In every guestroom and on every guestroom floor of the hotel, durable artworks emphasize West Zurich’s industrial heritage in montages of old photographs of industrial installations and modern type-fonts.
A word of caution: While I was told Wi-Fi service in the hotel’s lobby is free, the Wi-Fi service in the guestrooms most certainly is not. The tariff is fairly steep at 10 Swiss francs (CHF) for one hour, CHF20 for two hours and CHF30 ($33) for 24 hours.
As a working journalist, I need to do a lot of e-mailing and story-posting from my netbook while on trips. Had our host not graciously picked up the Wi-Fi bills for our party’s rooms, I would have been out CHF60 ($66) over just a two-night stay in order to remain in Internet contact with the world. Many European hotels (and some U.S. hotels) still have this pay-for-Internet policy; surely it will become a competitive disadvantage over time.
In my room, the desk looked straight out on to a diverting view of one of West Zurich’s main streets and two of its busy railway lines. West Zurich doesn’t have the charm of old Zurich, but it has some interesting topography, nevertheless – and my room provided panoramic views of houses and buildings on two nearby hillsides and a good look at the weather to the north and east.
Many Swiss hotel rooms have separate toilets (with their own washbasins) and bathrooms, and the Renaissance Zurich Tower is typical in this respect. Not typical is that the bathroom – which had a combination shower and tub, and the usual large washbasin – had two separate sliding-door entrances, one next to my bed and the other facing out on to the main part of the suite.
My bed was king-size and really comfortable, with down-filled pillows and a warm, all-white down comforter. Though I was fairly jet-lagged, the sleep I had in the bed was very restful. As in all of the hotel’s guestrooms, my room didn’t have any carpeting but instead had a traditional Swiss smoked-oak floor, which had a very attractive dark, smooth finish.
As befits a business-oriented hotel, the Renaissance Zurich Tower has 10 meeting rooms, including a 350-square-meter (3,770-square-foot) ballroom which seats 180 people in classroom configuration for conferences and 200 people at round tables for banquets. Overall, the hotel has 10,764 square feet (1,000 square meters) of meeting space.
Full disclosure: I did not have chance to use the hotel’s bar, restaurant, fitness or sauna/steam bath facilities, other than to take a buffet breakfast once in the Equinox restaurant; and I had no need to use the hotel’s business center. However, the Renaissance Zurich Tower has all of these facilities.
It has three dining-and-imbibing spots: the Lucid American bar in the lobby, which I could see was comfortable and stylish in a post-modern way; the Vivid tapas bar; and the Equinox restaurant. All are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast buffet I sampled in the ground-floor Equinox restaurant had a wide range of hot and cold dishes on offer and was tasty.
I wish I could say the same of the room-service continental breakfast I had at 7:00 a.m. on my first morning in the hotel. To the room-service staff of the Renaissance Zurich Tower, “wheat toast” – the selection I and another person in our party separately made from our rooms via the breakfast card you hang outside your door – apparently meant “untoasted white bread”.
That was irritating but bearable: the two croissants, one large and one small, on the breakfast tray were buttery, flaky and perfect. But what really threw me was when, assuming the small blue-and-white and red-and-white packets on the tray contained sugar or artificial sweetener, I absentmindedly opened one and shook the contents into the lukewarm coffee I had just poured from the little pot on the tray.
Well, the long and the short of it is that I invented a new drink: pepper coffee. Bizarrely, although there was nothing remotely savory in my continental breakfast – it contained bread, croissants, butter, honey and jam, as well as orange juice and coffee – there was no sugar for the coffee. But there was salt and pepper in case I wanted to season my jam. (I did force the coffee down.)
The polished, knowledgeable young lady who was the hotel’s sales director had previously told me that, although the Renaissance Tower Zurich was officially a four-star hotel, it had all the services and standards of a five-star hotel except one important one – a large spa. The reason for this, she said, was that the pharmaceutical-company executives who represent much of the hotel’s custom – the meetings and conventions industry is fairly big in the area – are not allowed to stay at five-star hotels with plush spas.
However, going by my experience of this recently opened hotel’s room service and the front-desk staff’s charming inflexibility, I would say the Renaissance Zurich Tower has some way to go yet before it can make a quasi-five-star claim with any degree of authority.
But that’s not to take away from the hotel’s useful location near the center of all that is going on in West Zurich. Perhaps six or seven minutes’ walk away is a large old industrial building which was once an iron foundry but which has been converted to retail and refreshment use. (The hotel staff will give you directions to it; it isn’t hard to find.)
Cavernous inside, the building has shops, pubs and at least two very good restaurants, a matter of 40 yards from each other. One is the Gnüsserei – a play on the German ‘Geissen’, an iron-foundry where bells are made, and ‘Genuss’, to enjoy. This big, busy restaurant serves tasty, traditional Zurich dishes (I substituted tofu for veal, which I don’t eat, during a set meal for about 30 people there) and has loads of food hampers and locally made bottles, tins and jars of food for sale.
The other is Toscano, a warm and inviting Italian restaurant with authentic Tuscan food and reasonably priced, decent-quality Italian wine. Our small party had a most enjoyable, rib-sticking meal there, including a 2007 Chianti Classico DOCG I’d have been pleased to be served in the U.S.
I’d be interested to see how West Zurich develops over the next five years and how the Renaissance Zurich Tower Hotel develops along with it. One day it could be a very good hotel; now, its service needs some polishing.