You won’t get the full effect of the newly opened Raffles Boston upon walking into the property entrance in the Back Bay — it’s a small though elegant space. But once you’ve been personally escorted to the express elevator and whisked up to the expansive 17th-floor Sky Lobby to check in at reception, you will be wowed.
Surprising and delighting guests is a hallmark of the 136-year-old Raffles Hotels & Resorts brand, which debuted in 1887 with the iconic Raffles Singapore and has since expanded worldwide. Yet this is the company’s first foray into North America and also its first mixed-use property (there are also 146 residences).
Among other things, Raffles is famous for luxury, glamour and inventing the Singapore Sling. At check-in, staff will offer a spin on that drink, the Boston Sling — it includes Blind Duck gin (created for Raffles Boston by local GrandTen Distillery), Drambuie, Nonino amaro, cranberry compote and housemade apple shrub. The three-story lobby is a stunner, with amazing views of the city through expansive windows and a spiral staircase that will make you want to reach for your camera. It’s clear why the designers chose to make the 17th floor the heart of the property.
Boston-based firm The Architectural Team, Inc. designed the reflective glass exterior of the 35-story LEED Gold structure. Giving a nod to its famous neighbor, the John Hancock Tower (New England’s tallest skyscraper), the building still makes its own dramatic statement, with lots of curves and angles.
Inside, New York hospitality design firm Stonehill Taylor (which did the interiors of TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy International Airport and JW Marriott Nashville) created the accommodations and most of the hotel spaces. Everywhere you look, there are copper accents (an homage to Paul Revere and his copper plating company) and botanical elements, from live plantings and floral wallpaper to sculptures and artwork (meant to honor Boston’s Emerald Necklace and greenery in the Back Bay). Don’t forget to look up, as the chandeliers and lighting fixtures themselves are works of art and seem to float above the rooms.
The 17th Floor
Along with the intimate reception area, the 17th floor houses the cozy Writers’ Lounge, a staple of many Raffles properties, where you can relax with a book and a beverage; Amar, the Boston hotel’s signature 62-seat restaurant; and the Long Bar & Terrace, which features 63 indoor seats and 29 terrace seats (and handles 24-hour room service). All fall under the direction of chef George Mendes, who while making a splash in New York City with his Portuguese restaurant Aldea (now closed) has many ties to New England and grew up in Connecticut.
At Amar (which means “love” in Portuguese), Mendes puts a modern spin on Portuguese fare. Don’t forget the drinks: An unusual option at the restaurant is that you can order any wine on the list by the glass, and you can cap off the meal with a Port or Madeira from the roving trolley. Plan to dress up for dinner here — no athletic wear or baseball caps are allowed.
The Long Bar & Terrace, which has stellar South End views, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a full afternoon tea service.
The 147 accommodations, on the sixth through 14th floors, adopt more of a residential feel to evoke Back Bay’s row houses. Curvy couches, glass cabinets and marble tables seem at home. Most of the marble bathrooms are outfitted with separate showers and full soaking tubs, and all come with Guerlain toiletries. John Lobb shoe care products — the first time the British shoemaker is making them available in the U.S. — and plush bathrobes sit in the closet.
But probably the most luxurious amenity is that all rooms, no matter the category, have butler service (another brand hallmark), which starts before you even check in. Expect your butler to contact you a couple of weeks before arrival, asking for preferences, which can range from your favorite tea to what nightcap you like at bedtime. Once at the property, you can request the butler unpack your luggage, order flowers for the room, make reservations and plan other experiences.
More to Come
In the weeks and months to come, Raffles Boston will open several other venues, including Blind Duck, a two-story speakeasy-style bar, which might not be as easy to find as one might think; Café Pastel, a first-floor spot that will turn out coffee, tea and pastries; and what will surely excite fans of acclaimed Boston chef Jody Adams, La Padrona, a two-story, 200-seat bar and restaurant, with Adams’ take on a variety of Italian cuisines.
Finally, a fourth-floor spa and wellness center will offer an expansive gym with Technogym equipment and a 65-foot indoor pool with city views. The Guerlain spa will have three treatment rooms, a couples treatment room, plus his-and-hers saunas, steam rooms and ice showers.