x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

At the Ritz-Carlton Moscow, everything is across the road

Hotel Insider The hotel is unmatchable for its central location and fabulous views of Red Square.

02 Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton, Moscow.
02 Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton, Moscow.

The welcome

Emerging slightly bewildered with our suitcases at Okhotny Ryad metro station, it's a relief to be able to see the Ritz-Carlton from the top of the stairs. Once inside the hotel's grand lobby, we experience that sublime feeling of relief when you know you don't have to worry any more. Reception was busy when we arrived, so we were taken to the Club Lounge on the 11th floor to check in. Yana, our concierge there, completes the formalities briskly and with personality. "Did you forget where you are?" she says when my companion asks if there's a swimming pool. "This is the Ritz-Carlton. Anything is possible."

The neighbourhood

The hotel is situated on the edge of Red Square, making it probably the best-located hotel in the city. The Kremlin, St Basil's Cathedral, Lenin's mausoleum, the GUM department store and the Historical Museum are just across the road; the Bolshoi is five minutes' walk away and most other sights are within 15 minutes' walking distance. In a city where communication can be difficult and taxi scams common, location is a major part of this hotel's appeal.

The scene

The hotel was built in 2006, so there isn't much of a historical feel to the place, but with its location and views, I don't mind. The hotel serves as a luxurious retreat for its guests, a mix of business and leisure travellers all of whom convey the sense that they've arrived in life. There's no rushing around or loudness, just the calm sense of purpose and ease which often defines the successful - and moneyed. The hotel's two rooftop terraces make it popular for wedding shoots and we saw several hopeful young couples having their pictures taken while having lunch in the O2 terrace, lending a sense of status to the occasion.

The service

Generally intuitive. When we were in, there was no unnecessary knocking on our door to clean the room or check the mini-bar. Service was a little slow when we wanted a quick breakfast in the lounge; food was provided in the form of a buffet but drinks had to be ordered and it took time to get their attention.

Food ordered at the O2 lounge arrived quickly and staff were attentive; reception arranged a well-priced airport transfer which waited for us without any fuss when we were late departing. A fruit bowl mysteriously disappeared from our room one day while we were out but a replacement was brought when we contacted housekeeping.

The room

Our room was on the 10th floor and overlooked Red Square. It's possibly the best view from a hotel room I've ever had: a wide panorama of the red-brick Kremlin and Historical Museum and St Basil's. We were so close that on the day we left, we watched troops heading into the square for a parade. It's also large and quiet, with all the luxurious amenities for which the Ritz-Carlton brand is famous: a well-lit marble bathroom with a huge, fast-filling bath and large separate rain shower, fluffy towels, robes and slippers, a reliable sound system and a divinely comfortable bed. The details stand up to scrutiny: the pillows are supportive without being hard or bulky; the sheets satiny and the air conditioner and other electrical switches, including the electronic blackout curtains, easy to use and effective.

The food

Guests have four restaurant choices: the O2 Lounge on the top floor, which serves sushi, steaks, sandwiches and fish; the bar and lobby lounge, which offers afternoon tea, sandwiches and salads; Caviarterra, the grand, old-world main restaurant, which specialises in Russian and Georgian food; and Gingko by Seiji, a Japanese restaurant. Seiji was empty and seemed to lack atmosphere so we tried the O2 Lounge. We weren't sure that the food would match up to the views, but were pleasantly surprised both by the quality and prices. We tried the spicy tuna maki (600 rubles; Dh68) and the Kamchatka crab salad (1,050 rubles; Dh120), a mixture of crab meat, potatoes, carrot, fresh and salted cucumber, boiled egg and mayonnaise - the perfect lunch.

Loved

The views from our room, the Club Lounge, the O2 Lounge and the two terraces. The basement Espa spa and swimming pool, which has a lovely night-sky ceiling so you can look up from your hot tub to gently changing lights as envious passers-by look down through a glass window from the cold outdoors above.

Hated

I loved the club lounge, but I didn't like having to chase a waiter for orange juice and coffee in the morning, and we would have preferred it to be open 24 hours. We took a taxi back to the hotel one evening and the driver attempted to seriously overcharge us: luckily though, most Ritz-Carlton guests are rich, not stupid.

The verdict

A sublimely comfortable retreat in a fabulous location. Despite its size, the hotel feels private and secluded, and doesn't overdo the bling. A stay at this hotel will make anyone's visit to Moscow.

The bottom line

Double rooms cost from 18,290 rubles (Dh2,096) per night for two, including taxes. The Ritz-Carlton Moscow, Tverskaya St 3, Moscow (www.ritzcarlton.com; 00 7 495 225 8888).

rbehan@thenational.ae