Our stealthy reviews of new and newly renovated Boston hotels find some success – and some failure


Before we begin, here’s the usual warning: hotels didn’t know a Globe writer was registered and we paid the going rate for the night. Hotel rates vary wildly from season to season, and even from night to night, so check carefully before making your reservation. Normally my reviews include a look at the gym, but given the pandemic, I’ve decided to forgo hotel gyms.

Newbury vs. Langham Boston: Who Can Claim the Most Luxurious Renovation?

In previous hotel reviews, I have never pitted one property directly against another, but I couldn’t resist putting Newbury and Langham Boston in the ring and letting them fight for lavish supremacy. . Both buildings were constructed in the 1920s and both reopened this spring after multi-million dollar renovations. It seemed like a fair fight. Let the polite sparring begin!

The lobby of the Newbury Boston hotel in Back Bay.Christopher Muther / Globe Staff

The Newbury began life as the iconic Ritz in 1927, moved to the Taj, and then, after a long pandemic delay, reopened as Newbury in the spring of 2021. Was it worth the wait? The short answer is yes, with a capital “y”. The hotel’s public spaces, designed by famous architect Jeffrey Beers, are rendered in dreamy jewel tones. The look of the Street Bar, the hotel’s beloved pub, could be used in a manual on how to design a bar that is both expensive and unpretentious. The lobby, although unfortunately still small, shines. The caramelized sugar on this hotel crème brûlée is Contessa, an Italian restaurant with food almost as good as the incredible, panoramic views and gorgeous interior design.

Contessa Restaurant at Langham Boston.
Contessa Restaurant at Langham Boston.Christopher Muther / Globe Staff

The Newbury took him out of the park (or, more precisely, the adjacent public garden). Then I entered my room and was devastated. There was nothing wrong with the room except that it was, well, boring with a capital “b”. After walking through the beautiful colorful public spaces, I was suddenly swimming in an ocean of beige. Everything was top notch and comfortable. The sheets were from Frette, the bathroom products were made especially for the hotel, as was the furniture in my room. There was also a Nespresso Vertuo espresso machine. It was expensive and oozing class, but also very milquetoast. Some may say that the lack of spiciness was a visual cleanser for the palate, or meant to soothe and relax. I thought it was average, considering the price ($ 649 for the room, plus $ 153 in taxes and fees). I was in a mid-range room, called Park View King.

A room at the Newbury Boston Hotel.
A room at the Newbury Boston Hotel.Christopher Muther / Globe Staff

There was also nothing to anchor the play to the city. Still, the service was top notch, the bathroom was wonderful, and the location is possibly the best in town.

Opposite Newbury is the newly renovated Langham Boston. Once the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the 1922 bank turned hotel had been in need of a facelift for some time, and after a $ 200 million makeover, it finally deserves the Langham name.

Grana Restaurant at Langham Boston.
Grana Restaurant at Langham Boston.Christopher Muther / Globe Staff

Face to face against the Newbury, the Langham has one big downside, and that is the location. There’s nothing wrong with Post Office Square and its proximity to Downtown Crossing, but it’s not Newbury Street. The Langham has a lobby bar called the Fed, which is a bit more playful, but less romantic than Newbury’s Street Bar. Like the Newbury, the Langham has an Italian restaurant. Instead of city views, Grana has a high ceiling and no windows, but it’s bright and stylish. The restaurant currently only serves breakfast and lunch. Due to its location in the Financial District, the Fed Bar has the potential to be a hit with the after-work crowd, but getting diners to Grana could be a challenge as the neighborhood empties out after 7 a.m. on the evenings of week.

A room at the Langham Boston hotel.
A room at the Langham Boston hotel.Christopher Muther / Globe Staff

Back to the battle: The Newbury might have the location and the lively restaurant, but the Langham’s big plus is the rooms. I chose a comparable room category (called Premier Room) at the Langham, checked in and was impressed. The room was lively, full of patterns and textures with artwork that hinted at the city and the building’s banking history. The details of the furniture are reminiscent of retro suitcases and steam trunks. It had all the comforts of the Newbury, but at a lower price (I paid $ 460 for the room with $ 108 more in taxes and fees). The adjective I would use to describe Newbury is ‘chic’; the expression I would apply to the Langham is ‘upscale fun’.

The Street Bar at the Newbury Boston Hotel.
The Street Bar at the Newbury Boston Hotel.Christopher Muther / Globe Staff

The two hotels are tied and score outsized, from turndown service to Nespresso machines, linens and bathrooms. Both receive a Gold Star, but I will declare Langham Boston the winner of this round for their courage, liveliness, lobby bar, cheeky outlook, extremely attentive service and, most importantly, their rooms.

