Site for FoRKohn Amsterdam...?

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From: Rohit Khare (
Date: Thu Mar 23 2000 - 21:57:02 PST

                                     BLAKES For two years, London
designer Anouska Hempel has been working on
                                     bringing her flagship hotel,
Blakes, to Amsterdam. The project, which
                                     involved redoing a 17th-century
canal house, formerly the offices of a
                                     Catholic charity, has been the talk
of the town. And now that Blakes has
                                     opened, it's still the talk of the
town because there's no other hotel
                                     like it in Amsterdam (and because
Hempel's extravagant ways reportedly
                                     made the project go millions over

                                     Blakes, like all Hempel's projects,
is a study in extremes, beginning with
                                     the signature black-and-white
decor. There are black-lacquered beams,
                                     black-and-white couches in the
lobby, a staff dressed all in black-even
                                     black baskets on the bicycles in
the front courtyard for guests' use.

                                     The theme is carried out
metaphorically in the 26 rooms, where the decor
                                     swings from spartan to plush,
black-and-white to vividly colored. My
                                     favorite rooms were 22, an elegant
white-and-cream suite, one of only
                                     three rooms with canal views; and
10, which with its bamboo chairs,
                                     oversize Asian wood armoires, and
lush black-and-gold Thai silk drapes and
                                     canopy felt like a silk merchant's

                                     As with all of Hempel's hotels,
drama often takes precedence over
                                     practicality. In the three duplex
suites, 16, 17, and 18, the only mirror
                                     is upstairs, the only phone
downstairs. The staircase itself is narrow,
                                     circular, and lacquered: If the
phone rings while you're brushing your
                                     teeth you can risk your life
getting to it. Lying in bed and looking up at
                                     the blue-and-white Japanese
porcelain pots perched on the ceiling beams, I
                                     also couldn't help but wonder what
would happen if a truck roared by and
                                     gave the building a good shake.

                                     The restaurant, while popular with
locals, also could use some
                                     fine-tuning. The tone is
Asian/European fusion, but some of the dishes
                                     either miss in concept or in
execution. I would never have expected
                                     foie-gras soup with sweet Thai
basil and lime (a curious enough dish
                                     anyway) to look and taste like
puréed pumpkin (the foie gras was
                                     imperceptible) and to be very
spicy. On the other hand, chicken Fabergé,
                                     with lobster, ginger, and
lemongrass sauce, which should have been spicy,
                                     was bland. And the sirloin of beef
with green papaya salad and peppercorn
                                     dip featured the very tender
Japanese Wagyu beef, so only improper cooking
                                     could have made it so tough. But
some dishes were great: piquant soup with
                                     Thai money bags (dumplings),
wok-tossed soft-shell crab, chili-seared
                                     langoustines, and chocolate comma,
a dense chocolate mousse.

                                     The service in the hotel is
inconsistent. Some staff members were
                                     extraordinarily personable and
efficient, others couldn't do simple things
                                     like find a phone number of a
well-known business. Despite the
                                     inconsistencies, I would go back.
(I actually grew to like the
                                     black-and-white style, as
pretentious as it looked at first.) And the
                                     location couldn't be better.
$220-$1,250. Keizersgracht 384; 530-2010; fax
                                     530-2030. Reservations:


Rohit Khare -- UC Irvine -- 4K Associates -- +1-(626) 806-7574 --

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