If you travel as frequently as I do, the hotels you call your temporary home sometimes run the risk of becoming indistinguishable. While some travellers have no objections to a standard template hotel room, I tend to like one with character, something the newly-opened The Hermitage, Jakarta’s sole Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) property, has in spades.
Words: Chitra Santhinathan
Tucked away in a leafy avenue in upper-crust Menteng, The Hermitage, quite like its name, is a hideaway from the blaring horns of all manner of vehicles and the constant buzz of the city’s streets. Stepping into the beautifully restored building that began life in 1923 as the Telefoongebouw or Dutch Telecommunications Office, the din of present-day Jakarta’s gridlocked streets faded away as I was whisked off to another era, to a time when life played out at a much gentler pace.
Designed in the Art Deco style that was all the rage at the time, the hotel has a distinct charm reminiscent of the heady days and nights of the Roaring Twenties. The façade of the building remains as it was years ago, except for the discreet addition of a new wing to house additional rooms. The transformation is more evident indoors, in an artful combination of contemporary and Art Deco styles.
From the many photographs of the old Telefoongebouw that line the hallways, it was evident that much of the building’s original features had been retained, including its pillars, grand staircase, antique mirrors and patterned tiles. I loved the trellis design, based on the decorative framework of the original building, which was repeated in a myriad ways in the rooms and public spaces.
A cosy hotel, The Hermitage offers 90 rooms ranging from Superior (30 square metres) to the Presidential Suite (150 square metres). I checked into the Executive room, a 45 square metre-space of sizeable charm, cleverly sectioned by sliding glass doors etched with an Art Deco-inspired geometric pattern based on the aforementioned trellis design. The room was delineated into four separate areas: A fairly large living area replete with writing desk, plush sofa and flat screen TV – an ideal space to entertain guests; the bedroom, also with a flat screen TV of its own; shower / WC / vanity; and bath that looked out onto the street below.
The ingenuous use of space made me feel as if I was in a small apartment rather than a hotel room. Again, the charm of the hotel is in its heritage, and tasteful decorative touches from the stylish Art Deco vanity mirrors to rattan-backed chairs served as a reminder of the building’s history and décor inspiration.
The heritage styling continued throughout the hotel from meeting rooms to dining outlets. So vivid was the attention to detail at the hotel’s elegant dining room L’Avenue (think walls lined with prints of Batavia and French windows framed with golden drapes), I could almost hear the clinking of crystal from banquets of yore. Thankfully, despite their dedication to preserving heritage, the menu at L’Avenue was far from staid. Here, executive chef Guillermo Mata revels in creating inspired masterpieces that combine Indonesian ingredients with French flair. I particularly enjoyed his Saumon De Tasmanie Fumé Maison, house smoked Tasmanian salmon accompanied with buah salak (snake fruit), spiced crème fraiche and baby cress and, Ravioles de Crabe Bleu, swimmer crab ravioli in a lime-turmeric beurre blanc sauce. The hotel’s Courtyard Café, on the other hand, evoked European chic and offered light bites – just the place for informal dining or a tête-à-tête.
For guests who prefer to retire to the salon for after dinner drinks, the atmospheric Hermitage Lounge is just the place to while the hours awayin the company of beautiful women (depicted in the paintings that adorn the walls), cigars and top-shelf single malts. For me though, the perfect night cap in an elegant hotel like The Hermitage was best enjoyed at the poolside La Vue bar, which offered much-needed sustenance and sweeping views of the city. Alone, on the rooftop, stretched out on a Javanese daybed, I closed my eyes and drank in the atmosphere of calm and tranquility, a pleasant diversion in a city that never seems to sleep.
Address: Jalan Cilacap No 1, Jakarta Pusat 10310 Indonesia
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