Taken with the mood of Soho House Amsterdam
We are lying next to each other on what is effectively the top-bunk of a double-sized bunkbed, with kitchenette below and exercise pull-up rings hung from the sides, debating whether this signals progress when it comes to hotel fittings, or the opposite. It is certainly functional, if something of a shock to the system having spent the previous two nights in the sumptuous surrounds of a Soho House Amsterdam bedroom, where the only nod to creative use of space was the minibar doubling as a stand for the television.
Welcome to Amsterdam – a city of contrasts on every given level. One night cocktails and art-adorned walls. The next, takeaway wine in plastic cups and self check-in via an iPhone app.
I’m open-minded, and not adverse to the practical, but had the taxis not been quite so hard to track down in our second destination, would quite happily have sprung straight back to the chichi comforts of our first-night location.
As the Soho House empire continues its march across the globe, criticisms that its instantly recognisable aesthetic is becoming ubiquitous grow in volume, but when it’s so good, who cares if you can now experience it in multiple locations? To boot, the Amsterdam output stands out thanks to what I can only describe as a fairly unwelcoming, austere, granite-clad façade and frankly quite scary entrance hall, where the sound of your suitcase echoes up into the lobby and one imagines generations of bankers trudging in to work until their fingers bled and their eyesight failed. (It was actually a Thirties trading office in its original incarnation, and a university building after that.)
The mood changes somewhat once you hit the club level, where ceilings are low, lights are lower and the velvet sofas lift you just high enough that it’s a gentle slide to the floor after your fourth cocktail. (Which no one notices because, well, it’s not light enough.)
Onto the bedrooms and, one presumes, planning laws not allowing the erection or demolition of any walls, bathrooms in the form of human-sized jewellery boxes have been dropped into place, while – as is the norm at Soho Houses – large copper bathtubs sit in the bedrooms. We are in a ‘Monumental’ room. The name fits and the lighting is no brighter. In fact, it isn’t until we hit Cecconi’s restaurant for lunch the next day that I get enough daylight to properly check that what I’m wearing isn’t some horribly clashing ensemble. The whole place deserves the adjective ‘moody’, and I love it. Maybe if we returned in the summer, it would feel totally different, but on the rain-soaked November weekend we’re in residence, the ambiance suits the weather just perfectly.
“You know we could be eating exactly the same meal back at Cecconi’s in London?” we prompt each other over and over again throughout the meal, but it doesn’t stop the enjoyment. Notable too the waiter’s total and utter acceptance of my moving us tables twice, before settling back in the original one he’s shown us to. (I was hunting for the best light.) And if I’d known that in the apart-hotel we were heading to, the only dinner on offer was a bag of crisps, I’d have ordered everything twice.
We leave Amsterdam, as one always does, insisting that if we ever quit London for another city, this would be the one, although then I guess we’d have to live somewhere with proper lighting, practical interiors and it wouldn’t be half so fabulous.