Rachel Seed checks out Donald Trump’s high-rise wonder in the Windy City
If a hotel can charge $25 for a bottle of water and still make me fall in love, it has to have something pretty special going for it. From the moment our car pulled up to the foyer of this spectacular 92-storey architectural wonder – in the heart of a city jam-packed with architectural wonders – I knew I’d love it here. From its polished stainless steel and light-capturing iridescent glass, and its unfailingly cheerful and charming staff, to the cheery doorman who braved the sub-zero temperatures with a frozen-on grin, from start to finish, this was a hotel highlight.
As we stepped out of the blast freezer that is Chicago at the end of January, our hearts and extremities melted a little thanks to the warmth of the doormen – who, throughout our stay would plunge themselves into the cold to hail us a cab, or would even make us go back upstairs to add another layer, fearful that we may come home frozen solid from a walk out into the city – they shook their heads, obviously thinking we were bonkers, as the two mad English women braved the temperatures for the sake of metropolis exploration. But I think they respected us for our foolhardy need to explore, whatever the weather, and despite the risk of falling icicles from high-rise structures.
The exceptional service continued inside at check-in, with reception staff who have clearly perfected that very fine art of making you feel like the only guest that has ever mattered to them, whilst at the same time remaining just aloof and discreet enough.
After a swift check-in, we were whisked up to our room by yet another charming young man. We felt as if we were the first travel journalists to have ever stepped foot on this hallowed ground, and we’d only been there 10 minutes. The high-speed lift popped our ears and whisked us up to the 19th floor, where we were offered tea or coffee whilst being given a grand tour of our spectacular suite. This “personal attaché service” is just one of the elements of our stay that epitomised the care and the attention to detail that puts this place in the top bracket of hotels I have ever stayed in. That the hotel is four, rather than five stars makes a mockery of a ratings system that deserves mockery.We had arrived in Chicago exhausted but exhilarated after two weeks of skiing in Breckenridge, Colorado, so we were, in theory, well accustomed to the freezing winter temperatures. However, nothing could have prepared us for the sheer agony of a windchill factor of minus 39 degrees Celcius. The city was covered in snow – apart from the perfectly clear sidewalks and streets – while Lake Michigan was coated in mini icebergs. Spectacularly beautiful and outrageously cold.Trump’s aim, as a relatively new hotel brand, is to become synonymous with luxury and decadence, as well being defined by distinctive architecture. Just a few of my favourite things. Donald Trump’s empire is far-reaching and includes resorts, real estate, casinos, golf clubs, entertainment, financial, university, restaurants and merchandise. There is now even Trump Tea. And this relentless merchandising is highly evident in our suite – from the condo brochure for the apartments located on this building’s upper reaches, to the welcome message from the man himself on the TV, all encouraging us to spend, spend, spend.Trump has hotels in some of the most celebrated locations in the world – as well as Chicago, there are currently hotels in Las Vegas, Waikiki, Panama and two in New York. With Toronto due to open any minute now and Cap Cana, Dubai, New Orleans and Scotland in the pipeline. The Trump hotel chain is carving out its place amongst the world’s most elite hotels.The Chicago property is poised perfectly along the Chicago river at the juncture of the Loop and North Michigan Avenue. A fantastic location, it’s close enough for a leisurely meander to the key Chicago landmarks: the Magnificent Mile, with its array of shops for all tastes and budgets; the Chicago River; Millennium Park, where you can marvel at Anish Kapoor’s stunning Cloud sculpture; and the Loop, which houses the city’s business district and many of its art galleries.
In terms of design, Trump has made an epic departure from his original hotel in Manhattan. I had imagined an element of glizt and gilt, but was delighted to find that this was definitley not the case – there’s not a gold tap to be seen. Each property is designed to be in keeping with its environs. Apparently then, Chicago is sleek, sophisticated, comtempoarary and very luxurious. Just the way I like my cities. And hotel rooms. Each room boasts floor-to-ceiling windows with magnificent views over the city, and fully-equipped kitchens are an unexpected bonus in even the “standard” rooms. Not that there is anything standard about this hotel. The attention to detail is astonishing: the electronic curtains; mirrors that transforms themselves into a television at the touch of a button; an excellent quality espresso machine; the comfiest bed with the highest thread-count linen; touch panel lighting; plus excellent soundproofing (we didn’t hear a thing from the bustling city outside or from our fellow guests). All these detail features made an enormous difference to our stay. Oh, and the bathroom. What a bathroom! A gigantic walk-in shower and a deep, deep bath were both laden with gorgeous products (Trump-branded, of course!). Plus, there were piles of the fluffiest towels, cosy robes and a television in-situ, so you can watch MTV or Bloomberg while you get ready to go out.
After a quick, jolting espresso and hour of unpacking – making the most of wardrobes the size of lesser hotel rooms – we headed down to the fabulous Rebar for a restorative cocktail, followed by a hugely memorable dinner at Sixteen. Sixteen, on the sixteenth floor – obviously – is overseen by acclaimed executive chef Frank Brunacci and holds a well-deserved Michelin star for its exciting, innovative cuisine. We loved the exceptional, passionate service, the floor-to-ceiling windows with incredible views overlooking the river and the Wrigley Clock Tower, and its fabulous wine room with its 500 different labels. Thankfully, the star of the restaurant’s show was its delicious food – for it to shine in a room of this grandeur was some feat. Dishes included confit of rabbit, fig tart, beer mustard, girolle mushrooms and smoked cheddar, while the prime fillet of beef, foie gras, winter vegetables, daupehnoise potatoes, mushroom consomme was perfect for a winter’s eve. After an excellent bottle of wine and some warming after-dinner drinks, we waddled back to our room.
After a day wandering around the city’s soaring landmarks, partaking in the odd high-altitude cocktail, and nursing numb legs from the sub-zero wind that blasted in from the lake, we headed back for home. I always find an excellent test of a hotel’s standard is its room service: it shows off not just the culinary skills of the kitchen, but also attention to detail and service levels. So, in the name of research, on our second night, we wrapped ourselves up in our robes after defrosting ourselves in the bath, put our slippered feet up and ordered in. 20 minutes of ordering, with specific requests for condiments and beverages, a burger and a club sandwich were laid out on a linen tablecloth before us, a trashy in-room movie ready to play. Both were astonishingly good. Good enough to eat in a restaurant anywhere in the city.Upon checking out, having already been whisked up to the upper levels to nose around the Trump Residences situated in Chicago’s stratosphere, the doorman, wrapped up warm from the ever-biting cold, asked if we were going anywhere nice – in his delicious Chicago accent. Sadly we were heading home. And wished that home was 30-odd floors up with the service we’d experienced on our doorstep each and every day.
401 N. Wabash Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
Tel: +1 321 588 8000
Date of review: February 2011.
Rachel stayed as a guest of Trump Chicago.