I'm not impressed by the lobby at the Palace Hotel. That is not to say it's not a lovely space. Along with the usual soaring ceilings, gleaming marble surfaces and super-sized light fixtures, it is the only hotel lobby I've seen that looks out on to a palace moat.
For a five-star hotel, however, a grand lobby - just like bell boys, king-size beds, and club sandwiches on the room service menu - is an essential, not an added extra. Of course The Palace Hotel, which opened in its current incarnation 18 months ago, has a beautiful lobby.
To impress me, however, it takes a little something extra. Like, say, a glass of water at breakfast.
I don't really wake up until after I've downed several glasses of water; large glasses, not those thimbles that most hotels use. When I head down to the elaborate breakfast buffet on the first morning of my stay, I am pleased to see The Palace's glasses are larger than most. However, I'm hoping for something better still. I explain the situation to the waiter, and ask him if he can bring me a really big glass of water.
"Perrier or San Pellegrino?" he asks.
It's amazing how often little things interfere with a good night's sleep.Ute Junker
He nods when I choose San Pellegrino, and disappears. When he returns, he is bearing a tray with a seriously large glass, and a one-litre bottle of San Pellegrino. Now that's service.
Service, I quickly discover, is one of the Palace's strengths. In the lobby, well-dressed young men hover, looking for guests in need of assistance. When I ask the receptionist for directions to the nearest 7-Eleven (just downstairs, he tells me), one of the young men helpfully offers to escort me.
Later, having trouble connecting to the hotel Wi-Fi, I head back to the lobby. The same chap spots me, smiles, and asks if he can help with anything. I explain the problem, and he offers to have a look. Sure enough, he quickly gets me connected, without even calling IT.
The service isn't the only thing I love about The Palace. I love its location, right next to the imperial gardens, Tokyo's big green lung. The gardens provided the inspiration for the hotel's interiors, which feature natural forms and a colour palette inspired by moss, rocks, trees and water. The gardens also provide a lovely jogging track for guests who like to start their day with a run.
Me, I simply take in the view from the balcony of my room: another of the Palace's special touches. Were the weather warmer, I could imagine ordering up room service for an al fresco meal, or sitting outside to catch up on my emails.
More things I love about the Palace: the Evian Spa, with its pool-with-a-view and its relaxing massages. The convenient location. The subway station downstairs makes getting around town easy; when I decide to stroll to Ginza, I get there in about 20 minutes, window shopping along the way (love the Kate Spade boutique).
However, the biggest test is yet to come. I've admired the fabrics, tried the food, tested the staff. Now we're ready for the big one: going to bed.
If, like me, you are a light sleeper, you will know that five-star hotels don't always get it right. It's amazing how often little things interfere with a good night's sleep. Doors slamming along the corridor. The buzzing of a mini-bar. An airconditioner switching cycles. A ticking bedside clock. Curtains that let dawn's early rays peep through. Any one of them is enough to put a hotel in my personal black list.
I'm already looking forward to a soak in the over-sized tub before bed. When I get back to my room, I find another lovely touch: a sleeping shirt emblazoned with the hotel logo has been laid out on the bed for me.
Before climbing into bed, I lower the blinds and listen carefully to the room. I have already noted that very little noise makes it way in from the corridor. The mini-bar? Completely silent. Airconditioning, alarm clock, ditto. I shut my eyes and relax.
I don't open them until the next morning. The room is still dark. I pull open the blinds, and daylight floods in. Not a sound nor a chink of light has disturbed my rest. The Palace has passed the snooze test with flying colours.
Palace Hotel Tokyo, 1 Chome-1-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda, Tokyo. Rates at the The Palace Hotel start at JPY 52,000.
The writer travelled as a guest of Christian Dior.