Sir Albert hotel in Amsterdam is a dazzling former diamond factory, designed around the ‘modern aristocratic’ lifestyle of its eponymous, but fictional, patron. Ever present, but never seen, Albert has opened his doors to welcome you to enjoy his incredible Japanese food, prime location and eye for sultry contemporary design.
Double rooms from £89.30 (€105), including tax at 9 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of 7% per room per night on check-out and an additional local city tax of €3.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates are room only; a Continental breakfast buffet in Izakaya costs from €21 a person.
If the bar in Izakaya’s a little crowded, retreat to the residents-only study and flick through the fictional Sir Albert’s books about art, Amsterdam and architecture over a decanted whisky by the fireplace. Take to the streets like an Amsterdam native: the hotel has 10 bikes for hire (€17.50 for a full day, €13.50 a half day).
At the hotel
Library, free WiFi throughout, bikes to rent. In rooms: flatscreen TV, iPod sound system, radio, minibar, Illy coffee machine, a tea tray and a special box of goodies and treats. Guests can borrow iPads on request, too.
Our favourite rooms
Be sure to book a front-facing room to survey all of the busy De Pijp district. We loved Sir Deluxe Room 19 for its huge windows showcasing the streets below, and its daring open-bathroom. If the thought of an open-bathroom sets you blushing, ask for a room with a closed bathroom set-up.
Don’t panic – your genteel host has all potential packing disasters covered in his special goodie box, where you’ll find tasty treats and handy little things that might not have made their way into your suitcase (eye masks, ear plugs, hangover remedies, etc).
The hotel has ties with the nearby City Street Spa on nearby Prinsengracht, and can arrange an array of face and body treatments for Mr or Mrs Smith.
Children of all ages are welcome, although Sir Albert's not especially geared to kids.
Sit beside the open kitchen to admire the chefs’ flame-flinging theatrics, or choose a snug spot by the window if you want privacy. If you’re feeling companionable, take a seat at the long communal table in the middle of the room.
Izakaya attracts both special-occasion couples and the after-work crowd, so evening dresses sit comfortably alongside jeans and heels.
The excellent Izakaya serves exquisite Japanese food – and no wonder: it's helmed by Hariprasad Shetty, who sharpened his Santoku at Nobu London – with a few South American influences. Expect to feast on an array of small plates, including soft-shell crab harumaki, scallop and truffle sui mai or Alaskan king crab temaki, as well as flame-cooked specialities straight off the Robata charcoal grill. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, a DJ provides the background music for your Japanese meals.
Izakaya's bar has an impressive stock of house-infused variations of Japanese spirit shochu, made using raw ingredients such as barley, buckwheat and sweet potato – and many of these make their way into the unique cocktails available. There’s also a cellar stocking more than 300 international wines. A DJ keeps patrons partying on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays till late.
Breakfast runs from 7am to 10am (a lazier 10.30am on weekends); lunch is served from noon to 2.30pm during the week (3pm on Saturday and 4pm on Sunday); and dinner's between 6pm and 11pm. The bar serves until 1am (2am on weekends).
In-room dining can be ordered from noon until 11pm – take your pick from bespoke Izakaya bento boxes and butcher burgers.
Sir Albert is located in central Amsterdam, in the city’s De Pijp district, aka the Quartier Latin.
Schipol Airport is about 15 kilometres away (www.schiphol.nl) and there’s a taxi rank right outside – the journey takes around 20 minutes. Plenty of major international carriers fly direct from cities across the UK, Europe and further afield; British Airways (www.ba.com) flies direct from London Heathrow.
Centraal Station is a 10-minute drive. Jump in a cab at the station, or take tram 16 or 24 and get off at Ruysdaelstraat, then turn right, cross the bridge over the canal and Sir Albert will be on your right. From London, guests can travel to Amsterdam with a change at Brussels-Midi with Eurostar (www.eurostar.com).
Valet parking costs €30 for the first 24 hours and €25 every 24 hours thereafter. Driving in the city centre is not recommended.
Worth getting out of bed for
Sir Albert is in the De Pijp district, home to the famous Albert Cuypmarkt, one of the country’s most renowned markets (and the longest in Europe), and close to many shops, restaurants and bars. Make your way shop by shop down PC Hoofstraat, or take a picnic along to Vondelpark. Spend a day exploring Museumplein’s trinity of museums (Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk), before a concert at the Royal Concertgebouw. The Anne Frank House is both a sobering memorial and a testimony to endurance during the darkest of times – a must-visit – and a canal tour is a classic way of seeing the city. Visit from November through January to see the Amsterdam Light Festival's brilliant illuminations
A stamping ground of Dutch shakers and sushi lovers, Momo on Hobbemastraat serves impeccable Asian-inspired cuisine in a contemporary, chrome-favouring setting. Line the bar or settle on a patterned sofa to choose your selection of ceviche, sashimi or dim-sum small plates. As the name suggests, Le Garage on Ruysdaelstraat used to be a garage. Today, it continues on a similar theme by welcoming guests to come in for a rest and repair. Leave after a banquet of restorative French bistro staples: steak tartare, snails, foie gras and fruits de mer. Enjoy the noteworthy burgers on offer at The Butcher just down the street from Sir Albert and voted Amsterdam’s best burger bar by the city’s edition of Time Out. Those in the know will also be frequenting this haunt for its cool, cocktail-serving speakeasy out back. Be sure to make a reservation, then go to the far side of the room, press the buzzer and give the password… On the same road, opulent Bazar provides the city with an authentic Turkish experience. Sit up on the mezzanine level and feast on juicy kebabs as you admire your ornate surroundings from above.
