Kimpton Boutique Hotels with FlairThere is nothing more satisfying than waking up refreshed, to the point of being exhilarated. I enjoyed just such an uplifting experience when I stayed at two of Boston’s Kimpton Boutique Hotels: Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge, and the Onyx, located in the heart of the downtown financial district.

Hotel Marlowe offers a luxurious, full-service comfort zone for travelers visiting Cambridge or greater Boston.  Located at 25 Edwin H. Land Boulevard across from the Charles River and the Museum of Science , around the corner from M.I.T., and connected to a large shopping mall, the 236 room, newly built red brick Kimpton property is a testament to neoclassic design energized by flourishes of Cirque du Soleil brightness and whimsy.

Hotel Marlowe reception area.

Entering from the discreet driveway on Land Blvd. you are greeted by a doorman and ushered inside an elegant entry with a high domed ceiling. Opposite, the lobby/living room is visually intriguing. The fireplace serves as a focal point, with an enormous pouf ottoman in front of it and surrounded by comfortable couches and chairs. Rich mahogany, cherry wood and upholstered, tufted walls with a reading niche swathed in deep red mohair is made even cozier with pillows and shelves of books and collected art objects. Animal print accents add to the black, gold and crème color scheme.

Marina Del Rey, California decorator Susan Caruso is credited with making the property warm and original.

Moving down the crema marble floor to the registration desk, original works of art invite appreciation. Even the registration desk is a work of art. Upholstered leather panels reveal cutouts that create the illusion of stars floating in space. Concierge Keith Dowsing welcomes me. He tells me that he has been with Kimpton for eight years. “Our theme,” he says, “is discovery because of Christopher Marlowe”. The hotel staff is especially attentive, letting me know that there is complimentary morning coffee in the lobby and an evening wine reception around the fireplace.

Dowsing mentions that Conde Nast Traveler Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Awards selected the Marlowe as one of the “Top 75 Hotels” in the United States. In Boston this ranking places Hotel Marlowe alongside such premier properties as the Four Seasons and XV Beacon. 

I notice a man with a Dalmatian getting out of the elevator and heading for the door. “Yes, the concierge tells me, “we’re pet-friendly.”

He goes on to let me know that all rooms have complimentary high-speed Internet access, private voicemail, two-line phones with data ports, and CD stereos. There is a fitness room, and if you want a massage it can be booked and a masseur will provide in-room service. There is even a complimentary shoeshine.

I take the elevator up to the eighth floor and am wowed by the floor-to-ceiling window view of the Charles River, the Boston skyline, and the Leonard Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge. Breathtaking.

The comfort zone is not faux.

Deep reds, varied hues of gold, navy blue, and chocolate brown create a warm, welcoming ambiance. Animal prints lend a whimsical, slightly French feel to the spacious, beautifully appointed bedroom. The discovery theme, relating to Americana and nautical influences can be seen in such touches as lines from the Declaration of Independence subtly woven into the sheer drapery. My favorite decorating element, and there were many, is the king-sized bed with muted stripes on a crème-colored Frette top sheet over a down comforter, the oversized bolster pillow upholstered in a Jaguar print, and the faux fur throw lining the foot of the bed.

The leopard print on the carpet can be found on the thick, plush terry robes hanging in the closet. The bathroom is not large but it is beautifully designed using granite for the vanity, ceramic tile, and brown baskets for amenities such as Q-tips and cotton pads. The bath products are all Aveda.

In-room Internet access.

I sit down at the mahogany desk and flip through Hotel Marlowe’s reference guide. Downstairs there is Bambara, a restaurant adjacent to the reservation desk that also provides room service. Flipping the page I come upon Special Pet Accommodations for cats and dogs. This program is also provided at the Onyx, Hotel Marlowe’s sister property.

Marlowe's Bambara Restaurant.

It was cocktail hour so I joined guests in the lobby-living room for a glass of Canyon Road Cabernet Sauvignon. A small wine brochure explained Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants Wines of the World Club. By joining you can select white, red, or both, to be delivered to your home monthly for $29.90 for two bottles. More passionate wine collectors can join Kimpton’s Master Club. The brochure invites you to: Explore the latest releases to off-the-beaten-track wineries known only to wine country insiders. This club includes wines selected by Kimpton’s Chairman, Tom La Tour. Each month you have your choice of red, white, or both, for $45 to $65 for two bottles. There is a third offering for serious wine collectors: Kimpton’s Private Tasting Club. For $100 to $125 you will receive two bottles of California’s premier Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-style releases as well as hot newcomers each month.

Sitting near the fireplace sipping my wine and nibbling on mixed nuts, I chanced upon a group of vacationers from Michigan. Warmed by the crackling fire, and mellowed by soft lighting from the chandelier and wall sconces, we began exchanging stories and restaurant recommendations. Cocktail hour made the Kimpton experience especially convivial.

