Above & Beyond
Among our favourite Smith stays are those made even more special by seamless service and generosity of spirit – where going the extra mile is the rule, not the exception. Is there nothing this hotel won't do?
As well as going above and beyond expectations (a drink on the house, the best table for your birthday, a snack for the journey home), the winner of this award knows exactly how to provide the feel-good factor – they're natural hosts.
One of our most successful fashion designers; the A-list's occasionwear go-to
Jet-setting contributor to the South China Morning Post, Tatler and TV travel shows
Blogger, writer, brand consultant and Fashion Me Now founder
Best Family Hotel
Coolest Creative Hub
Above & Beyond winners...
The miracles performed by staff at this Himalayan high-ender are all the more impressive considering your surroundings: 3,500 metres up in the Ladakh Valley. From the personalised butler assigned to each ultra-luxe canvas tent to the friendliness of the local dancers who accompany dinner: everything, it seems, has already been thought of. Feeling peckish in the night? Just delve into your well-stocked snack drawer. Edmund Hillary eat your heart out.
RUNNER-UP: DEPLAR FARM, TROLL PENINSULA, ICELAND
Unlike the Northern Lights – known to paint this region's sky – staff here are reliably year-round, and not at all eerie. In fact, for a team that contends with remoteness, subzero temperatures and the midnight sun, they are refreshingly chipper. Just take the guides, who lead twice-daily activities – trekking, skeet shooting, whale-watching – with almost superhuman zeal. Perhaps they love the farm’s turf-topped roof, geothermal pool and breath-snatching views as much as us?
RUNNER-UP: CUIXMALA, JALISCO, MEXICO
This billionaire’s playground presiding over the Pacific was once the home of Sir James Goldsmith, and the British tycoon sure had taste – this Moor-inspired mansion on Mexico’s jungly Jalisco coast features a jaw-dropping domed roof and a clutch of outrageous casas and casitas, each served by their own staff. But Goldsmith also had a heart: his latter-day conservationism has led to a wildlife sanctuary, and food is sourced from the grounds or nearby farm.
If you’re art and design inclined, a stay at Villa La Coste in Provence is akin to attending your dream dinner party: you’ll find Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, Norman Foster, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst here (well, the fruits of their handiwork anyway). But while the displays here are high-minded, the service certainly isn’t: staff take a refreshing first-name-basis approach, and every detail, right down to the memory-foam slippers waiting for you in your room, is taken care of.
Since this Caribbean country club on a bluff overlooking a mile-and-a-half of sugar-soft sand was recently restyled for the A-list, its team of exemplary staff has upped its game. That means no request is too much, no water sport too difficult to arrange, no dish too impossible for its Michelin-starred chef to create. Even Hurricane Irma will only be keeping them out of action until April 2018, then it’s back to (impeccable) service as usual.
Annandale’s four private villas are spread over a 4,000-acre working coastal farm, and yet, despite the distances between homesteads, its full-time staff provide nothing but seamless service. If you want to observe sheep-shearing on the opposite side of the estate, or go diving or kayaking, or require a private chef, Annandale delivers. It’s what they refer to as ‘gumboot luxury’, a commitment to guests on an estate so rugged and remote, the best way to reach it is by helicopter.
Say what-ho to this survivor of tea-trade refinement – all timbered ceilings, panelled libraries and claw-foot baths. The estate’s attentive butlers, serving impeccable tea-infused cuisine, are evocative of that period, too. But the true lord of the manor isn’t the hotel’s Brit-inspired elegance; it’s the surrounding Hill Country, with its sun-dazzled ravines, waterfalls and lakes. The folk here know this only too well, as the view of the Bogawantalawa Valley from the infinity pool attests.
It isn’t just the indigenous woven hangings that bring this hotel, hewn from the same khaki-coloured clay as the surrounding desert, to life. That job goes to your expert private guide, whose knowledge and wit (and off-road vehicle) apparently know no bounds as you visit the lunar valleys, geysers, and otherworldly salt flats of the world’s highest desert. Don’t be surprised if he’s pouring the Chilean red as you settle in for some first-class stargazing come nightfall.
The team at this imperial high rise are closing in on perfection: you and your bags are transported to your room without you realising; masterfully cut flowers offset elegant furniture throughout; and nothing is beyond the mountain-moving concierge. As the Chinese proverb goes, ‘here’s one detail that speaks for a thousand others’ – i.e: leave a pair of sunglasses on the side in the morning, and you’ll find them resting on a dusting cloth come evening. Now that’s attentive.
This eccentric mansion was originally conceived as a learning centre for France’s most talented students, and even in its current incarnation, could probably teach other hotels a lesson or two. The housekeepers are heroic, the bartender’s herb-based cocktails wow the crowds, and the concierge has keys to every corner of the city. As the site of the world’s first hot-air balloon airfield, it’s no surprise Saint James Paris is a league above the rest.
Above & Beyond award criteria
Sometimes, it's one individual who makes the biggest impact. The sommelier who helps you discover a new favourite wine; the concierge with an unbeatable book of contacts; the chef who keeps the kitchen open a little longer because your flight was delayed.
Does this hotel go above and beyond in terms of products or services – full-size bathroom products, free laundry, transfers by speedboat? Flexible and helpful whenever possible? Was your every need anticipated, your trip improved beyond measure?
Consistently exceeding expectations, the winner of Above & Beyond has a dedicated staff who love what they do and who excel at enhancing your stay, whether it's a one-man band or a crack team of assistants. You're among friends.
THE EXTRA MILE
When you vote in this category, tell us how your best-loved hotel went Above & Beyond to make its mark – we'd love to hear your anecdotes.