When was the last time you experienced something effortless, or ‘requiring no mental or physical exertion’ as the dictionary puts it?
Surely that has to be the holy grail for hotels, or indeed any area of the service industry, for guests to enjoy that zen-like state while within their care.
Of course there are degrees of ‘exertion’ but at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Spa in Austria’s stunning capital city Vienna, the most stressful choice I faced was which steak knife to choose when tucking in to a meal.
I didn’t even know this was a thing. I’ve been to those formal dinners when you need to know which fork accompanies which dish, but being offered of choice of knives with which to attack the perfect ‘medium rare’ beef fillet from Simmantal put before me almost qualified as ‘mental exertion’ for the briefest of moments.
I need not have worried though, the smiling chef clutching the formidable selection of weapons talked me though the pros and cons of each, the heft, the weight and so on. I’ll admit I was tempted by the Japanese steel but went with one from the chef’s home region in Germany, it seemed the polite thing to do, and I am always polite to men in possession of a vast array of sharp objects (plus chefs can be temperamental).
All in all I have to say I made the right choice, the knife did indeed cut the succulent steak with ease, in fact you could almost say it was effortless – certainly the consumption was easy, being delicious as it was and accompanied by hand-cut fries, parmesan and truffle oil.
This quirky episode in the Ritz-Carlton’s fabulously-relaxed signature restaurant Dstrikt Steakhouse was a perfect example of the tone this hotel tries to set. Refined relaxation, casually cool, presence without pretention. Put an easy-going, well-mannered hipster in a Savile Row tailored suit and you are getting close.
It was totally refreshing and took me by surprise for I was expecting much more formality, both from a hotel in such a historic city and from the staff who worked there.
While the four grand 19th century buildings (situated in the beautiful Schubertring district) which make up the hotel date back centuries, with intricate frescos and ancient carvings in stone and wood, they have been complemented by contemporary interior design and warmed by the humour and energy of the team working within the walls.
The Viennese are an open and engaging and energetic people with genuine warmth and good-nature who love their city deeply. Not surprising, this was the home of the Waltz King Johann Strauss II, and listening to the locals it’s difficult not to get swept up in the enthusiasm, a little like listening to the most famous of the musician’s works, the Blue Danube.
That spirit resides very much within the Ritz-Carlton team, typified by Stefanie Möllner who gave me a guided tour of the hotel and its facilities.
What could have been a somewhat dull history lesson was in fact a fascinating chat about the property’s rich heritage, delivered by someone with real passion for her city and her hotel. And once again proved Ritz-Carlton’s recipe for success is its people, something I’ve found to be true at all their properties (well the ones I’ve visited so far).
Another dictionary definition describes ‘effortless’ as being something ‘achieved with admirable ease’, and yet that doesn’t seem quite so fitting as its apparent that to achieve that state for the guest, the team work tirelessly and genuinely convey the sense that nothing is too much trouble.
That is put into focus again by the staff of the intimate Ritz-Carlton Lounge on the seventh floor (access to which is the benefit of having a junior suite). Here you are put at ease by the ‘always on’ service in what feels like your own exclusive ‘snug’.
If you are still in need of relaxation (apparently I was) then this Ritz-Carlton has one of the most exclusive spas in Vienna. Its 18-metre pool is the longest in the city and features underwater music, something I’ve yet to experience in all of the bling on offer in the Gulf.
It’s also where the massage magic happens, my rule of thumb is that if I am so relaxed I begin to doze off on the table then the therapist is probably doing a good job (my apologies for any snoring).
For anyone needing a dose of festive spirit now is the perfect time to visit both Vienna and the Ritz-Carlton. Its Atmosphere Rooftop Bar not only transforms into the city’s highest Christmas Market but also provides one of the best spots to see in the New Year. Situated eight floors up it offers views across the city, including of the fireworks display above St Stephen’s Cathedral planned for New Year’s Eve.
I guess this being a hotel review I should give a passing mention to the rooms. Usually a brief ‘yes it had a huge comfortable bed and a lovely bathroom’ suffice, one expects nothing less from a five-star hotel, but the rooms at the Ritz-Carlton in Vienna do come with added drama. The cavernous bathroom awash with marble is cunningly hidden away behind wooden paneling while the décor of the bedroom is not your standard muted tones but more expressive with deep, intricately patterned carpets and lush drapes.
All in all this impressive property combines the classical with the contemporary in a way that’s dizzyingly good fun – much in fact like a Strauss waltz.