From Russia with Love. EDGAR Visits the Radisson Royal Hotel, Moscow

May 29, 2014
There’s something about being in Moscow that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into James Bond film. It began when I set foot in Domodedovo airport, to be met by a steely-faced chauffeur who took charge of my bags with a knowing nod (Muscovites, I found, aren’t big on small talk), and it continued as we dodged traffic (in a blacked-out Mercedes) on the 30-mile drive to our target: the Radisson Royal Hotel, Moscow. Of course, I reminded myself during the drive, I wasn’t on a race against evil, nor was I a 007 agent, I had, in fact, chosen to holiday in a city that continues to grab global headlines not just for its politics or punk-rock feminists Pussy Riot, but for its historic sites (if you’re yet to see the Kremlin, put it on your to-do-list) and as one of the priciest cities on the planet, its excessive wealth. In this city, only the super rich can afford to set up home in the centre where I’m told apartment prices can reach a giddy high of $20,000,000. So, you can’t help but feel like a rock star when arriving at the Radisson Royal Hotel, Moscow, a property that dominates the intersection of the city's main thoroughfares, Kutuzovskiy Prospekt and Novy Arbat. For location, it doesn’t get much better than this. _MG_9411 Architecturally, the hotel’s hard to trump too: over 88,000 square metres in size, it soars 206-metres high (including a striking 73-metre long spire) and is set within one of Moscow’s Seven Sisters buildings, each commissioned by Josef Stalin at the end of World War II. Lamborghinis purred in the car park as I made my way to the entrance – and slipped straight back into 007 mode:  metal detectors flanked the entrance (to guard against baddies, I assume?), while black-suited security guards stood as still as statues. (I’m told there are 700 in the hotel, manning everything from the lobby to the pool.) Inside, the atmosphere pulsated with wealth. Every inch of the expansive lobby is decked out in pristine marble, offset with white Italian columns, plus a wide ruby red-carpeted staircase and gold accents aplenty. A perfectly groomed blonde tottered by on pencil-thin stilettoes, white fur draped over her shoulders, to one of the lobby’s stretch of boutiques, which showcased Oscar-ready outfits. But it’s not an aesthetic built on shallow excess. In 2005 the building was recognised as a historical and cultural monument and placed under state protection, which means any renovations have been sensitively applied to restore interiors to their former Fifties splendour (it first opened as the Ukraina hotel in 1957). Today a real highlight for art buffs is the hotel’s handsome art collection, which numbers some 1,200 original paintings from social realism’s biggest names, as well as 57 valuable sculptures from Russian art masters that include the likes of N.S. Kochukov, P.A.Yakimovich, M.R.Gabe and O.K.Komov. Moscow Presidential Suite Living Room Happily, the rooms (497 across 32 storeys) follow suit with opulent but tasteful interiors and generous marble bathrooms, which come with heated floors and deep bathtubs.  But the daddy of all suites comes in the bulletproof glass-encased form of the Presidential Suite. For a cool $10,000 a night you’re granted two devilishly good looking bedrooms (decked out in the latest mod cons), plus a palatial living space, reached by an Old Hollywood-style white marble staircase, at the bottom of which sits a Grand Piano Schimmel – which, if you’re no pianist, can play itself. When you’re not hanging out in a standout suite, the Royal Radisson Hotel, Moscow is a hotspot for social climbers and gourmands.  It has 10 lounges and restaurants – covering everything from Iranian to Italian to Japanese cuisine – making it, frankly, hard to know where to start. Aesthetically, your wives or girlfriends are sure to swoon over the Italian Buono Restaurant – set beneath a U-shaped glass-roofed terrace on the 28th floor, it epitomises romance, from its elegant cuisine down to its decorative birdcages and chandeliers. Gentlemen, though, will likely prefer Farsi on the 3rd floor. Bold and exotic, the waiters brought us feast-worthy spreads of authentic Iranian fare, while, around us, tables of Muscovite men repeatedly stood to toast one another’s good health. Carnivores, meanwhile, should seek out Beefbar Junior, which focuses on top-rate meats, combed from all corners of the globe. I favoured a Black Angus beef from the USA, but there’s also fowl from France and veal from Netherlands. Buono Restaurant When night fell, the Mercedes Bar (picture 1930s Manhattan and you’re on the right track) was well worth a tipple for the views alone – it hovers some 31 floors up so you can drink-in citywide vistas. But, if you spend the night in one venue, make it Tatler. The brainchild of revered Russian restaurateur, Arkady Novikov, it’s the place to see and be seen in Moscow. I took up a scarlet pew beside a huge monochrome print of Kate Moss, listening to a multitude of dialects fill the smoky air, while a few sidewise glances confirmed the rumours that this is a hang out of high society and models (plus, a waiter told me in hushed tones, Robert di Niro, is among its celebrity patrons). For relaxation (after late nights in Tatler, you’ll need it), I sunk into the hotel’s Olympic-sized swimming pool (only the biggest will do), while the Spa and Wellness Centre provided ample spots for a rest, including a Jacuzzi, Turkish bath and Finnish sauna – while, for the more energetic, there’s a slick gym. As I leave through the metal detectors for Domodedovo airport, I bump into ‘the first supermodel’ Janice Dickenson, and don’t bat an eyelid. In a city like Moscow, in a place like this, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Details: visit Radisson Royal Hotel Moscow