Last week, my husband and I were invited to spend the night at Hotel am Steinplatz, a newly refurbished member of Marriott's Autograph Collection, a selection of boutique hotels that certainly don't feel like they belong to a sprawling worldwide chain, but rather retain a clear sense of place and individuality.
The Hotel am Steinplatz first opened a century ago. After the October Revolution, it became a haven for Russian intellectuals and aristocrats. Vladimir Nabokov was reportedly a regular. In the 1950's, it became a hangout for many literary Berliners like Günter Grass and Heinrich Böll, as well as movie stars like Brigitte Bardot and Romy Schneider.
The hotel fell into disuse for a while, but has now been splendidly restored. There is an elegant restaurant with Marcus Zimmer at the helm (who worked closely with Stefan Hartmann to conceive the hyper-local menu), a must-visit bar crafting really wonderful cocktails with many locally produced spirits, and a serene rooftop spa with two saunas.
We were lucky enough to be given a Grand Superior room, which was spacious and lovely, overlooking Steinplatz with big bay windows. The bathroom, almost as large as the room itself, had a separate shower, big warm tiles, and delicious-smelling Etro bath products. It felt so luxurious.
We checked in and got settled in our room, then my long-suffering husband watched Sportschau while I perused the gorgeous room service menu - have you ever seen anything like it? I love how unusual it is, how much it focuses on reinvented Berlin classics...and that there's no club sandwich.
After that, we headed down to the cozy dining room for dinner. The open kitchen faces the dining room, so you have a direct view into what the chefs are up to while you eat. The way the kitchen opening is framed by the dark wall makes it feel almost like you're looking at a painting. On the right in the shot below is Marcus Zimmer, the executive chef.
While we looked at the menu, we were given a bread plate with a selection of delicious breads from this Schöneberg bakery (a much wider selection of their breads and pastries are available at the breakfast buffet), as well as a little dish with salted Brandenburg butter and a little cup filled with freshly pressed linseed oil, rich and nutty. The bar sent over fantastic gin cocktails made with housemade bitters, served in cold metal cups.
Rather than choosing an entree, the kitchen brought out several things for us to taste. Standouts included two nuggets of Eisbein, - pigs' knuckle, a traditonal Berlin dish - that were crisply breaded and placed on a plate with a brightly dressed bit of salad, some pickled beets, gossamer slices of radish and little dollops of a creamy herb sauce...
...as well as a plump chunk of confited white fish served on top of a silky cauliflower purée and a tangle of thinly sliced, pickled cauliflower salad. So delicious. The wine list is predominantly German, with a few Austrian wines thrown in, keeping perfectly with the kitchen's emphasis on locally sourced food.
After dinner, we were so stuffed that we rolled our way back upstairs instead of heading to the bar for a drink, though we did poke our heads in to see a rollicking scene - every seat at the bar taken, every bar table occupied. A chef I know who works nearby has also sung the praises of the bar at Hotel am Steinplatz many times - it truly feels like a cozy neighborhood bar, but with excellently crafted drinks and a really nice, relaxed vibe.
We fell into a dreamless sleep in the indescribably comfortable bed (seriously, Marriott, I need to know more). The next morning, we headed up to the top floor spa to sit in the sauna for a bit - there are two to choose from, a classic Finnish one and a cooler "Bio-Sauna". The two are divided by a tiled shower area.
We had the whole place to ourselves, which was blissful, and after we'd sweated enough and soaked our feet in little white tubs, we hung out the open window and gazed at Charlottenburg's rooftops. Then we got dressed and headed down for breakfast, where the buffet is almost more impressive than the restaurant's offerings.
There's a vast array of bread to choose from - many different seeded, sour loaves as well as crisp Brötchen, tender Milchbrötchen and Mayer Bäckerei's own take on viennoiserie:
There's excellent tea, locally sourced smoked fish, the most amazing fruit salad made up of pomegranate seeds and teeny tiny pieces of diced pears and pineapple, locally made sweet-salty granola, a truly interesting selection of housemade jams (including black currant and gooseberry), stinky, oozy cheese and Tyrolean yogurt, as well as the actual cooked dishes, like this plate of scrambled eggs with wild boar sausage from Brandenburg.
We breakfasted like kings, lingering in the quiet glassed-in courtyard for ages. We'd only been in the hotel for about 16 hours, but we felt so rested and cared for. The service was consistently excellent, discreet and friendly.
The hotel feels really special, with a very strong link to the past as well as a keen sense of the contemporary desires of travelers. I, of course, love its location, right in the heart of my beloved Charlottenburg, where you are close to the hustle and bustle of Kantstrasse, Ku'Damm and Zoo, but are still tucked away in a refined and quiet street and where the Art Nouveau facade of the building rises up and out elegantly from the turn-of-the-century apartments that line the block. I also love the rigorous focus that the kitchen and bar have towards featuring local foods and drink and that they support fellow local businesses with excellent products without pretentiousness. The hotel just gets it all right.
Disclosure: We were guests of the hotel and restaurant, but all opinions are my own.