By Tova Syrowicz
Or so says vivacious General Manager Rebeca Selley Morales of the property’s almost-complete $40 million renovation.
A veteran of the Four Seasons group, and still going strong, Selley Morales would know a major overhaul from a surface refresh. The first phase was a swift six months from May to November 2012, making over the outdoor landscaping, lobby, restaurants and bar. All the rooms will be complete by mid-September, and the meeting and event spaces are in for a new look to boot.
Selley Morales begins with the tale of the owner, a native of Dubai who had been traveling to Buenos Aires for 21 years, when he decided it was high time to invest in a home…so he purchased a hotel. (The one-bedroom deluxe suite is his; its facelift concluded in November 2011 and serves as a model for the other accommodations, of which there are 116 rooms and 49 suites). The owner has two passions: Horses—he is a patron of Argentina’s La Dolfina polo team—and tango; and he has brought in top global designers (including Dubai’s WA International) to subtly work these twin loves into his hotel, which stands tall and proud in Buenos Aires’s tony Recoleta district. The effect is contemporary, yet somehow timeless, with an elegantly vibrant sense of place.
From cantering horse sculptures outdoors, to handblown glass chandeliers and a thick hand-tufted carpet in the lobby, everything has been custom made by local purveyors to embody the dynamism, movement and energy that polo and tango share. Even the fresh, light fragrance filtered into the lobby, Bayo (also the name of the beige horses of Argentina’s pampas), was created for the hotel by Fueguia 1833, a boutique Argentine perfumery.
Elena, the hotel’s new restaurant designed by EDG from California, is already buzzing with locals and visitors alike. The food is simple: Italian and Spanish plates derived from high-quality Argentinean produce, meats and seafood, like Patagonian lamb and Gulf of San Matías oysters. It derives its convivial spirit and color palette (black-and-white tiles, red accents, lots of wood and dark leather) from the city’s famous antiques district of San Telmo. Cool elements include a secret passageway from the new Pony Line bar; a wine pulley that delivers the wine of the day to your table should you order it; and a stately chef’s table with prime views of the kitchen.
In the summer, the hotel now offers an asado (or Argentinean grill/barbecue) eatery outdoors—not just for Sundays, says Selley Morales, as traditionally that has been the day that families in Argentina will host their own.
The brand new accommodations (complete on four floors and counting) nod to the “king of sports” with leather-clad sliding doors and drawer handles, nail head-studded trims and carved horse lamps. A beautiful alpaca-embossed headboard made by local artisans takes pride of place, while opening up the space between bed and bath has made for a cleaner, airier feel. In the bathrooms, the best Italian marble, polished walnut and in-mirror LED TVs live up to the level of luxury and comfort you’d expect from a Four Seasons.
For those of you who’ve stayed at the hotel, and love its French Renaissance-style Presidential Suite in La Mansión (a freestanding, 1920s building that houses seven of the hotel’s suites), fear not: The suite was last renovated in 2007, and will be keeping its illustrious persona. No need to take the knife to a graceful beauty from another era.
One last word that speaks to the true extent of the renovation: The staff has been spruced up as well—flowy red dresses for the hostesses at Elena, tango shoes for the bellmen, feathers in the hair of the ladies at reception and gaucho gear for the pool attendants. If the word tacky comes to mind, it shouldn’t. As with the rest of the renovation, these elements have been worked in subtly, with the utmost of care and design know-how.
So while Rebeca Selley Morales speaks of plastic surgery, rest assured that the “surgeons” have been the very best, and the results are natural and glowing.