By Anja Mutić
It was almost midnight when I checked into my delightful room at Las Alcobas, a recently opened boutique hotel in Mexico City. I ordered a roast beef torta (Mexican sandwich) that was promptly delivered to my room with a side dish of crispy sweet potatoes and yucca. Perfectly satiated, I then dove into the soft bed with white goose down comforters and pillows. Let me just say that my bed back in New York hasn’t felt the same since. At “the alcoves” (English translation of Las Alcobas), luxury was so understated that it really felt like home. This intimate property in the posh Polanco district of Mexico’s sprawling capital opened in January 2010, in a seven-floor apartment building from the 1950s, meticulously restored both inside and out. Imprinting their signature style on the hotel’s interiors was the acclaimed design duo Yabu Pushelberg.
In many hotels of its kind, catering to travelers who seek luxury on both business and leisure trips, it is easy to lose a sense of location. Well-ensconced in a generic hotel room, you could be in Mexico City, Madrid or Manila. How do you really tell? At Las Alcobas, you never for a moment forget you are in Mexico’s capital city. All the rooms have thoughtful details that define the locale – from carved rosewood doors and hand-knotted rugs to original handicrafts and artwork by contemporary Mexican artists, such as the established painter Roberto Cortazar whose paintings grace the walls. I loved the colorful mini-chairs with handmade Mexican candy and the Mexican sodas in the mini bar – all complimentary and replenished daily. The brightly colored alebrije put a smile on my face every time I looked at it. Each room has one of these folk art sculptures representing a creature from Mexican lore.
Each of the units showcases custom-made rosewood furniture; dressing room with fold-out three-way mirrors and custom closets; all-marble bathroom with soothing rain shower and soaking whirlpool tub (with champagne air, aromatherapy and chromotherapy); leather wall panels with inlaid-stitching detail; and separate sitting area with a desk. 21st-century perks include LCD flat screen televisions; surround-sound home theatre systems by BOSE; wireless high-speed Internet (at no extra charge – a big bonus!); and multi-line telephones. A centralized control panel in each room allows guests to interact with lights, audio systems and hotel services. I loved the fact I could turn off all the lights with one flick, instead of fumbling around the room trying to shut off all that shined. It was also fun playing with the various lighting scenes – Romance, Serenity and Reading. Alone in my comfy bed, I skipped Romance but I did enjoy a little serene mood as well as the reading lights. My room – one of 35 units on the property – was of the executive category kind. I had a chance to peek into the other rooms and suites, and would highly recommend one of the corner units – #36 is particularly lovely, with circular windows, leafy views and lots of light. If you want to splurge, the penthouse suites are ideal, with their wraparound terraces featuring stellar views of Mexico City.
At Las Alcobas, the architectural highlight that swept me off my feet was the rosewood spiral staircase. This centerpiece of the lobby is a definite showstopper, characteristic for the Yabu Pushelberg design sensibility. Their style features lots of texture that helps to create a feeling of conversation with both the immediate environment and the location at large. Other notable design elements at Las Alcobas include full slabs of light blue marble; stitched-leather wall panels and inlaid wall carvings; stone finishings; and richly-colored woods throughout.
But what really sets Las Alcobas apart are the hotel’s unique services, such as the personal host assigned to every guestroom. I particularly loved the “ACI” welcome refreshment that was waiting in my room upon arrival (in Nahuatl, ancient language of Mexico City, “ACI” means to arrive). I can still taste the refreshing combination of hibiscus and rose petals. The “Despertar” wake-up service comes with a choice of great coffee, tea or juice, and a warm basket of bread. What a marvelous way to be woken up each morning! Another unique element is the soap bath menu which allows guests to choose a selection of handmade soaps upon arrival. These fragrant soaps reflect the local and cultural ingredients of ancient Mexican traditions.
Another joy of any sojourn at Las Alcobas is the Aurora Spa, an intimate hideaway with private treatment areas that feature the latest massage therapies and skin revitalization techniques. I sampled the 50-minute Aurora Signature Massage – a full-body Swedish with local cocoa butter for deep penetration and skin-soothing relaxation. Considered the food of the gods, cocoa symbolizes physical vigor and longevity and has stimulating and soothing effects, which is why Mayan doctors used it for therapy. Aurora Spa pays homage to such ancient Mexican traditions by incorporating indigenous ingredients into its signature therapies, such as plants deeply revered by the Olmec, Toltec, Aztec and Mayan cultures. Aloe vera, cocoa, basil, agave and tepezcohuite are just a few of the native plants featured in the treatments. I wished I had a chance to try Meringue de Ahuacatli, a super-hydrating body wrap rich in vitamin E, which starts with a relaxing massage using organic avocado oil and a homemade balm from the native Mexican fruit. Note that treatments are also available in guestrooms – a nice perk. Plus, if you want to keep up with your exercise regime, you’re in luck at Las Alcobas. On the premises, there’s a small but well-equipped 24-hour fitness center with weight training equipment.
To round up the guest experience, Las Alcobas is set to open two dining venues. Both are headed up by local chef Martha Ortiz who is acclaimed internationally for her unique culinary flair and imagination that she adds to each one of her gourmet concoctions. The first to open, later this month, is the two-floor Dulce Patria, a chic cantina with a lush garden, where traditional Mexican staples will be presented in a colorful and festive way. I was lucky to get a preview of the modern Mexican cuisine that will be served at Dulce Patria. Of the numerous treats I savored, I particularly loved the chamoy (sweet and spicy liquid candy) mango margarita as well as the fresh corn quesadillas with zucchini blossoms, Oaxaca-style cheese and roasted pine nuts. The cantina-style shrimp soup was memorable, as was the duck in mole negro sauce served with white rice and sweet plantain feathers. To open by September, the 50-seat fine-dining Barroco will offer flavorful fare made from the freshest produce, in addition to a full room-service menu.
Special opening rates at Las Alcobas (www.lasalcobas.com) currently start at $275/night for a standard room, through September 2010. After that date, regular room rates will begin at $405 (up to $2,500 US for the penthouse suites). All Photos Courtesy of Las Alcobas