Omni Boston Hotel at Seaport

The outdoor pool at the Omni Boston at the Seaport.
The outdoor pool at the Omni Boston at the Seaport.Christopher Muther / Globe Staff

When I wrote about the Omni Boston Hotel at Seaport before, a friend said to me “it looks like a cruise ship on land”. There are some similarities with a ship on land. First of all, the hotel is huge. With 1,054 rooms, it’s the largest hotel built in Boston since 1984. There are seven dining options and if a guest is at the Omni for a convention, a direct tunnel can take them to the Convention Center. Conclusion: If a guest was staying here, they would never need to leave the hotel. There is also this swimming pool, which is only open to customers.

The Omni strives to be a convention hotel unlike a convention hotel, and it has been successful. On a recent Friday night, the sports bar, called the Sporting Club, was buzzing with a mix of guests and neighbors from South Boston. The Crescendo bar in the lobby attracted a more understated collection of patrons. It was like a good place for a clandestine meeting and a fancy cocktail party.

The hotel has two towers, one had more traditional rooms, called Patron Rooms, the other had a category called Artist Rooms, which were filled with exposed concrete and wooden floors. Artist Rooms are what my parents would call “funky”. It is an attractive option for convention attendees. I opted for a traditional Patron Room, and I was a fan straight away. Loved the wood accents and the clever use of space. The carpet looked a bit like the beach at low tide, but luckily it didn’t smell like that. There was (modern) wood paneling in the bathroom which gave the space a warm feel unlike most marble bathrooms in hotels.

A room at the new Omni Boston hotel at the Seaport.
A room at the new Omni Boston hotel at the Seaport.Christopher Muther / Globe Staff

I heard some noise in the hallways of my room (I think there was an office Christmas party somewhere in the huge hotel that night), but like all the hotels I have stayed in during this round of reviews it was pretty quiet and I slept well.

The Sporting Club at the Omni Boston hotel at the seaport.
The Sporting Club at the Omni Boston hotel at the seaport.Christopher Muther / Globe Staff

At $ 189 a night, plus taxes and fees of $ 44.50, the Omni was good value, especially for those looking for a hotel in the Seaport area. The most off-putting thing I could find was a program that donated to charity if a guest refused to do housekeeping. The Omni would give Feeding America one meal a day for those who forego the service. My immediate thought was, “What about the staff who run out of tips?” I prefer to donate to them.

The lobby of the Colonnade Hotel in Boston
The lobby of the Colonnade Hotel in BostonChristopher Muther / Globe Staff

The Colonnade hotel

At the end of last month, The Globe ran an article about the 50th anniversary of the Colonnade Hotel and how the hotel had embraced its brutalist 1960s past with a major renovation. As a fan of retro and mid-century design, I couldn’t wait to check in and see what had been done. Unfortunately, I set my vintage expectations a little too high. Some of the lobby’s heaviest items had been stripped away, but I didn’t see anything reminiscent of decades past except the exposed concrete and a few tchotchkes sprinkled here and there. I wouldn’t expect the hotel to turn into a retro-themed playground, like the TWA hotel in New York City, but I’m hoping for a Watergate hotel-style renovation in Washington DC It Five years ago, the Watergate reopened with a modern, playful interpretation of the 1970s. Instead of embracing a bit of retro fun, the Colonnade was simply a beautiful town hall, and there certainly is none. shame on that.

A room at the Colonnade Hotel in Back Bay.
A room at the Colonnade Hotel in Back Bay.Christopher Muther / Globe Staff

What I found strange, however, was my room. It was big enough and comfortable, but it felt like a mishmash renovation. Some of the furniture was new and some had been there for a while. The walls were immaculate white and mostly bare. There was a chair randomly placed at an awkward angle at the window. Why was it there? Was there a Jimmy Stewart “back window” situation outside? I was so confused.

It’s nitpicking. The hotel ticked all the important boxes: it was clean, comfortable, had a Keurig coffee maker and fast WiFi, plus it’s in a prime location (across from the Prudential Center) in Back Bay . At $ 206 a night, plus $ 50 in taxes and fees, it didn’t seem unreasonable given the amount of space in my room. La Colonnade has a rooftop swimming pool open during the summer and a new restaurant called Lucie in the lobby. But in my mind, the space will always be the Brasserie Jo. Hopefully the next time the Colonnade is renovated they will also feel nostalgic and go completely retro throughout the hotel.

Christopher Muther can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @Chris_Muther.

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