1647 Montevideo Street, La Recoleta, Buenos Aires
Changes are afoot (and a few more are needed) at this unconventional boutique hotel which is poised to become even better in its second decade.
Algodon Mansion opened in a renovated private mansion in the city's swanky Recoleta neighborhood in 2010. From the start the hotel was different. Bottles of their own wine from Mendoza were displayed all over as part of the look and personality of the hotel. Service was hyper-personal. Suites were enormous.
There is no front desk or formal check-in process at Algodon Mansion. Instead, the manager on duty greeted me and whisked me through the welcoming lobby bar which is stocked with all the usual suspects plus less common bottles like Herradura tequila, Woodford Reserve, and two types of Makers Mark. Past the bar, we walked through a furnished but aimless middle room to reach the "snack room" where water, fruit, bread, cheeses, cured meats, Algodon wines, and a small bar are available free for guests.
At the time of writing, management was planning to open a boutique for the owner's Gaucho clothing and accessories line (hats, ponchos, etc.) where the bar is and the bar will move into the virtually unused middle room. This should make better use of the spaces and create a more finished lobby atmosphere.
After saying yes to a glass of excellent Algodon Bonardo 2014, I was taken to my room. Generous square footage has been a hallmark of Algodon Mansion since it opened. The smallest room in the hotel is the 600 square foot Suite #6 which still has ample space for a large bedroom, separate sitting area, and an enormous bathroom with a lovely oval tub. Suite #7 (and three others in this line) is larger, the oval tub is jetted, and the upholstery, textures (including suede wallpaper), and tones are more masculine. Suites on the first and second floor have higher ceilings.
At 1,400 square feet, Suite #3 is the largest room in the hotel. It has a full living room, full dining room, 1.5 bathrooms, full desk, two TVs, a king size bed, three small balconies, and a glassed-in wine wall stocked with vintage Algodon bottles (sadly, not included in the room rate).
The suite feels like a chic apartment, but a few problems soon presented themselves. The lighting controls were confounding. The cushion on the chair at desk was stained. The planters on each of the balconies needed weeding. The robe was also stained and the do not disturb sign had seen better days.
Like the lights, the dials that control the shower took a while (and a call to the staff desk) to figure out. A marble panel in the floor had also been sloppily replaced, so footing was wobbly as well. I never did figure out how to turn the shower into a steam room and the control panel with more than 10 functions (including phone and TV) almost kept me out of the otherwise inviting jetted tub.
The hotel opened with its own restaurant, but that closed because guests, by and large, prefer to dine at the growing number of world-class and world-famous restaurants in Buenos Aires. This means that breakfast (included in rates) is outsourced to a nearby café called Tea Connection. Unfortunately, this popular small local chain does not always adhere to Algodon standards. Coffee was tepid, the orange juice was not fresh or natural, and staff washed down tables and chairs with pungent cleanser while we were eating.
When I brought all of these issues up with management, I was assured that changes were underway and wear-and-tear issues, particularly, are being systematically addressed in suites and throughout the hotel. For example, the roof deck and plunge pool was about to get all new furniture (though the pool still needs to be re-tiled).
Yes, this hotel is currently in a transition point, but members of the management team seem to have their eyes wide open and the bones and service of the place remain stellar and worthy of a stay. When reserving, be sure to tell hotel staff if you will be visiting the property to celebrate a special occasion (anniversary, honeymoon, etc.). They like to upgrade special-celebration guests to the enormous Suite #3 when they can.
Web Address: www.algodonhotels.com/mansion
Total Number of Rooms: 9 suites
Published rates: $395 to $980 double including breakfast
Review by Karen Catchpole, photos by Eric Mohl