Sadly, I arrived at the side door, so I stood outside like a moron for a few seconds thinking, "How does this door open?" (I have definitely been living in the UAE too long), before the freezing cold drove me inside. If you go to the main door, there is a marvellous man in uniform waiting to let you in.
This is the place to be in Munich if you like shopping, cobbled pedestrian areas and beautiful buildings. You are right in the heart of the city, with the exclusive Maximilanstrasse a two-minute walk where you will find everything from Burberry to Jimmy Choo and much more. You are also only a minute's walk from the gorgeous Marienplatz with its famous Glockenspiel.
It has to be said that it is worth travelling to Munich in the dead of winter and staying at the Mandarin Oriental for the under-floor heating in the bathroom alone. That warmth under your feet is the most heavenly, comforting feeling. The room itself was large enough, with a bed, a table and sofas and a desk. The bed was incredible, with the softest, most enormous pillows I have ever slept on - it felt like I was being cocooned in a cloud.
The service is probably the most outstanding thing about this hotel. Nothing is too much trouble. A friend of mine came to visit bringing with her the most enormous white husky dog. "Can we take the dog to the room?" I asked. "Yes, madam, and would the dog like a bowl of water?" came the reply. For the three days I was there I can honestly say that every single member of staff I met was jolly, polite, efficient and, above all, seemed genuinely happy to be there and to help.
The hotel has a rather charming, old-fashioned English feel to it. The furniture in the lobby and the downstairs bar is sumptuous and comfortable, the service impeccable and understated. But underlying all this is a deeply German scene. Head to the roof, for example, and you will find a wooden chalet, which, from 5pm to 10pm, is filled with Bavarians drinking and eating. You almost feel like you're on the slopes and have just slipped your skis off for a quick brezel.
Intimate and cosy throughout, the hotel also has a lovely boutique hotel feel to it, although it is part of a large chain. For the Muslim visitor, it has plenty to offer. There is a green arrow on the ceiling of every room, for example, pointing to Mecca, more than 100 Arabic TV channels, and a manager dedicated to clients from the region.
The hotel boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant called Mark's. Go when you have not eaten for a day or so, because the food is outstanding, and plentiful. The first thing we ate was an amuse-bouche, which arrived with "greetings from the kitchen", made of crabmeat with wasabi and on a bed of beetroot jelly (throughout the hotel there are small Asian hints, a really nice touch, such as the Buddha on the reception desk). I had an incredible starter called the Wan Tan of Foie Gras in Madeirs Sauce with white truffle foam (€28; Dh132). It was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten, an amazing combination of creamy texture and strong flavours. For the main I opted for the Breton Turbot with chive agar-agar and sautéed mushrooms (€46; Dh218). The fish was cooked to perfection, and I still have no idea what an agar-agar is, but it tasted good. We only had room for one pudding and opted for the Chocolate Ball filled with mandarin and mascarpone sauce (€19; Dh90) - an incredible mix of the zesty mandarin with creamy mascarpone. Even my mother was impressed, although she did point out that the hotel doesn't have Swedish candles (she is half-Swedish and very particular about candles.) "Oh, well, you can't have everything," she said.
The little extra touches such as the yoga mat in the cupboard (a really good one, not just your standard cheapo version), the beautiful bookmark left lovingly on the right page of the book I was reading (the best thing about the book is now the bookmark) and, as mentioned, all the little hints of Asia.
The fact that I had to pay €18 (Dh85) per day for Wi-Fi. When will luxury hotels learn that this is not a good idea?
A fabulous hotel that would charm even the most jaded of travellers. I might go back in summer to try out the rooftop swimming pool.
The bottom line
A standard room costs from €425 (Dh2,058) per night, based on two sharing, including taxes. The Mandarin Oriental, Neuturmstrasse 1, Munich, Germany (www.mandarinoriental.com; 00 49 89 290 980).