Booking the right place to stay when planning a getaway can be the difference between just another weekend or an unforgettable experience. After all, gone are the days where a hotel was simply a place to rest your head. While a comfy bed is obviously high up on the checklist, if you’re anything like me you want to stay somewhere with a point of a difference – an enviable location, a great spa, and fabulous bar and restaurant to indulge in a tipple and bite to eat.
SO/ Auckland might be a newcomer to Auckland’s hotel scene – the doors officially opened in late 2018 – but it’s already scooped up a number of impressive accolades including the best luxury boutique hotel in Auckland at the World Luxury Hotel Awards. And it’s really not hard to understand why.
From the moment you step inside SO/ Auckland, you know you’re in for a treat as you’re immediately transported into SO’s whimsical world. Head-turning pieces from acclaimed Dutch designer Marcel Wander’s eccentric Moooi brand, including the magnificent mega chandelier, are a clue that you’re not in for your run-of-the-mill hotel experience.
Fashion is in SO’s DNA – teaming up with the likes of Christian Lacroix in Bangkok and Karl Lagerfeld in Singapore – and here in Auckland, SO/ turned to home-grown fashion brand WORLD to help bring the boutique hotel to life. Keep your eyes out for unique WORLD touches including the fashion-forward WORLD uniforms that SO/ staff are in.
Check-in is a breeze and within a matter of minutes, we’re headed up to our SO COMFY suite on the top floor. SO’s spacious rooms are all kitted out with the kind of bathtub that you wish you had at home and ours also happens to have expansive views of the city. After briefly testing out the super-comfy bed and eyeing up the bathtub, we’re tempted to make the most of the room, but an appointment downstairs at SO/ SPA beckons.
TIME TO UNWIND
Unwinding is always top of my to-do list when I’m on a brief sojourn and there’s no quicker way to switch into relaxation mode than a pampering spa treatment. Naturally, a visit to SO/ SPA is the first stop on our agenda.
A 60-minute facial or massage treatment is included in SO/ Auckland’s indulgent Fashion Package but The Relax, Take It Easy massage sounds like the perfect way to leave the working day behind. Our masseuse’s use a bespoke blend of organic essential oils to massage away stress and tension with their magical hands.
60 minutes of pampering flies by and those hunched-up desk shoulders now feel like a thing of the past. At the end of our treatment, we’re eased back into reality in the spa’s relaxation room where we rehydrate on chamomile and hibiscus tea.
SO/ SPA sits alongside the hotel’s wellness complex which includes a well-kitted-out gym, sauna, steam room and pool. We’ve got a dinner reservation to make, so as tempting as SO’s indoor pool is, we pop it on the must-do list for our next stay.
DINING IN STYLE
While there are a plethora of hip dining spots just a short stroll from SO/ Auckland, Harbour Society – located on the 15th floor – is a must-dine. Harbour Society is no ordinary hotel dining experience with acclaimed French chef Marc de Passorio, former owner of Michelin-starred restaurant, L’Esprit de la Violette, at the helm.
We’re seated at one of the best tables in the house which means enjoying sweeping views of the Hauraki Gulf as we dine on what’s arguably some of the best cuisine Auckland has to offer. The Harbour Society menu is chocka with mouth-watering options but the maître d’ points us in the direction of chef de Passorio’s signature dishes.
First up is the Instagram-worthy Crayfish ‘Millésime 2019’ with Scapegrace Goldilocks gin, Chantilly of lemon and pepper, beurre noisette with vanilla. The exquisite, melt-in-your-mouth crayfish is perfectly paired with a glass of Hans Herzog 2016 Chardonnay. For our main course, we decide on another of chef de Passorio’s specialities: Duck breast poached in milk, organic Waiheke Island bush honey and ravioli of wild mushrooms.
It’s impossible to say no to dessert when a Michelin-starred chef is calling the shots in the kitchen. My mum, the confessed chocoholic, opts for the Valrhona Guanaja 70% chocolate with yuzu, salted lemon marmalade, praline and chouchou, while I decide to try Chef Elke’s Pavlova with Earl Grey flavoured apple purée and cereal crumble.
Not only is everything at Harbour Society a complete treat for the tastebuds, but the team in the kitchen also appear to draw on SO’s avant-garde aesthetic. Each dish is beautifully plated, ready to be snapped and shared on social media if you’re that way inclined.
A nightcap up at HI-SO – Auckland’s only rooftop bar – is the perfect way to end a magical evening. It’s easy to understand why HI-SO has become the place to be for both locals and visitors to Auckland. The hip spot not only serves up an array of signature cocktails but it also comes with some of the best views in Auckland. It’s the perfect spot to spend a balmy summer’s evening out on the balcony with a cocktail in hand.
SHOP ‘TIL YOU DROP
It wouldn’t be a stay at SO/ Auckland without waking up the next morning and setting out to experience some of the best shopping spots the Auckland has to offer. Most of New Zealand’s most sought-after fashion brands – including the likes of WORLD, Kate Sylvester, Karen Walker and Trelise Cooper – can be found just footsteps away in Britomart. Our best home-grown fashion labels are in good company with New Zealand’s only Tiffany & Co. and Chanel Beauty boutique nearby.
SO/ Auckland’s indulgent Fashion Package has been created with fashion lovers in mind which means there’s a chauffered shopping trip included. You’ll get zipped around to all the city’s must-visit shopping spots in style – aka SO/ Auckland’s Bentley or luxury corporate.
THE VERDICT: SO/ Auckland is much more than just a place to rest your head when you find yourself in Auckland City. And the real beauty of SO/ Auckland is that even though Auckland’s best dining and fashion destinations are right on SO’s doorstep, you’ll find everything you need for an unforgettable getaway within SO’s walls. Indulging in a spa treatment, fine dining at Harbour Society and a cocktail or two at HI-SO is the perfect way to get acquainted with everything SO/ Auckland has to offer.
Being nestled in the heart of downtown Auckland, you couldn’t ask for a better possie from which to explore the bustling CBD and you don’t have to be an out-of-Aucklander to enjoy SO’s offerings and prime location. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind getaway to share with your mum, sister, best friend or the fashionista in your life, the new SO FASHION package is an unforgettable experience.
The SO FASHION package includes:
– a two-night stay in a SO COMFY Room
– Buffet breakfast
– 60-minute Spa Facial or Massage Treatment
– Three-course SO Good Dinner
– Bentley car transfers to fashion destinations