Hotel Review: Ellington, Berlin
Published: August 2012
It’s a sad fact that city break weekends can often mean staying in a soulless chain hotel found off the web at a knock down price. We sacrifice charm for having a ‘centrally located hotel close to all the many attractions’ and kid ourselves that it won’t matter because “we won’t be spending much time in the hotel anyway”. So how refreshing to find a hotel in the centre of one of Europe’s most exciting cities that is not only a stones throw from everything, but is also spacious and exudes character.
Sometimes size does matter and the fact that The Ellington was created in a space that was once a ballroom will go some way to explaining why the public areas and guest rooms are larger than what’s normally found in city hotels. When it opened in 1929 the Femina Palace was advertised as having ‘a seating capacity for 2000 people, two enormous bars and three bands’. In its hay day there was a daily tea dance and the cover charge for entrance was 2.50 Marks per cover.
As a listed building, parts of the original structure and design remain with highly polished brass doors and sweeping staircases and upon entering you feel you should be checking your hat and coat rather than checking in to a hotel for the night. But pass through the entrance and continue through to the main lobby area and the contrast is astonishing, as you find yourself in a strikingly modern, open plan space bathed in white where the only nod to the past is the staff in their 20’s style baggy trousers, tank tops and flat caps.
The Ellington was determined to be accessible to all and so you’ll find rooms in all sizes to suit all budgets. My deluxe room at 30 square meters was neither the largest nor the smallest and looked directly out onto the Nurnberger Strasse. Light flooded in through the wrap around windows and the cream and light grey décor made the room feel very fresh and bright. The furnishings were modern in style and on the walls hung black and white photos of jazz greats including of course the great Duke Ellington himself.
Instead of a separate bathroom a section of the room housed the bath and shower along with wash basin, shelves and hanging space creating a sort of open plan bathroom come dressing room. When I was in the shower I did think that anyone living across the street with fairly decent eyesight may catch a little more than they want to see. On the other hand Germans may not be bothered by this kind of thing. I liked the layout very much as it made the room feel very spacious however if you’re not on intimate terms with your travelling companion it could be a little tricky at times.
Thankfully the toilet was in a separate room.
The wifi (although charged) worked well and if you don’t want the air con on the windows did open. The bed was very comfortable and there were some nice bath products and free drinking water. Other room categories include standards, superiors and a range of suites.
Breakfast was one of the highlights of my stay. It was an extensive spread that was served in the vast breakfast room and was reminiscent of a school dining hall with its wooden tables and benches. There were cooked options including an omelette and eggs station and plenty of fresh fruit, meats, cheeses and bakery. I found myself topping up my plate several times each morning and not needing to eat again until late afternoon.
Other dining options include light meals that can be taken in the lobby lounge, a long white high-ceilinged room with tables on one side and sofas on the other. This overlooked the inner courtyard which in summer becomes the perfect place to enjoy an early evening cocktail with some chilled sounds which came courtesy of Jazz Radio who broadcast from the hotel.
The Ellington’s formal dining venue is Duke which overlooks the Nurnberger Strasse. A stylish bar connects the restaurant with the hotel and its Mediterranean and Asian influenced menu includes such dishes as crispy roast duck with pak choi and water chestnuts and honey and sesame sauce.
Other hotel facilities include a small workout room overlooking the courtyard and a smoker’s lounge on the ground floor.
The Ellington is a fashionable hotel that has a chilled vibe without being pretentious. It attracts a mixed clientele which at the time of my stay included trendy couples, groups of friends and business types. Its excellent location and varied choice of rooms also make it accessible to everyone. Highly recommended.
Hotel Review: Ellington, Berlin
Jonathan Beaumont is a TV Producer, travel journalist and cruise expert. He spends much of his time cruising, reviewing hotels and writing LGBT travel related stories. He’s a regular guest panellist at The Telegraph Cruising Show and broadcasts on cruising stories for both television and radio.