My daughter and her husband picked me up for dinner at The Helmond, a well-known Cambridge restaurant featuring Afghani cuisine. We discovered that if we had walked out the Marlowe’s backdoor, and headed across the parking structure to the mall’s street exit, we would have found ourselves across the street from this popular restaurant. Fortunately we had a reservation because the place was packed and walk-ins were in for a long wait.

When I think of Afghanistan I think of bleak mountains, caves, and tribesmen. I had no idea what Afghani food would taste like. To say that I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.  The bread was fresh from the oven, and for a main course I enjoyed a delicious lamb dish called Qabelee pallow rice baked with chunks of lamb shanks, raisons and glazed julienne of carrots ($14.95).  I tasted the Aushak – Afghan ravioli, filled with leeks and scallions, served on yogurt, garlic and mint sauce, topped with yellow split-peas and carrot sauce ($10.95). There were also a number of vegetarian offerings. We drank Argentinian red wine that was excellent. Mr. Osman, the manager, brought us Feerneny, a creamy, sweet tart with fresh cut strawberries, Kiwi, mango and blueberries. Dinner at The Helmond gave me a delicious new perspective on Afganistan.

Returning to my charming room at the Marlowe  I found my bed turned down and ready for me to experience another Kimpton area of expertise —  a good night’s sleep. On my pillow I discovered a lovely box of Joseph Schmidt chocolates.

It didn’t take long to sink into the pleasure of the mattress, the Frette sheets, the pillows. I pulled the faux fur throw across the bed to ward off any winter chill. In no time at all I was sleeping soundly. When I awoke the next morning my jetlag had vanished and I was ready to meet the cool crisp Boston day.

In the KimptonStyle brochure Bill Kimpton, the chain’s founder, is quoted saying, “We sell sleep”. Sealy, known for comfortable, durable beds makes a line of beds expressly for Kimpton Hotels. Deluxe plush mattress sets, including extra long for tall people, pillows, a down comforter, an organic cotton blanket, organic cotton bed linens, and signature robes can all be ordered for home delivery.

Hotel Marlowe is definitely one of the finest, most comfortable, well-appointed hotels I’ve ever visited. The boutique setting offers a 9,000 square foot meeting space, a 3,400 square foot ballroom, as well as meeting rooms with expansive views. The oversized boardroom seats 14 in high Keilhauer chairs.

For information call: 617-868-8000 or toll-free at 800-825-7040. E-mail: Web site is:

Click photo to book The Onyx Hotel.

The Onyx Hotel is a twelve story, 112 room boutique Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants property located at 155 Portland Street in the heart of the Bullfinch Triangle, downtown Boston. It’s within one mile of the old and new Boston City Halls, state buildings, courthouses, Bunker Hill, the Tip O’Neill Building, and Massachusetts General Hospital. Three blocks down is the TB BankNorth Garden — formerly the Fleet Center — and four blocks in the opposite direction is Faneuil Hall with upscale shopping, restaurants, and entertainment.

And although it has been newly constructed, the front of the Onyx blends in with its historical neighbors. The exterior features two-tone red brick with aluminum and glass.  While, the interior is a blend of integrated terrazzo and black granite, burlwood and glass with vibrant reds and muted beiges designed by Lynn MacMurty of Boston’s Group One. The lobby is intimate, sharing its space with the Ruby Room, a restaurant/bar that serves breakfast, cocktails, and dinner.

Check in for luxury.

Upon entering the hotel I notice a divided dog dish with two dog biscuits and fresh water. Then, out of the cold and into the lobby two beautifully coiffed standard poodles and their owner rush past everyone towards the elevators. The concierge greets him, asking if he’s finding everything alright. “Oh, yes, everything’s wonderful!” The elevator doors close leaving behind a rather large group of guests who are enjoying the complimentary wine hour.

According to concierge Philip Pignone the Onyx was named for chalcedony, the translucent family of stones that are illuminated from within. “The Onyx,” he says, “is a metaphor for us. We want to radiate — to glow — from the inside out.” He motions towards the black and white photographs and adds, “For example, we have a relationship with the Copley Society of Art. We exhibit works of art.” They are also for sale. 

The Onyx is much smaller than Hotel Marlowe, and far more casual; it is a very private boutique hotel with charm and amenities that make it a draw for rock stars and athletes as well as business people and tourists.

My room is located on the tenth floor overlooking buildings of varying height and age. The room itself is compact. There is a very comfortable king-size bed with a down comforter, and the maid has thoughtfully placed a thick terrycloth robe and slippers below two oversized pillows. Black and beige checkerboard carpeting leads to the desk and a chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc 2004 with two glasses.

