Constitución 317, Santiago, Chile
One of the few boutique hotels in the Chilean capital, The Aubrey offers eclectic design and a handy location in one of this sprawling city's most vibrant neighborhoods.
The Aubrey Hotel opened in the Bellavista neighborhood of Santiago, Chile in 2010 after a three-year, multi-million-dollar renovation that restored and joined two adjacent mansions that date back to 1927. The architects took care to retain or faithfully recreate original details and they added a pool, bar, and new rooms in a new structure behind the mansions.
According to the owners, the style of the original mansions helped inspire the hotel's name. Both of the houses have many Arts and Crafts or Art Deco influences, and a signature figure in those design movements was the British illustrator Aubrey Beardsley. Today, the 15 rooms at The Aubrey display both of those design disciplines and plenty of pleasing quirks.
The Art Deco Room is the largest at 800 square feet. This room includes a master bedroom with a double bed, one single bed, and a wacky desk that becomes a bed. The room can accommodate up to five people, though there is only one bathroom.
The loft-like San Cristobal Suite is a sexy and stylish stunner which is favored by honeymooners. An undulating wooden screen separates the bedroom from the bathroom, which is anchored by a huge square bathtub and an intricately tiled shower. The complex floral-print fabric wall covering is as eye-catching as the imposing antique tufted brown leather sofa. This room also has a large furnished patio facing the pool.
Loft Rooms average 300 square feet and are located on the top level of the hotel where the angles of the roof give the spaces a lower profile and an appealing attic adventure feeling. My favorite loft room had a tatami mat for kids to sleep on (in addition to a true bed for mom and dad), a small desk tucked under a dormer window, and a bathroom with a skylight. The two Constitution Rooms are petite, but charming (one has a bathtub).
In general, it's worth reserving a room in the original buildings. The four newer Pavilion Rooms in the annex added during the pre-opening renovation are much smaller (only 160 square feet) and lack the character of the other rooms. Their small size means there's no separate bathroom, just a glass shower cube, a small toilet room, and a small sink a few feet from the bed. A writing desk and a wardrobe round out the furnishings. A small patio adds a bit of outdoor space and one of the Pavilion Rooms has a Jacuzzi.
All rooms in the hotel offer individual air conditioning and heating, 300 thread-count bedding on good mattresses, basic bathrobes (but they fit well), and strong water pressure in the showers. Cava bath products are made with grape seed extract, and chocolate treats await at turndown.
Because the hotel was created by combining two homes, there are many sitting areas decorated with a playful mix of modern, antique, sleek, and cheeky furnishings. Don't miss the carved wood table in the form of a giant hog in the hotel bar. Also, be prepared to climb many stairs. The hotel is a ramble of staircases and, depending on where your room is located, you may need to navigate a bit of a labyrinth just to get to the breakfast room.
The breakfast buffet includes lots of freshly-baked cakes (a nod to the morning meal preferences of the hotel's many Brazilian guests), fruit, juices, high quality coffee, eggs to order, yogurt, cereals, and breads.
The hotel bar is large and welcoming with leather armchairs, sleek metal chairs, a long marble table, and a wall-mounted gas fireplace. The hotel bar is open to non-guests but the hotel's restaurant was closed entirely when I was there.
The outdoor pool is just large enough for laps and it can be heated upon request (it takes a full day to heat it, so plan ahead). There's a massage room, and the hotel has a private parking lot—not a common amenity in Santiago.
All of this is located within a few dozen yards of San Cristobal Hill, which is topped by a Virgin Mary shrine. The large and popular park also has walking and biking trails, a funicular up and down one side of the hill, and a cable car system up and down another side. Just a few blocks away is La Chascona, one of three homes owned by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. They have been turned into atmospheric and insightful museums chronicling his work and life. The hotel is also immediately below the National Zoo. I expected to hear the animals, but I just smelled them during momentary shifts in the wind.
A much more appetizing neighbor is Restaurante 040 which is #37 on the latest list of Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants. Expect a chic and stark atmosphere (black napkins, metal French bulldogs on each table) as the setting for a 12-course tasting menu from Spanish chef Sergio Barroso featuring dishes that pair his fancy-food training at El Bulli with his love of Asian food. Tender and rich squid dumplings in supple black squid ink dough come with a small cup of hot squid broth with coconut milk. Supple curry gyoza filled with lentils encapsulate India in one bite. Go for the wine pairings with your meal for a sampling of Chilean outliers and icons. But don't drink too much. After your meal you'll be shown through a false refrigerator door and put into an elevator for a visit to Room 9, the semi-speakeasy craft cocktail bar on the roof.
Honeymooners and guests celebrating birthdays or anniversaries get a free bottle of champagne, flowers, and chocolate at check-in at The Aubrey. When you reserve, be sure to tell the staff if you're celebrating a milestone so they can give you their full boutique hotel treatment.
Web Address: www.theaubrey.com
Total Number of Rooms and Suites: 15
Published Rates: $230 to $480 double including breakfast
Review by Karen Catchpole, photos by Eric Mohl.