A few twists and turns through the charming streets of Prague’s old quarter and we’re in Mala Strana, on the left bank of the Vltava River. The Mandarin Oriental Praha is tucked away in a building that was a monastery in the 14th century.
Where the celebrities stay
Since opening in September 2006 the Mandarin Oriental Praha has been a magnet for celebrities. Roger Federer, Gwen Stefani and the Dalai Lama have laid their heads beneath the monastery’s hallowed roof.
Gwen Stefani shot a section of her video clip Early Winter in the hotel and suprisingly, according to the hotel’s management, it was done at the spur of the moment and they found out later much to their suprise.
Mandarin Oriental Praha is a shrine of luxury located within an artfully renovated 14th-century former Dominican monastery.
The building incorporates a large part of the outer wall of one of Prague’s oldest churches, St Mary Magdalene.
The hotel oozes character yet is not short of 21st century technology. The design incorporates carefully renovated features such as vaulted ceilings, high archways, and original staircases which are blended with subtle touches of the orient.
Like most of the hotel’s 99 rooms and suites, my junior suite maintains the monastery’s original vaulted ceilings and has highly polished parquet floors.
In the living room, a rich beige woven rug sits in front of a plush cream sofa. The colour scheme is beige, cream, red and black. My bedroom is decorated in rich navy and crisp white. One nice feature is the heated limestone floors in the bathroom.
There are high-definition LCD screens in the bedroom, bathroom and in the lounge room, and high-speed Internet connectivity. Red and gold silk tassels are used in place of “do not disturb” and “please make up my room” signs.
For the visiting celebrities, there’s the Oriental Suite, with its city views and curved walls, the aristocratic three-room Lazar Suite or the 150sqm Presidential Penthouse Suite on the top (fifth) floor with its private roof terrace and views over the Prague’s rooftops.
I familiarize myself with a quick stroll around Mala Strana’s charming cobblestone streets and discover that the hotel is right next door to the Czech Museum of Music, within walking distance of Charles Bridge and close to Prague castle.
The streets of Mala Strana are full of restaurants that look tempting but tonight, I’m dining at my hotel.
Restaurant and bar
By the time I return from my walk, the hotel’s sleek contemporary bar, Barego, is already buzzing with activity. I slip onto a red leather stool and soon find myself sipping a Monastery Smoky Martini, a potent concoction of Bombay Sapphire gin, Noilly Prat vermouth and Laphroig single malt.
Next to the bar, my table in Essensia is waiting.
The restaurant stretches across five adjoining sections, all with high ceilings and dome windows. I can easily imagine the monks shuffling through these rooms on their way to prayers.
One of the rooms has a hidden staircase which leads to an underground wine cellar and can be booked as a private dining room.
Contemporary European, Asian and Indian dishes are presented on a single menu, offering an eclectic blend of cuisines, the opportunity to mix and match.
I start with crispy Peking duck spring roll triangles served with sweet plum, chilli and coriander dip followed by a traditional Thai Tom Kha Goong before wrapping my lips around a crepinette of veal fillet served with mushroom ragout on polenta cake, glazed vegetables and sage sauce.
The portions are so generous that I’m unable to fit in dessert. With each course, I am served a different Moravian wine by the glass.
The following day, after walking my legs off around the city, I flop into a chair beneath the tall colonnades of the Monastery Lounge for an Anglo-Italian version of afternoon tea.
There are freshly baked scones served with lashings of orange marmalade and clotted cream, dainty smoked salmon sandwiches with cucumber and cream cheese, tomato mozzarella and muffuletta (crusty Italian bread with cheese, salami, ham and olives), small cups of panna cotta and pastries.
Later that evening, I wrap myself in a fluffy bathrobe and shuffle along an underground passageway to the spa which is built over the ruins of a Gothic church; a section of the ruins are preserved under an illuminated glass floor at the spa’s entrance.
I’m booked in for a Time Ritual, which is one hour and fifty minutes of bliss. Lying in a monastery listening to Enya singing while a handsome therapist scrubs me from head to toe before massaging my travel-weary body is my idea of heaven.
I can’t help wondering what the 14th century monks would have to say about all this luxury.
Christina Pfeiffer was a guest of Mandarin Oriental
Mandarin Oriental, Prague (459/1 Nebovidska, tel: +420 233 088 888).