the heart of the tony Marbella district to earn the laurels as the city's all–round finest hotel.
A modern construction in quasi–neo–classical style, this gracious hotel evokes images of a clubby hotel in downtown Paris or London––a feeling enhanced by its close proximity to many of the city's leading restaurants, nightclubs, and stores. This stylish hotel is recessed from the street with just sufficient room for your taxi or car to alight beneath the small port cochere entrance, where bellboys are usually (although not always) on hand. Mahogany–and–glass doors open to a shining reception lobby with oriental rugs atop a gleaming marble floor. Orchid arrangements add notes of soothing calm, while tasteful contemporary art adds a further note of color. No reception counter here. Instead, the well–groomed receptionist and concierge welcome guests behind more personable mahogany desks.
A few short steps lead to the hotel's signature Baranda restaurant, where the deep–green and mahogany–paneled walls, gilded wall lamps, and period–themed prints really bring out the London–club theme. The wait staff are friendly without being too personal and during our visit service was prompt, attentive and courteous throughout. We chose well with the delicious crema de maíz appetizer, and splendid sea bass in tamarind sauce, but the entire menu––from its ropa vieja, and pulpo a la parilla appetizers, to its chicken in coconut sauce and curry served with gnocchi of plantain, rice and black beans––gets the gastric juices flowing. Fresh local ingredients are used throughout, and we like the additional touch of sherbets to refresh the palate before the main plate. The adjacent bar has a more contemporary motif that proves sufficiently hip to attract the young and fashionable and monied seeking a vivacious nightspot with class on weekends. Weekdays are more sedate, but when the music cranks up on Friday and Saturday nights, the bar is jam–packed, noisy and smoky. Nightly music is themed, from jazz and meringue to salsa. A glass–enclosed solarium is an airy venue for breakfasts. Room service is offered around the clock.
The hotel boasts a small air–conditioned gym with a modicum of modern equipment. The Bristol is a popular venue for executive meetings utilizing the Bristol Room, which can be broken into four smaller rooms. And a small business center provides the basics required, including Internet service (for a charge). Laptop computers can be rented 24/7. There's no shop on site, but the shopping district is mere steps away. Valet parking is offered at a steep price; parking at the hotel is restricted to less than half a dozen slots.
The rooms here offer soothing sophistication, melding elegant Edwardian touches into a contemporary chic. Graciously combining blood reds and bottle greens and whites and golds, the overall effect is harmonious and inviting, enhanced by original works by Panama's leading contemporary artists. Fresh orchids await your arrival, as does a fruit plate. Half–canopied mahogany king beds with orthopedic mattresses are standard in most rooms (seven rooms have queens), and bathrobes and slippers are laid out with nightly turn–down service. Standard features include an overstuffed lounge chair, executive desk, an armoire, side tables and lamps, the to–be–expected minibar and safe, plus fax machines—a nice touch—and CD/DVD players. Gleaming with pink marble, the gracious bathrooms boast huge walk–in showers and separate tubs, heaps of towels and toiletries, plus hair–dryers. If you want a view of the city, opt for a corner room on the top floor. Alas, only one of the three floors is for non–smokers.
With good reason, The Bristol is a member of the "Leading Hotels of the World."
Web Address: www.thebristol.com
Total Number of Rooms: 56
Published rates: $349 to $670
Review by Christopher Baker, photos by Timothy Scott.
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