We check into the stylish hotel SO/ Auckland, in the heart of the City of Sails.
Why stay here?
You couldn’t really be any more central at SO/ Auckland. The hotel, which opened in the former Reserve Bank building in late 2018, is positioned on Customs Street, just steps from Britomart with its stylish shopping boutiques, and Viaduct Harbour with numerous trendy cafés and restaurants set on the waterfront.
It’s a short walk to Queen’s Wharf and the ferry terminal, where you can escape to Waiheke Island for the day, as well as The Cloud and Shed 10, both popular events venues for art fairs, concerts, and parties.
Design and sustainability notes
SO/ hotels exude cosmopolitan cool, and you can sense this the moment you walk into SO/ Auckland. The lobby ambiance is sophisticated and opulent, from the décor to the music to the perfumed scent in the air.
Following collaborations with renowned fashion designers at its other global locations (Viktor & Rolf in Berlin, the late Kenzō Takada in Mauritius, Christian Lacroix in Bangkok, and Guillaume Henry at the recently opened SO/ Paris), SO/ Auckland was conceptualised with the prominent New Zealand designer, WORLD. The fashion brand is known for its high-end apparel collections and its boutiques filled with curated curios from international luxury brands (admirers of the style may be pleased to learn that the WORLD boutique is a short walk from the hotel.)
WORLD’s touch is evident throughout SO/’s luxurious design, which is accented with the bold, playful, and at times, eccentric.
In the lobby, guests are greeted by an enormous chandelier by the Dutch artist, Marcel Wanders, which is all the more captivating as it reflects off the room’s dark, glossy surfaces. Black sofas are playfully turned sideways, transforming them into elongated chairs, and chequered side tables together lend a Wonderland-esque vibe.
Sustainable touches include bathroom amenities in refillable bottles, a sustainably sourced bamboo dental set designed to keep, a compostable shower cap, and a compostable razor in my room. I also noted the bin had sections for recyclables and rubbish.
In the room
I checked into a King Comfy room, which felt spacious with its open-plan layout and floor-to-ceiling windows surveying the city. The décor from downstairs carries through to the guestrooms, with dark, natural materials contrasting with pops of colour — in my case, shades of purple and pink.
The toilet and separate rain shower were enclosed with the vanity and bathtub open to the room. The tub is topped with a tray with wine glasses, a romantic offering for couples. Bath products are from the local luxury fragrance brand, Maraca.
There were USB charging points next to the king-sized bed, which faced a 49-inch television. The mini-bar had a Nespresso machine and a selection of complimentary non-alcoholic drinks and snacks that offer a taste of New Zealand, including Lemon & Paeroa (better known as L&P), and Whittaker’s chocolate.
Harbour Society is headed by Executive Chef, Roy Giam, whose menu centres on contemporary European cuisine with Asian influences. The restaurant is on the 15th floor, providing diners with a beautiful backdrop of city and Waitematā Harbour views.
The space has a modern feel with an open kitchen — design elements that caught my eye included exaggerated cushioned leather seating by Wanders’ Dutch design company, Moooi, and the glass-enclosed private dining room, which was surrounded by suspended wine bottles.
The service was excellent throughout the whole experience, encapsulating the ideal blend of personable and professional.
I started with beef tataki, which was dressed with a ponzu sauce and topped with spring onion, radish, and shiso. My dining companion had the steak tartare from the raw bar, which was made with soy-cured egg yolk, macadamia, wild rice, and daikon.
Next was a whole yellow belly flounder with ‘nduja butter, cornichons, and herbs. The fish was beautifully cooked on the restaurant’s wood-fired grill, which gave it a rich depth of flavour.
Opposite me, a risotto alla Milanese made with chilli, spinach, tomato, basil, and Grana Padano was teeming with big, juicy scampi. We ordered some grilled courgettes from the sides section, which were plated with yoghurt, lemon, and saffron butter. The kitchen was very flexible with dietary requests.
The wine list featured mainly New Zealand wines from prominent regions, from Waiheke to Central Otago. I really liked the dedicated pages of wines by the glass through Coravin, listed with comprehensive tasting notes — a great offering for those who want to sample more from the cellar, without the need to order the whole bottle.
The portions were generous, but we managed to squeeze in a shared dessert at our server’s encouraging recommendation — an artfully plated coffee bar chocolate sponge with espresso foam, served alongside lemon and yoghurt ice cream and topped with gold leaf.
In the morning, I returned to Harbour Society for breakfast, which was buffet style with barista coffee on request.
Spa and wellness
The basement level is home to the hotel spa with a generous 20-metre lap pool, Jacuzzi, and a Finnish sauna. I had the 24-hour gym to myself early the next morning, which meant I could make full use of the cardio equipment and free weights.
Those looking to unwind might like to book from an extensive spa menu, with treatments ranging from 30 to 180 minutes.
The rooftop bar, HI-SO, was unfortunately closed during my stay but would be a great spot to take in the harbour views with a cocktail. It hosts DJs Thursday through Saturday, 5:00pm to midnight.
The elevators are beckoned with your room key card rather than the push of a button, which might take getting used to for some.
From NZ$299 (about AUD$279) per night, room only.
The writer was a guest of SO/ Auckland.
All images courtesy of SO/ Auckland.