Mandarin Oriental, Munich: British and Asian hints in a German setting
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).
Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor in chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group. She writes a beauty blog www.beautyorbeast.uk.
Her third novel, The Arnolfini Marriage, based on a romance that evolves around a van Eyck masterpiece came out in 2016. As well as contributing regularly for newspapers and magazines, writing short stories and studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, Helena is also working on a thriller called The Longest Night that will be published in spring 2019. Her latest non-fiction work Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles came out in hardback in 2016 and came out in paperback in April 2018.
Helena was educated at Durham University and lived in the Languedoc region of France for eight years, where the family still have a home. She lives between there and London with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019