Unique Food & Unique Accommodation in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Our Brazilian adventure begins – an opportunity to visit The Pantanal, one of the world’s greatest wildlife destinations, and Iguazu Falls, an unparalleled natural wonder of the world. And while in Brazil, who can resist a trip to Rio, the epitome of Brazilian exuberance? But to reach these iconic destinations, we are first travelling through Sao Paulo – a bustling, gritty megacity of some 12 million people, known more for its traffic jams than its tourist attractions. It is not the type of destination that on the face of it would normally make it onto our travel shortlist. But we are under no illusions – we are here for the food!
In recent years, Sao Paulo has rocketed onto the world stage as a culinary destination, with a host of internationally recognised restaurants and chefs. First and foremost among them is chef Alex Atala of Restaurant D.O.M., who pioneered the use of native Brazilian ingredients in his menus, including previously unknown ingredients from the Amazon rainforest. Also on our must visit agenda is a very different kind of award winning restaurant – a casual and eclectic diner known as A Casa Do Porco (The House of the Pig), currently Brazil’s highest ranked restaurant at number 39 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
With our dining experiences sorted (priorities, obviously), we look for somewhere unique to stay in Sao Paulo. And the aptly named Hotel Unique certainly fits the bill.
Hotel Unique certainly delivers on its name – like a seven-storey slice of watermelon, the iconic hotel is a landmark in Jardim Paulista, one of Sao Paulo’s most fashionable districts. With incredible architecture outside and stunning design inside, the hotel has become one of the hippest destinations in Brazil and is our home for our short stay in Sao Paulo.
There is no need for google maps to know when you have arrived at Hotel Unique – there is simply no other hotel like it. Like the hull of a boat the hotel sweeps upward from its narrow base to its expansive rooftop terrace. The undersides are wood-panelled, with the uppermost tips of the structure supported by thin concrete columns, whilst the façade is green-hued and port-holed. It is an architectural sensation and certainly makes an impressive statement when you arrive.
The theme continues – massive metal doors swing open to welcome us into the striking foyer. Glass fronted and eclectically decorated with lights, flowers and sculptures, the lobby contains the well-staffed reception desk, a bar known as “The Wall” with a multistorey wall of beverages, and the lounge with books, magazines and voluptuous armchairs of black and pink velvet. We are welcomed with glasses of champagne during check in, which we imbibe as we are given information about the hotel’s facilities.
It soon becomes clear that this is a hotel that does not play by the rules. We enter the elevators to find they are almost pitch-black, with just a hint of blue light emanating from a small, concealed ceiling light. Perhaps romantic for couples, it is a weird experience when shared with other guests or staff. We arrive on the seventh floor to find the hallways are similarly unlit – while this might be cool in theory, the curving walls and occasional fire extinguishers make it feel a little like an obstacle course.
This is particularly the case when contrasted with our room, which is bright and filled with light from the expansive porthole window. With vivid white walls and metal accents, the room is crisp and modern. A three-quarter glass wall separates the bedroom from a small sitting area, with a desk and chairs, closet and minibar. The bathroom is similarly bright, with a curved-walled shower and jacuzzi bath opening on to the bedroom by means of a huge retractable glass screen (surprisingly easy to operate despite its size and weight).
We are greeted soon after our arrival with chilled coconut drinks, welcome and refreshing after our journey. However, we soon realise that it is the only aspect of the room that is complimentary – just about everything else will be charged for, including the coffee pods for the nespresso machine, the water, and even the much-vaunted haviannas, which are “included”, but only for the duration of your stay!
On the flipside, the hotel does provide a smartphone which can be used outside the hotel, with free internet access and the ability to hot-sync other devices, which was much appreciated when we ventured out.
(Note: You will find all of this information online, after scanning the Q Code on the bedside table!)
Beyond our room, one of the coolest aspects of the hotel is the basement swimming pool. Blissfully heated (Sao Paulo is in the midst of a cold snap) but partially open to the sky above, the pool is entered by a startlingly-fast waterslide, and contains in-pool recliners with built-in bubble jets. Overhead, the glass-floored and glass-walled gym criss-crosses the pool space, while riotous pink and yellow doors and staircases lead to the sauna and wellness areas. The pool is open until 10pm, and we take advantage of a late night swim with the stars twinkling overhead.
Yet the pinnacle of the hotel, literally and figuratively, is its rooftop. Stretching the length of the building, it is here that the restaurant Skye serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, in a beautiful space adorned with plants and ornate lighting. Adjacent is the bar, in the evening complete with a DJ and packed with hotel guests as well as fashionable Sao Paulo locals. It is still going strong at midnight on the Sunday night we were there. And beyond the bar is Hotel Unique’s signature rooftop pool, its deep red tiles a colourful foreground to the Sao Paulo skyline that stretches beyond.