At Jean Nouvel’s New Sofitel Hotel: Pride goeth…

Le Loft in Sofitel: charmless staff, boring drinks, Fail!

The top floor of the new Sofitel across from Schwedenplatz seems to hang from heaven. A vast back-lit ceiling floats above the all-glass walls, silhouetting tiny people seated at tables. It had been beckoning me for months.

The hotel itself, a pile of trapezoidal black shapes slightly askew as if cut by a huge knife, is advertised as “pure 21st-century style”, the creation of international super-star architect Jean Nouvel. I entered the lobby with its black walls, carpets and sofas, and looked for the lift to the top floor. It’s hard to find. What was Mr. Nouvel thinking? Is a lift something to hide, like a WC?

Wandering around, I bumped into someone whose business seemed to be to ask yours. Was he security? Was there an unwritten dress code? Was he a promiscuity filter?

Luckily I passed his slightly rude inspection with my protestations of a reservation at Le Loft Bar & Lounge, so he showed me to a narrow corridor and the correct lift, one that stops only at E and 18. Too bad there’s no chance to check out the rooms: Allegedly they’re all white, all grey or all black. It crosseed my mind that an all-black room is probably only tolerable if used by the hour, but then one might have a problem with the sentry down below. Or maybe that was the point.


…before a fall

The slick black interior of the lift was elegant though, and the ten-second ride gave me just enough time for my expectations to rise. The doors slid apart and I held my breath, ready to enter an exquisite world with Vienna at my feet.

Wrong. I was facing dirty dishes and piles of silverware on a side table, as well as some tacky bunches of birch tree trunks. And the cheese cart. Good thing I was holding my breath.

Cord barriers then herded me off to the right and a crowded juncture between restaurant and bar. Is this 21st-century style? I was led to the back corner next to the kitchen entrance by a rushed waitress who first spoke poor French, then poorer English. Why not just German? Well, at least I could see the whole place.

The music was loud, insistent and repetitive. And the ceiling outshines everything: Designed by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist, the entire surface was a shimmering organic collage. Giant videos of peaches being squashed and moving lips were somehow grotesquely erotic. The intense colours make everyone first look pink (as in cotton candy) and then green (as in sickly).

The drink menu was divided between “white”, “grey” and “black”, the theme song of this place I guess. I finally caught someone’s attention and ordered a mojito. At most bars you can smell a mojito ten metres against the wind; at Le Loft I had a hard time believing those are mint leaves at the bottom of the glass.

Oh! Now I finally see what I came to see! A bird’s eye view of St. Stephen’s at night. I gazed out and felt as if I were in a bubble floating above the inner city. Remarkable. Gorgeous. Spectacular.

Why did it take so long to notice? Because the protagonist at luxury hotel Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom got lost somewhere among all the busy 21st-century stage props: the ceiling reflecting on the windows, the deadening nine-minute ceiling video-loops, the hectic personnel. I sip the melting ice in my glass. It tastes like water. Time to go.

Le Loft
Mon. – Sun., 12:00 – 2:00
2., Praterstraße 1
(01) 906 160

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