Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hotel Monaco, Seattle

SEATTLE - There's something endearing about a hotel that puts a speck-sized goldfish in a small bowl of water in your room complete with a sign that reads "Hello, my name is Titanic.''


Of course, you want a hotel to be more than whimiscal. A good bed is a good start. So is good service. And a good location - location, location, location, remember?


Fortunately, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants' Hotel Monaco has all those things. It also has an accomplished Southern U.S.-inspired restaurant called Sazerac (http://www.sazeracrestaurant.com/), an interesting menu of in-room spa treatments and welcoming touches like free coffee and tea in the lobby in the morning, and a decent free pour of Washington State wines in the lobby in the evening, when hotel guests gather to hang out, sip and chat. As for location, the hotel is on Fourth Avenue, in the heart of downtown, close to most things that visitors would want to see and do in Seattle, and catty-corner across Fourth from the Dutch 'starcitect' Rem Koolhaas's eye-catching, angular glass building for the main Seattle Public Library.


I stayed at this comfortable, busy boutique property on my most recent visit to the Emerald City. It wasn't perfect - and what is? - but I liked it. A good staff goes a long way to making a guest feel welcome; the Monaco's staff is hip but, happily, without too much attitude. They know when to offer their services and when to back off and leave you alone.


The hotel is installed in a relatively forbidding-looking concrete highrise. Things improve quickly once you go inside, where the high-ceilinged lobby and warmly, festively decorated guest rooms envelope you, in a good way. Downside? Inadequate sound-proofing lets in the central-city street noise. The bathrooms are on the small side. However, all of the essentials are there, and as I settled in for a two-night stay in a suite on an upper floor of the 11-story hotel, I had plenty of room.


Sazerac, the eatery, is big, busy and popular, with a full bar. The Happy Hour is one of the longest I have discovered anywhere on the road: 4 hours, to be precise, running from 4 to 8 p.m., when drinks and snacks are discounted. Sitting at the counter and watching the orchestrated movements of the kitchen staff, I ordered off the Happy Hour menu, with a 10-inch, thin-crust pizza (good, too big to finish, $7) and two pulled-pig sliders (incredibly flavorful, I didn't leave a morsel, $4). There were other appealing New Orleans-flavored items on the regular menu I would have ordered had I had a bigger appetite: gumbo, for one, catfish for another.


The Monaco doesn't have a dedicated, on-site spa, but it does offer a wide range of in-room spa treatments. An Aroma Journey Massage with a choice of four aromatherapy essential oils ($135 for 50 minutes, $180 for 80 minutes), for one. Revitalizing Hot Stone Massage with smooth, polished river rocks and body oil with essences of rosemary, juniper and grapefruit, for another ($160 for 50 minutes, $240 for 80 minutes). There are about a dozen options, some pitched to women, some to men, most equally appealing to anyone.


In short, the Monaco Seattle is a good hotel, a place I'd stay again. Business travelers: There is free Internet in guest rooms, provided you join Kimpton In-Touch, the company's loyalty program. You have to fill out a form, natch, but it's free. (http://www.kimpton.com/).

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