The desk has a keyboard with complimentary wireless high-speed internet access (Wi-Fi), private voicemail, telephone with data ports, CD player/alarm clock; there is also a television with a dedicated Yoga channel as well as the regular fare. The in-room safe is large enough to hold a laptop computer. The honor bar seems almost too inviting with a window revealing packages of mini Chips Ahoy, and Reese’s miniature Peanut Butter Cups.

Luxurious shams and pillows
— buy the bed!

The oversized dark wood headboard and king-size bed looks and feels luxurious. Black and taupe pillow shams with custom woven “envelope” pillows in red and black set off the dust skirt with its red accent pleats. The sheets are Italian with a very high thread count.

The bathroom is attractive and compact. The floor is black marble. The bathtub/shower is shiny white tile and on the walls there is gray striped wallpaper. The sink is free standing, and there are more Aveda products, plus a sewing kit, and a hair dryer. There is no make-up mirror.  In the closet I find an iron and an ironing board. And again, the Onyx offers  complimentary overnight shoeshine. Upon close inspection I would have to say that this is one of the cleanest rooms I’ve ever visited. The white tile in the bathroom actually sparkles.

Ruby Red Relaxation.

Once again, there is a KimptonStyle catalogue selling everything from signature looped terry bathrobes in leopard, zebra, or giraffe prints (100% cotton, made in Turkey — $120), to bubbling bath salts ($32 ) — or the bed itself ($2,300). The catalog reads: Comfort, support, durability. These are the three key factors we prioritize at Kimpton Hotels to create the most exclusive sleep experience. Rest your head on deluxe pillows, wrap yourself in down, and dream away on a supportive mattress and foundation expressly made for Kimpton Hotels by Sealy. These signature bed components are available as a complete ensemble or a la carte. Either way, achieve the ultimate goal the perfect night’s sleep”.

I also peruse the room service menu. The Ruby Room offers 24 hour service with Late Night Snacks such as Cheese Pizza ($11), Beer Battered Mozzarella Sticks ($10).

Tapas : Dungeness Crabcakes, Saffron Aioli, and Baby Greens ($15.50), or an Argentine-style grilled Skirt Steak, Fried Russet Potatoes, and Carmelized Red Onions ($18). A Caesar salad is $10.50, and a Cheeseburger with smoked bacon and Portobello mushrooms is $13.

The Ruby Room Restaurant.

Dinnertime was fast approaching and on a Saturday night it’s not easy to get a reservation at a popular eatery. Philip, the efficient Onyx concierge, picked up the phone and reserved a table at KingFish Hall, celebrity chef Todd English’s popular seafood restaurant. A fast taxi ride to Faneuil Hall, also known as Quincy Market made dinner plans with business associates come together quickly.

Having dined in Las Vegas at Todd English’s restaurant, Olives, inside the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, I was expecting something fresh, unique, and memorable. I ordered the scallops and was not disappointed. The food is good, but if I am ever asked to recommend one seafood restaurant in Boston, I would have to say, Legal Seafood. If you like fish  Legal Seafood consistently delivers quality. I enjoyed a lunch and a dinner there and must say, the oysters were so fresh that they tasted like they had just been plucked from the sea. The crab cakes were sweet with fresh crab meat. Their essence had not been overpowered by other ingredients. Delicious!

Rub elbows at the Ruby Bar.

Having enjoyed the scallops at KingFish Hall, my associates walked me back to the Onyx. I climbed into the king-size bed and propped myself up against a bank of down pillows. There was plenty of lamp light for reading, however, once ensconced between the soft sheets I fell asleep.

The next morning I awoke feeling refreshed. The floor to ceiling drapery parted and voila — literally, a bird’s eye view of white snowflakes falling, blanketing the buildings, the streets, and the sidewalk. For a girl who hails from sunny California this was a thrilling sight to behold.

The Ruby Room stops serving breakfast at 11 am, so it was time to hot foot it downstairs before the cut-off. The stylish, predominantly red cocktail lounge with its serpentine design, leather banquette, and rounded granite bar with chaffing dishes of scrambled eggs, and bacon sat next to fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal — the usual bagels and toast. The room holds 45 and at night is quite the hot spot. For breakfast it was the best — and only — place to get a cup of tea and a slice of toast.

The Penthouse Suite.

A new group of concierges welcomed me and asked if there was anything they could do for me? They also told me that they have complimentary car service with the downtown area between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Very handy for business travelers.

Weekday room rates start at $209.00 per day. The penthouse is large enough to be divided up into four connecting guest rooms; and for anyone wanting to hold a conference, the Clarity Zone meeting room seats up to 40 people.

The Onyx is a personalized, full-service hotel. In-room massage is available; there is valet parking with in and out privileges; access to a neighborhood fitness center; strollers and cribs are available; it is fully accessible for people with disabilities; and it is pet friendly for both cats and dogs. Kimpton properties meet a high standard. For reservations call toll free: 866-660-6699. In Boston: 617-557-9955 or go to

Feature by Linda Lane, Las Vegas Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent.