Greg Fleming enjoys five-star luxury at The Peninsula, Chicago.
The 20-level, or is that 19? — there's no 13th floor — Peninsula is set in the heart of Chicago's Magnificent Mile. This year the 339-room hotel was named the second-best hotel in the US by U.S. News & World Report and last year was
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magazine's No 1 hotel in Chicago. Renovated just last year, it's across from Saks Fifth Avenue and numerous high-end retail stores, restaurants and attractions.
Getting there: About a 40-minute Uber from O'Hare; add another 40 if it's rush hour.
Check-in experience: Great. You enter the hotel to be greeted by a receptionist, doormen and bellhops. The lobby and concierge desks are up one level — and that lobby is spectacular, consisting of a large dining room, The Lobby, complete with fresh flowers, a grand piano and, if you arrive at the right time, a string quartet performing. And there's no having to use your room key to operate the lift.
Price: Ranges from $800 a night plus taxes (around 18 per cent in Chicago) to well over $1000 depending on room and dates.
Room: 1726 — with fast Wi-Fi, a separate dressing area, large bathroom, business desk, good pod-coffee machine, even a fax machine. The room has the largest TV I've seen in a hotel, with more than 80 channels including the NFL channel, all controlled by a bedside Android tablet. That tablet also controls everything from the air-conditioning to the lighting. Of course, if you get in late like I did there's 24-hour room service and the food's fantastic (there's an 18 per cent service charge on top of the meal).
Bathroom: As big as some hotel rooms I've stayed in — a deep bath with an inset TV in the wall, an enclosed toilet, roomy shower, lots of mirrors, and a phone.
Toiletries: Oscar de la Renta.
Facilities: The hotel has a three-lane indoor lap pool on the 19th floor. It is spectacular with floor to ceiling windows and amazing views out to Lake Michigan. There are gym facilities on the 20th floor and the hotel offers spa facilities, which you can book. There's a bistro, Pierrot Gourmet, on the corner (also run by the hotel) featuring all-day dining and some fabulous desserts. A hip rooftop bar, Z bar, opened recently overlooking Michigan Ave if you fancy handcrafted cocktails. Add to that an award-winning Chinese restaurant, Shanghai Terrace. The Lobby serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon teas.
Verdict: This is understated five-star luxury, impeccably done. Sometimes it's the little things — the way housekeeping left spectacle-cleaning cloths out, the Welcome to Chicago platter featuring a Sears Tower made of dark chocolate, the complimentary fruit bowl, the gracious mid-western hospitality throughout my stay.
Yes, it's pricey — but it's an unforgettable experience.