Head over to Gollem Biercafé on Raamsteeg to enjoy the atmosphere of this typical Dutch ‘bruin cafe’ (so-called because of the tobacco-stained wallpaper), as well as more than 200 weird and wonderful beers.
‘Lady Smith’. She rolled the words around her mouth like an especially succulent sherry. ‘LADY Smith.’ Mrs Smith – or ‘Lady’, as she was now styling herself – had placed herself within the so-called ‘study’ area of Amsterdam’s lively and smart new hotel, the Sir Albert, and she was lolling on a sofa, drink in hand and aristocratic attitude newly acquired. I quaked, slightly, but soon recovered myself enough to remember my consort duties.
We had arrived not five minutes before, bedraggled and weary from the evening rain and a missed tram stop. A welcome glass of reviving prosecco and the truest sense of noblesse oblige we’d ever encountered had revived Lady Smith, who was now looking around her with a sense of rapture, and just a soupçon (or Verdenking in local parlance) of entitlement. We’d been impressed by a sign on the side of the building which bears the enormous Disraeli quote: ‘Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and I remember more than I have seen.’ Our aim was to see much, and remember more.
Thankfully, Sir Albert gave us plenty to cherish. Opened in 2012 in the fashionable De Pijp area of town, and situated in what used to be a diamond factory, it’s a rhapsody in comfort, luxury and space, treating every customer as as though they were to the manor born. A walk around its stylish, black-painted corridors threw up stylish curiosities, such as a case of medical implements; the overall effect makes you feel as though you are staying with a wealthy and flamboyantly eccentric uncle. Other buildings might rattle when trams pass, but not Sir Albert – to avoid costly mistakes by the factory workers as they cut gems, the building was fully fortified. It's intimate inside and you'll never guess there are 90 bedrooms. Nor that it's a hotel, thanks to the deliberately discreet reception area. Sir Albert wants you to feel like an aristocrat in his fine city; you'll want to share a cigar or two with this fine gentleman. It might have taken us a few minutes to discover the sophisticated lighting system, but once we’d mastered the intricacies of inserting electronic room keys in just the right slot, we were away. In our deluxe room we were free to discover the comforts of the enormous, palatial bed – one fit for a king and queen, not just their courtiers.
After an excellent breakfast in the stylish, Japanese Izakaya restaurant the next day, Lady Smith, an Amsterdam virgin, demanded a tour of the city’s cultural highlights. I was happy to oblige. The sun having deigned to emerge, we sauntered in lordly fashion along the obligatory canal for a few moments until we found ourselves at the Rijksmuseum, newly reopened after a decade-long refurbishment. The Museum of the Netherlands boasts a formidable assembly of world-class art, most notably Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. But being simple creatures, Lady Smith and I particularly enjoyed the display of 17th-century Dutch drinking horns. They all promised a combination of temporary joy and lasting hangovers. Many of the paintings around showed the effect of these drinking horns; whether intended as a cautionary tale or an ode to joy, those in them seemed to be having the most tremendous time. I saw a smile creep across Lady Smith’s lips. A glass would be had tonight, it seemed.
All this art admiration is thirsty work, and so we made Lion Noir on hip Reguliersdwarsstraatwe our next stop. There we had a sumptuous dinner that disproved that the old adage about Dutch cuisine being tired and consisting mainly of potatoes. My main course of excellent beef fillet did contain a small Jersey Royal, but I got the impression that this was intended as an ironic reference to the country’s unimpressive cooking in the past.
A stroll round the canals afterwards and occasional views of ladies of the night disporting themselves in briefs in their windows for the Amsterdam first-timer. And thence to Sir Albert via a pit stop at the nearby Café Gollem on Raamsteeg. I’d been looking forward to this. Boasting a stellar range of beers at (relatively) low prices, this superb bar also has a reputation for friendliness and unpretentiousness, so much so that, within an hour or so, we’d made friends with the bar staff, who professed an admiration for English cider, and were getting pleasantly relaxed on a fine Belgian beer called Kwak: an homage to the craic inspires?
When one of Café Gollem’s staff broke off to tend to a dark-haired woman in the corner. She was clearly a known quantity – a regular, perhaps? The bartender returned, grinning. ‘Are you familiar with Carice van Houten in England?’ Lady Smith and I both nodded. Game Of Thrones has long been a topic of conversation in our house. ‘Oh, she’s just up there in that corner. Comes in all the time.’ Little sums up the difference between England and Amsterdam better. Should Britain’s most famous actress come into the average bar, they would be bothered until they had to flee. In Amsterdam, it’s a fact barely worth remarking on. It’s this civilised, egalitarian and open-minded way of life that reminded us, as we took our eventual leave, that everyone here’s an aristocrat, not just the denizens of Sir Albert. Everyone, that is, apart from the bearded and stoned man who took a liking to Lady Smith. But that’s a story for another day…