Hotel Pentelikon reviewed by travel writer/photographer Heidi Fuller-love
A cool breeze ripples over the pool and the palm fronds clatter like bamboo chimes in the breeze as my butler brings me a fruit cocktail decked with fresh pineapple and melon. It’s the last day of my three day rest cure at Hotel Pentelikon and – oh! - I so don’t want to leave.
Casting around for a base for visiting Athens, whilst staying away from the town centre’s hustle and bustle, Hotel Pentelikon situated in the chic suburb of Kifisia, framed by the mighty Penteli mountains, seemed like the ideal choice.
On arrival from the airport to the town centre, I stopped off for a leisurely stroll around the narrow café and shop lined cobbled streets of Monastiraki. After browsing eclectic boutiques like Athenas sandals where they’ve been making beautifully tooled leather sandals for the rich and famous (including Jackie Onassis and the Beatles) for decades, or Yiannis Samouelian’s shop selling handmade Cretan lyra and other traditional Greek instruments – I hopped in a cab once more and took the 15 minute ride to Hotel Pentelikon.
Along shady tree-lined avenues, dotted with boutiques selling designer jewellery and exclusive products for lovingly pampered bodies, I reach Hotel Pentelikon and what a contrast – just a fifteen minute ride away from the Parthenon, this laid-back hotel set in its own estate is a world away from smog and clamour of Athens’ busy streets.
Sitting near the top of a hill surrounded by verdant gardens, Pentelikon’s 101 rooms and suites get wonderful breezes from the forested slopes of the Penteli mountains. Rising just behind the hotel, these steep hillsides famed for providing the marble that built the Acropolis, gave the hotel its name.
The big charm of Pentelikon – and you’re hit by it as soon as the footman ushers you through the canopied doorway and into the reception area with its dramatic sweeping, Scarlet O’Hara-style flight of stairs - is that it’s a family run hotel – and that’s something that’s increasingly rare these days.
As I lazed in the shade, admiring the hotel’s reflection in the glittering pool and eating my lunch – a Greek salad mix of sweet cherry tomatoes, cucumber and onion drizzled with olive oil, and crumbly chunks of feta cheese – Harry Vardis the Pentelikon’s personable proprietor came out to chat.
Owner of a chain of restaurants in Australia, the Greek-born entrepreneur was on a visit to his homeland twenty years ago when he spotted the 1930s property buried in weeds – it was love at first sight. Moving back to his birthplace twenty years ago he renovated, then opened, Hotel Pentelikon, one of only a handful of 5 star hotels within striking distance of Greece’s historic capital.
Maintaining a lot of that old style glamour, whilst packing in plenty of modern comforts, the refurbished hotel has sweeping staircases, marble floors and impossibly high ceilings – and with his Australian background in the hospitality industry Mr Vardis ensures that service, just like in the good old days, is attentive, too.
When it come to sleeping space, Pentelikon has a plethora of rooms with sizes and styles to suit all budgets, but if you’re looking for extra space it’s probably best to choose one of the suites.
Housed in a Premier suite I had a vast bedroom, bathroom with marble tub and a living room big enough for dance classes. The style of the hotel – true to its 1930s roots - is slightly fussy: all Empire-style claw footed chairs and gate legged tables, and four poster beds. Lots of dark woods and huge swathes of curtains, and busy patterned wall hangings lend a cosy ambiance whose slight stuffiness is happily counteracted by all that space.
Hot and frazzled from the airport, I spent the following afternoon in the spa, where Viki, the Indian therapist, gave me an Intuitive Body Massage, kneading and pumping my body with sweet-scented Babor products, releasing all the knots and kinks in my travel-stressed body and leaving me feeling floatingly serene.
After a long day sightseeing in Athens on day three, I flaked out by the pool until nightfall. Reluctantly eschewing the romantically glimmering candlelight and soft throb of chill out music at the Pool bar that evening, I had dinner in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Vardis (pictured above).
The only hotel restaurant in Greece to have received a Michelin star for eight years running, Vardis serves Mediterranean cuisine with-a-twist, paired with wines from a list as long as a – very long – arm.
A piano tinkled in the corner and I wished I’d worn my ballgown as I was led through the ballroom-size restaurant sparkling with a thousand lights bouncing off the crystal chandeliers and onto white linen tablecloths and silver cutlery. Nobody paid attention to my sartorial style, however, and I was soon savouring snippets of caramelised lamb, soupcons of crayfish soup flavoured with basil and other sapid delights on the ten-course tasting menu.
And the next day I woke early and wandered out to the pool, where palm fronds clattered like bamboo chimed in the breeze. It was the last day of my three day rest cure and – oh! - I so didn’t want to leave….
Pentelikon Hotel and Suites is a member of Great Hotels of the World Premium Collection. Rooms from £139. For more information or to book, please visit http://www.ghotw.com/pentelikon-hotel-suites or call 020 7380 3658.
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