Dear Shaded Viewers,
As you’ve probably heard, when it comes to hotels I’m partial to old-school luxury. (Some of my favorite world hotels include Amanpuri Resort in Phuket, Thailand; the legendary Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan, Egypt; and the Hotel Imperial in Vienna.) But I also like to keep up with what the kids are doing, and these days the millennial hotel concept du moment is “lean luxury.”
Now, this may sound like an oxymoron, and you can be sure that no liveried footman will be delivering your bags up to your room at the Ruby Marie, the hotel where I laid my head down for eight nights while attending the recent MQ Vienna Fashion Week. You won’t find a silver-tongued concierge in the lobby, waiting to satisfy your every whim. In fact, your unceremonious arrival in the hotel’s bare ground floor involves an encounter with a small, melancholic grove of potted snake plants in place of humans.
Up the elevator to the 5th floor, you enter a welcoming bar area and a tucked-away check-in desk that feels like an afterthought. A girl who seems like she may be playing hooky from junior high may or may not appear to let you know that the check-in process is DIY via an iPad…unless, of course, you really, absolutely need help. Your room card emerges from a fortune-teller-machine-like slot placed at your knees. The card is made of paper, presumably with the idea that if you die with the card on your person and lie undiscovered for a period of time, the room card will decompose evenly with your body, guaranteeing an environmentally correct final exit.
Truth be told, it’s because there is no check-out required. Unlike the Hotel California, not only can you check-out, you can leave in a hurry, with your hasty exit observed by no one. Everything, you see, has been paid for in advance, so there are no awkward maxed-out credit card moments when you check out. Want to put that cocktail from the bar on your room? Sorry, deadbeat. Pay up now. But the “lean luxury” concept doesn’t stop there, oh no.
There are no mini bars in the rooms. Instead, there is selection of sundries (from Red Bull to beer to artisanal potato chips to bedroom slippers) offered in vending machines in the hallway. But there is a library where you can help yourself to top-notch, complimentary teas.
Did I mention that there are no phones in the rooms? Landlines are for the olds! If someone is trying to break into your room, rousing you from sleep—there’s an app for that.
There is no room service (and having your Gay Romeo date arrive conveniently on your floor takes a bit of maneuvering on their part, from 5th floor elevator and up the stairwell) but there is a 24-hour cafe on the bar level and the mostly organic, farm-fresh breakfast is understated yet impressive: melt-in-your-mouth fresh Austrian hay cheese, a cornucopia of delicious whole-grain breads, savory homemade humus, toothsome ham, both local and from Italy (there’s also vegan “chorizo”), soft-boiled eggs, fresh fruit and more. If this is lean luxury, I’m sold.
Because I am a jaded diva from New York, I was awarded the grandest room in the hotel. The suite-sized Loft room features this absolutely divoon bathtub with a view, a cavernous shower, a semi-private terrace with sweeping views of Vienna and, of course, a Queen-sized bed. Each room at the Ruby Marie includes your own Marshall speaker that you can plug your iPhone into. I was encouraged, via a comment from the hotel on my Instagram feed, to crank up the volume. (The rooms are pretty soundproofed.) In the evenings, after a grueling day of fashion-show-schlepping, cocktail imbibing, gossiping and museum ogling, it was a pleasure to sink into this tub and listen to Nico’s The Marble Index.
A view of my lovely terrace.
A morning view from my terrace. A beautiful way to begin one’s day.
The hotel’s bar is welcoming and the bartender is cute and accommodating. He let us order Negronis even though they are not officially offered (he made a speedy expedition to procure a bottle of Campari that was locked away in the cellar). The Negronis were transcendent. Europe, you’ve come a long way in the cocktail-making department, baby! (One can even find better-than-acceptable cocktails in Berlin these days.)
A fascinating view into the hotel’s courtyard. The Ruby Marie is located in the former Stafa building, the first Viennese department store on the Mariahilfer Strasse, in the middle of the now-hip 7th district.
I must say I was rather skeptical about this complimentary “Apfel Strudel to go,” expecting it to be nothing more than a glorified energy bar. But whoever made this bar has access to some kind of Willy Wonka-type magic (“The snozberries taste like snozberries!”). It really managed to replicate the texture and taste of Vienna’s most famous dessert. I’m taking a box of these with me on my next intergalactic press junket.
Thank you for reading, mein liebe.