Hotels are giving their minibars a makeover – stocking up on everything from gourmet food and beauty products to emergency oxygen and voodoo kits.
Hotels are revising the concept of the minibar – they have finally twigged that no-one wants to open that tempting little fridge to find only a packet of peanuts and some questionable chardonnay, each so overpriced as to warrant a trip to the local convenience store.
The modern minibar is a cornucopia of sensory delights, from artisanal ginger beer and organic yoghurt to truffle-infused chips and the fixings for the perfect espresso martini. But it’s not just stocked with food.
The best minibars are those that take their location and clientele as inspiration. That’s how the clever people at the Gansevoort Hotel in New York’s Meatpacking District knew a bar stocked with must-have beauty products would be more useful to its patrons than the proverbial peanuts, and why the glorious Art Series hotels across Australia offer a small canvas, paints and brushes for guests who feel inspired after gazing at an original artwork.
Here are some of our favourite hotel minibars around the world.
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Fresh Fridge: The Epiphany, California
Sugar-laden treats and carb-heavy snacks feature in many hotel minibars but those won’t fly in Palo Alto, California. The Epiphany, located in one of the United States’ most expensive postcodes, doesn’t want guests crashing from a sugar high before they’ve pitched their app idea in Silicon Valley. The smart (vegan, organic) cookies at the hotel have introduced the Fresh Fridge, a veritable smorgasbord of organic, vegan food and drink that won’t induce a diabetic coma. Think green juices, nut milks, nine-grain tabouli, probiotic yoghurt with blueberry crumble and fresh produce from the Palo Alto Farmers’ Market. Guests must request the Fresh Fridge package five days in advance.
Love Voodoo Kit: Omni Royal Crescent Hotel, New Orleans
If you find yourself in the New Orleans Arts District around Mardi Gras and you feel that someone’s laid the evil eye on you, you may think it’s only right to take revenge. Thoughtfully, the minibar at the Omni Royal Crescent comes stocked with your own voodoo kit: a stuffed doll, pins and an instruction manual. Stick a pin in some unsuspecting (but deserving) soul or follow the instructions to tempt a lover into your arms – though you’ll have to sort out a lock of their hair on your own.
Oxygen breathing apparatus: Banyan Tree Ringha, Yunnan
The oxygen canisters lining the minibar door at the Banyan Tree Ringha, in China’s Yunnan province, are no hipster gimmick. The sprawling hotel occupies a perch 3200 metres above sea level and the view of the surrounding Shangri-La highlands, combined with the thin air, can leave guests quite breathless. Inhale lungfuls of pure O2 while you luxuriate in your mini-spa in one of the 32 two-storey suites. As a bonus, pure oxygen is supposedly anti-ageing and can help cure a hangover if you’ve overindulged on huangjiu (yellow wine).
Fun and games: QT Sydney
You never know what’s around the next corner, especially in a city like Sydney. You may be invited to a fancy cocktail party, encounter a charming stranger or simply be overcome by a nostalgic desire to play the games of your childhood. If you’re lucky enough to be staying in one of the QT’s well-equipped rooms, you’ll be just fine. The minibar has an emergency bow tie (natch), Intimacy Kit (lube, condoms, blindfold) and a selection of fun games (pick-up sticks, anyone?). You’ll also find Belvedere Vodka and Patrón XO Café tequila-based coffee liqueur, plus an espresso martini recipe – which may come in handy in any of the above situations.
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Champagne bar: The Levin Hotel, London
When one sleeps next door to the world’s most famous department store, it’s only fitting that one has access to a selection of fine Champagne. The Levin Hotel, neighbour to Harrods and friend to lovers of bubbles, has the ultimate Champers minibar. It’s brimming with half-bottles of the world’s top fizz and comes complete with appropriate glassware from which to sip your chosen brut, rosé or cuvée. If it’s time for an aperitif, you may like to mix your Billecart-Salmon or Ruinart bubbles into a delectable cocktail using the extensive range of mixers and supplied recipe book – just the therapy one needs after a retail session at Harrods.
Prohibition luxe: The Beaumont, London
Housed in a 1926 building, The Beaumont in London’s West End takes guests on a journey back to the Art Deco glamour of the roaring twenties. The hotel’s owners, Jeremy King and Chris Corbin, dreamed up the fictional James “Jimmy” Beaumont, whose footprint can be seen throughout the hotel. Jimmy Beaumont is a hotelier setting up shop in London after fleeing the privations of Prohibition-era New York. His touch can be felt everywhere, from the vintage Daimler that shuttles guests around Mayfair, to the minibars, which are stocked with everything Mr Beaumont would have deemed necessary for a roaring good time: booze (obviously); playing cards; dice; and a games booklet written especially for The Beaumont by TV presenter and professional poker player Victoria Coren Mitchell.
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