L Hotel Seminyak, Bali review: Small but perfectly formed

Read our writer's views on this property below

Isobel King checks into a new boutique hotel in Seminyak, Bali.

In a tourist hub such as Bali, dominated by resort-style hotels, budget digs and an endless stream of villas, a hip little boutique hotel offers a refreshing alternative. Occupying a tiny footprint by Bali standards, at just 560 square metres, the newly opened L Hotel doesn't enjoy a lavish beachfront location. Nor does it have the kind of lush pool designed for boisterous partying.

L Hotel's minimalist lap pool sits centre stage in the compact indoor-outdoor dining area just off reception. In fact, the whole four-level hotel is a showpiece of what an enterprising architect can do with a handkerchief-size piece of real estate.

The aesthetic is cool, contemporary and unashamedly pitched at the 20- to 40-year-old market. That said, the retired couple and young family I saw at breakfast seemed completely at home. Punchy colours pop out of a dark, brooding palette, lifted by loads of natural light and small artistic touches everywhere.

The hotel has just 30 suites, with restful views of paddy fields, rooftops and distant ocean countering the relentless street traffic below. Seminyak is insanely busy, even in the rainy low season, and although L Hotel is on the fringes of the main shopping and restaurant action, it's on the main road leading to it. Popular tourist hang-outs such as Potato Head Beach Club and the Ku De Ta restaurant are just down the road. A free shuttle will drop and collect guests from anywhere in Seminyak. Given the roads are just broken bits of pavement and potholes, this is a godsend.

Personalised service is what the hotel pushes. The staff-to-guest ratio is an unusually generous 1:1. It has cleverly adopted one of the big attractions of Bali's ubiquitous private villas: butler service. There are two butlers to each floor and you're introduced to yours on arrival. Need some ironing done, a local restaurant recommendation, a late-night nasi goreng or a new adaptor to replace your Australian one that's suddenly throwing out sparks? Just pop your head out the door and your smiling butler is likely to be nearby. Check-in is done in the comfort of your room, courtesy of your butler, followed by a detailed rundown of what's where.

As someone infuriated by needlessly complex lighting and airconditioning systems, TV remotes I can never work out and hairdryers I can't find (admit it, I know I'm not alone), I thought this was a service every hotel should consider. I placed my order from the "pillow menu" and was reassured if I wasn't up to making tea from the extensive selection of tea bags in the room, I could call on my butler to make it for me. It's the "nothing is too much trouble" motto delivered with a magnetic Balinese smile.

The room uses every last millimetre of space. The toilet is basically an extension of the built-in wardrobe, housed at the end, so it's all neatly concealed behind a seamless bank of doors.

The bathroom design might be confronting for some couples and even more awkward in a twin-share scenario. You shower in a glass cube by the window, with an optional motorised blind. The starkly modern design clearly meant the designers didn't have to box out precious space for a conventional bathroom and the glass does allow uninterrupted views. It's in keeping with the minimalist, cool vibe of the hotel, but just may not be within everyone's comfort level.

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A gorgeous bespoke element of each room is the hand-carved artwork on the ceiling — apparently it took one year to create them all.

The hotel had its official opening in September and is still fine-tuning some elements. I was introduced to a couple of food and beverage consultants who had been brought in. Frankly, I found the food was some of the best I had in Bali, so maybe they've been tweaking away.

In the mezzanine-level Lola restaurant (the one with the pool), breakfast specialties stretch to winning combinations such as eggs benedict with red spinach and smoked duck. The L-branded coffee, served by a barista, was good enough to warrant a mid-shopping dash back to the hotel. Lunch and dinner is also served at Lola.

The real drawcard, however, is the Luna rooftop bar, capitalising on limited space to create a very low-key, funky outdoor area with views to the ocean. As the sun goes down, the rooftop basks in an orange glow, punctuated by the leaping flames of the adjoining Kitano teppanyaki bar. The rooftop bar has a "grazing menu", which means you can dabble in little portions from the tandoori oven, the teppanyaki bar, the wok or the chef's specials.

Seminyak is the first L Hotel for Singapore-based L Hotels & Resorts; Lombok is earmarked for the next.

Adeline Quek, resident tastemaker for the group (I believe that's marketing manager in old lingo), says the concept aims to create "intimacy and privacy" for guests, with the catchy L theme incorporating elements of "luxury, lust ..." and capturing the essence of "live life".

The writer travelled courtesy of L Hotel & Resorts.

 

Trip notes

Where Jalan Raya Petitenget No.8L Seminyak. thelhotels.com.

How much Rates start from $405 a night including breakfast (I notice they have some very good specials on wotif.com).

Top marks Service, service, service ... nothing is too much trouble within this hotel.

Black mark I know a mirror in front of the vanity would have messed with the design, but seriously, guys, having it on the side wall just doesn't work. The make-up routine becomes a logistical nightmare when your head is kinked at right angles.

Don't miss Pop across the road to the raucous Cuban club if you want a nightcap.