by Sean Hillen
Old town Prague hotel locations don’t get much better than The Emblem Hotel – a half-block from City Hall and a mere minute’s walk from the most popular tourist landmark, the intriguing 15th century astronomical clock, the oldest one operating in the world.
Just inside street-side, glass sliding-doors, young hosts welcome you from behind a small reception desk. Before you continue to the elevators beyond, take a moment to admire the hand-made crystal chandelier above shaped like the hotel’s logo.
Contemporary and sleek, the interior of this five-star, 59-room hotel is clad in ash-gray with shiny chrome and glass fixtures. Design layout is appealing, with a distinct Art Deco style. A diversity of artistic expressions, however, are reflected throughout the property, in lamps, furniture, paintings and textiles. The list of designers and artists includes Aglas Furniture, a boutique studio with offices in Prague and London; interior designer, Alison McNeil, who said her inspiration here ranged from the structuralism of the 1920’s film ‘Metropolis’to Kepler’s polygons and Tycho Brahe’s astrological drawings; architect Andrew Clancy, who designed and customized strand copper lamps for every room; and Antonio Citterio whose Feboand Musa chairs for Maxalto are in the rooms, as well faucets designed for Hans Grohe in the bathrooms.
Rooms and public areas are chic and luxurious, dotted with antique tables and Fleming & Howland leather sofas. For a hint of mystery, try the Suite Library, which has a fireplace and a secret passageway leading to an attic bedroom and bathroom. To the right of the reception desk is a relaxing lounge area with soft-seated armchairs, sofas and chrome and glass coffee tables piled with glossy magazines. Walls alongside are lined with photo books and novels in several languages for guest use.
The Emblem’s culinary expression is its restaurant the ‘George Prime Steak,’ reached through an intimate bar area. By day, the restaurant hosts a generous buffet and a la carte breakfast. By night, it’s a cozy, rather romantic dimly-lit dinner venue. Windows look on to the quiet street, while interior walls are decorated with large, framed abstract art, one of them reminding me of tinfoil stretched across a giant black-board.
As indicated by its name, this steak restaurant emphasizes American cuisine, which also applies to its wine selection, around 85 per cent being Californian, reflecting diverse grape varieties. The restaurant claims its cuts are Black Angus USDA Prime Beef from a few select farms in the Mid-West where cattle are raised naturally, meaning corn-based feed, hormone and antibiotic free, as well as ethically treated. Chefs hand-trim the cuts and wet-age the beef in-house for no less than 30 days, then grill sears the steaks at 650 degrees Celsius. The restaurant also uses a Montague Legend Broiler. Aside from meat dishes including ribeye, T-bone, Porterhouse and New York strip, the restaurant also serves seafood such as Nova Scotia lobster, black tiger shrimp and Atlantic scallops. As for cocktails, my pear sazerac, the bar’s variation of the iconic New Orleans one, was a smooth blend of Cognac and sazerac rye with a hint of pear liqueur atop the biggest single whack of ice I’ve ever had in a drink. My companion enjoyed a lavender whisky sour consisting of Bulleit bourbon, bitters shaken with house-made lavender syrup, fresh lime and a touch of egg whites.
An interesting aspect of The Emblem, which has four junior suites and three luxury suites among its room choice, is its ‘Maharal Club,’ a multi-room complex in the basement which officials describe as ‘the Living Room – the ‘go-to’ place to work/lounge/drink/chat/play.’ It has four different spaces freely accessible to guests, or to outside ‘club’ members who pay an annual fee. ‘The Pantry’ (also known as ‘The Kitchen’) comprises an expansive table with an integrated hob and oven. Here, cooking classes are held, or groups organize their own event. ‘The Salon’ is equipped with multiple couches, comfy chairs and a massive television and spacious enough for parties, discussion groups, and other events.
The ‘Games Room’ is a preferable option for parents, containing a range of games, board and video, that will keep kids entertained for hours. With leather-paneled walls, a massive round table and a 55-inch flat-screen television, the ‘Drawing Room’ caters to business and networking needs. In terms of sports facilities, the M Spa is a popular option for guests – a holistic spa, fitness and wellness center.
The 24-hour fitness center is equipped with Technogym weights and machines while the spa is aligned on the ‘Pure Altitude’ concept, based on edelweiss as a powerful natural protector against external stress and skin aging, the plant being grown in the Valaisarea of Switzerland as part of a mountain preservation program. Feeling exotic? There’s always the rooftop terrace with hot tub and a sauna. While central location and its artistic atmosphere are a big plus, the Charles Bridge being a short eight-minute walk away, The Emblem also provides luxury comforts in a distinctly historic quarter of the city.