The opening of the DoubleTree By Hilton at the OVO building means Wroclaw has a new luxury hotel, restaurant and cocktail bar to contend with.
The DoubleTree has already featured in Vogue magazine and the Telegraph, helping to give the hotel a glowing reputation from the get-go. But can the place match the grandeur of Sofitel and Monopol, the city's two established posh hotels? To try and judge for myself, I paid a flying visit to the bars in all three of the hotels.
First up was a date at the OVO building, courtesy of a journalist's invite to the grand opening of the new Hilton DoubleTree Hotel. I wasn't sure how seriously to take the invitation's injunction to follow cocktail dress code, but the two ladies dressed in black leotards and Venetian lace masks posing on the red carpet indicated that we were in for quite the high-society event.
As we walked up to the brightly-lit entrance, we saw what appeared to be Wroclaw's entire fashionista set mingling in the warm night. Walking in, we were immediately handed a full glass of Taittinger champagne, a hint that tonight, at least, drinks were on the house.
The DoubleTree's OVO bar and restaurant was decked out with standing cocktail tables and an army of servers bearing drinks and food, so we settled in and began the arduous task of tasting everything. Executive chef Piotr Apanel, formerly of Mosaic and Sufit in Wroclaw (and many years abroad), reigns over a gleaming open kitchen.
The culinary theme of the evening was Polish "tapas", which had a few misses but mostly quite satisfying hits. Oozy thickened barszcz with crème fraîche and herbs in a teeny porcelain bowl, herring with ash-roasted potato and whipped butter, curry-battered salmon with aioli and pickled ginger were the standouts. If Apanel commits to the elevation of Polish cuisine in a similar manner to how he fixed that herring, then I'll definitely be back at OVO soon.
The bar service on the open night was extravagant and varied. The champagne ladies, posing in front of a giant screen projecting images of Wroclaw history, were most generous with the bubbly. Our favorite bar was the Jack Daniels and Tanqueray stand with Piotr and Sandra doling out gin and tonics and smokey bourbon on the rocks.
The hottest place to be that evening was upstairs, where the Presidential Suite and the Business Lounge are located. Since I'm not the kind of person who can afford to stay in an executive-type suite, it was a guilty pleasure to hang out in the Lounge, a very elegant room with an espresso bar and a steady stream of bite-sized desserts. In the Presidential Suite we were also treated to ice cream flavors created for the evening by the excellent Lizing ice cream shop (check them out on Świdnicka next to Pączkarnia).
The Hilton Double Tree clearly want to create an atmosphere of comfort and luxury here in Wroclaw, and the open-evening was certainly a success from where we were standing. I enjoyed the hospitality of both OVO bar/restaurant and the more inaccessible treats upstairs. The staff were also generous and welcoming, while the food and drinks were great too.
Despite all that, the Hilton Double Tree is not quite yet in a position to boast the title of the city's swankiest, high profile hotel. To do so, it will need to edge out some pretty tough competition. So how does its gastronomic opportunities hold up to Wroclaw's other luxury hotels? I decided to check out the bars at Sofitel and Hotel Monopol to find out.
I think that of the three aforementioned hotels, Cafe Bar Monopol feels the most venerable. Its brown marble, leather armchairs, and dim lighting; the fact that you can order and smoke a cigar; as well as the precise and delicious cocktails and food (duck dumplings with wine-stewed plums anyone?) take you back to old school luxury without a sense of tackiness or trying too hard.
As someone who very rarely goes out for cocktails in fancy places, I was impressed that I did not feel alienated or isolated; in fact it was an intimate room despite its size and we were very well treated by our friendly bartender. I didn't feel like I was in a hotel of which I wasn't a guest, and I think I'd gladly return for another lovely Pisco Sour – or test the bartender's ability to make a real Old-Fashioned for this bourbon-lover.
On the other hand, Sofitel is not particularly inviting. When you walk into the Louis D'Or Bar, you've come in through a strange shopping-mall type atrium.
Servers in old-school bellhop uniforms lend the place a feeling of grandeur, but it was difficult to get comfortable with all that looming empty space. Maybe on a weekend it would be more cheerful. My impression overall is that Sofitel is a beautiful hotel with high-quality bar and restaurant service. If I were a guest of the hotel, I'd gladly spend time at the bar. But it's not somewhere I'm likely to go to relax after work – maybe it's a bit too exclusive for me.
So, are you looking for a fun atmosphere with more than a hint of luxury? Curious where to find fine dining in Wroclaw, as well as cocktails that go beyond what you'd get at your average nightclub? Do you want a romantic getaway but don't want to leave the city? All three hotels I went to – DoubleTree, Monopol, and Sofitel – will do the trick.
For a bright, fun and open atmosphere I might choose OVO Bar. For old-school luxury either Louis D'Or or Cafe Bar Monopol would be appropriate. All three have very good drinks.
I guess you'll have to see for yourself – the party clearly never stops in Wroclaw (at least if you have enough cash!).