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Tivoli São Paulo Mofarrej—São Paulo, Brazil

Alameda Santos, 1437, Cerqueira César, São Paulo, Brazil

With a new lease on life—courtesy of new ownership that resulted in a massive overhaul, a new restaurant, and a Thai spa—the Tivoli São Paulo Mofarrej has become the best big business hotel in which to live it up in the heart of São Paulo.

Tivoli Sao Paulo Mofarrej Hotel
© Tivoli São Paulo Mofarrej

Despite all the enthusiastic press São Paulo has been receiving for its blooming cultural, gastronomic, and fashion scenes, it’s been a while since the city has witnessed the opening of a top-notch new luxury hotel. Although in theory, the São Paulo Mofarrej has been around for some time—it spent more than 25 years under the aegis of both Sheraton and Gran Melia–the hotel had the recent good fortune to land in the hands of Portugal’s Tivoli chain. After spending seven months closed for (much anticipated) renovations, the new and very much improved Tivoli São Paulo Mofarrej reopened in February 2009 to great acclaim. Within months it joined the exclusive Leading Hotels of the World club and was named by the Quatros Rodas guide (Brazil’s equivalent of the Michelin) as one of the top hotels in the country.

Although the Tivoli Mofarrej’s external structure remains the same—a raw, concrete, 1960’s Niemeyer-ish tower that soars impressively above the chic neighborhood of Jardins and bustling Avenida Paulista—the interior has been radically altered. Gone are the ostentatious excesses of the ’80s that conjured up an episode of Dynasty. The vast cathedral-like reception area and adjacent Narã bar set the tone of sophisticated minimalism with lots of glass and polished black marble, softened with sprays of fresh yellow blossoms, lush tropical foliage, and curvaceous chairs wrought from natural fibers.

The bar spills out into a palmy courtyard whose focal point, a moderately sized pool that appears to be filled with orange Fanta, is actually an optical illusion created by the use of tangerine–hued glass tiles. A (literal) boat–load of plush towels and equally plush chaise longues add comfort to a zone that functions as a relaxed urban lounge.

Tivoli Hotel RoomIn terms of accommodations, princes and potentates will be unable to resist the truly magnificent Presidential Suite—reputedly the largest in South America. More imperial than presidential, it makes excellent use of the entire 22nd floor; aside from a trio of bedroom suites, you’ll find a private kitchen, sauna, whirlpool, micro fitness center, and living-dining area that’s larger than the hotel’s lobby. If you are of more modest means, the remaining 219 rooms come in two basic flavors: Classic and Collection, both of which have several subcategories that differ in terms of size (some, for example, possess separate living rooms). All rooms, however, are decidedly spacious and boast the same gadgets and amenities (quiet and self-regulating a/c; large, flat-screen cable TV; well-stocked mini-bar; safes; and wireless access). Bedding as well as soft white robes are courtesy of Trussardi and the fragrant toiletries are a notch above most.

Ultimately, the major differences between Classic and Collection rooms (apart from price) are height, decor, and services offered. Classic suites are scattered amidst the lower levels (floors 5 to 14) of the Tivoli’s 23 floors, which means less impressive views (especially if you’re facing—as opposed to looking down upon—the not always inspiring buildings that line Avenida Paulista). During the hotel’s overhaul, these rooms received “facelifts,” but they retain some fixtures and facets of their former lives.

Tivoli Hotel LobbyAside from lofty city views, the Collection suites are more airy and sleek with furnishings in soothing dark woods, ivory, and beiges (maybe a little too much beige for some, but then again, the majority of guests are business execs who are thought to prize such no-nonsense neutrality). Collection guests are also treated to more services, including a Nespresso machine, an iPod port, and morning newspaper delivery service. The Collection bathrooms are works of art: unlike the Classic bathrooms (in dour granite), they sport gigantic spa-like showers, glistening black marble sinks (accessorized with tropical flowers), mirrors galore, and very flattering lighting.

Regardless of the room you choose, service across the board is quite impeccable. The ambiable hotel staffers speak English and are quietly efficient. All guests are greeted with a fruit bowl and receive a nightly turndown service complete with a square of honey cake and the next day’s weather report. Other extras and amenities abound, although many of them cost extra—ranging from 24-hour room service and Wi-fi to use of the state-of-the-art [email protected] gym, which offers boxing and pilates classes as well as physiotherapy. The ace up Tivoli’s sleeve is the beautiful and utterly Zen 4th-floor Elements Spa operated by the renowned Thai company Banyan Tree. The highly trained staff (both Thai and Brazilian) offers myriad Asian treatments that make use of natural herbs, oils, and spices and are designed to promote physical and spiritual well–being.

In terms of cuisine, the Tivoli scored big with the hiring of two-star Michelin chef, Sergi Arola. Since November 2009, the Catalan chef has presided over the Arola–Vintretes restaurant, which serves creative Mediterranean-influenced cuisine along with an extensive menu of tapas. The dining room, which also has a bar/lounge, occupies the 23rd floor. Its stylishly understated decor and lighting scheme showcases the glittering city lights to great effect although the music can get a little loud and clubby.

More casual fare is served in the spacious Tivoli bistro whose basement location is offset somewhat by a waterfall, plenty of visible foliage, and a shiny modern ambiance. The breakfast buffets are truly lavish affairs with an almost unbearable selection of fresh fruit, breads, cakes, cookies (including delicious madeleines), pastries, platters of smoked salmon, and hot dishes such as Spanish tortillas and scrambled eggs with prosciutto. The lower floors also shelter a small business room (with computers and faxes) as well as well-equipped meeting and conference rooms of varying sizes.

Many of São Paulo’s other luxury hotels are tucked away in trendy Jardins or, in the case of large business hotels, have moved out to the up-and-coming, but farflung and soul-less district of Brooklin. The Tivoli Mofarrej, on the other hand, has a terrific location just off Avenida Paulista, which is overflowing with cultural and leisure options. In a city as sprawling and traffic snarled as “Sampa,” you’ll be thankful to be in the midst of it all—and, at the same time, sheltered in an environment where everything conspires to make your life as tranquil and comfortable as possible. If you like your luxury hotels large (as opposed to boutique), the Tivoli Mofarrej is Sampa’s current champion in the category.

Web Address: Tivoli Sao Paulo
Total Number of rooms: 220
Published rates: $355 to $1,460

Review and photos by Michael Sommers.