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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Hotel Insider: the Grand Ferdinand, Vienna, Austria

The Grand Ferdinand ticks a lot of boxes, but service is not one of them

Entrance of Grand Ferdinand. Courtesy Grand Ferdinand
Entrance of Grand Ferdinand. Courtesy Grand Ferdinand

The welcome

I arrive from Vienna Airport via a 30-minute Uber ride, but the seamless transition is thwarted by a queue at the Grand Ferdinand’s reception to check-in, after which I head to the opulent, green-leather-padded lifts, which are rather grandly guarded by a towering stuffed racehorse.

A towering stuffed racehorse at Grand Ferdinand. Courtesy Grand Ferdinand
A towering stuffed racehorse at Grand Ferdinand. Courtesy Grand Ferdinand

The neighbourhood

The Grand Ferdinand’s building, which was destroyed during the Second World War and subsequently restored, has housed the hotel since October 2015. The architecture – in the 20th-century European grand-hotel tradition – is indicative of this stately part of the Ringstrasse. Public transport couldn’t be any more convenient: there’s a tram stop outside the hotel’s front door, with rail and underground stations also nearby. The Wien Museum and the Karlskirche, the city’s most-recognisable baroque church, are within about five minutes’ walk.

The room

Standard room at Grand Ferdinand. Courtesy Grand Ferdinand
Standard room at Grand Ferdinand. Courtesy Grand Ferdinand

My fifth-floor superior room is full of design idiosyncrasies that create an illusion of space wherever possible. The best example is an open dressing-room-style bathroom and shower cubicle (gladly, there’s a separate, entirely enclosed toilet). The open wardrobe is short on space for hanging clothes, though. Various period ceramic light switches all add to the sensation of stepping into a different era. The green-leather chaise longue is luxurious, while cute wooden shutters help to keep light levels low and traffic noise down. Wi-Fi is free but sluggish. The hotel also has dorm beds that can be booked via Airbnb for a fraction of the price a regular room.

The service

Often disappointing for such a highfalutin hotel. It feels generally understaffed, exacerbated by the fact it’s fully booked when I stay. Staff seem rushed off their feet at breakfast, and when I politely ask for a knife and fork, one waitress snaps: “I’m getting it.” At dinner, I end up seating myself, which inevitably leads to a notable wait before anybody takes my order.

The scene

Rooftop pool at Grand Ferdinand. Courtesy Grand Ferdinand
Rooftop pool at Grand Ferdinand. Courtesy Grand Ferdinand

Other guests are a mixture of Austrians, Germans and other Europeans, mostly couples or older people, as well as a smattering of North Americans. The eighth floor is the premium location in the hotel, housing the rooftop pool and the Grand Etage restaurant, with its charming terrace views across the city.

The food

Grand Ferdinand's Grand Etage. Courtesy Grand Ferdinand
Grand Ferdinand's Grand Etage. Courtesy Grand Ferdinand

I have dinner at the smart Grand Ferdinand Restaurant on the ground floor, with white-coated waiters and classical music tinkling in the background. It champions Viennese cuisine, such as the hearty veal kaisersuppe (emperor’s soup) (€7 [Dh28]) – and you can’t visit the city without trying Wiener schnitzel (€20 [Dh80]), which here is rewardingly huge, with parsley potatoes and lingonberries.

There are native nods, too, at the half buffet, half à la carte breakfast (€29 [Dh116]) at the Grand Etage, including ring cake, filled eggs and various pastries, cold cuts and cheeses. Also on the ground floor is Gulasch & Champagne, which serves “quick meals”, despite that posh name.

Loved

The architecture and the room’s character.

Hated

A half-hour wait at the valet to retrieve my car, unacceptable given that said parking costs €40 (Dh160) per day.

The verdict

Service slip-ups aside, this is a suitably grandiose escape from 21st-century life.

The bottom line

Double rooms at the Grand Ferdinand cost from €206 (Dh827) per night, including Wi-Fi and taxes, but excluding breakfast.