JONAS
Jonas Rask Eilersen
Boulevard Hotel – Autograph Collection
Baku White City Baku
24th September 2015

Baku is hellbent on proving that it’s a city on the up, and this translates into a drastically improved public realm, infrastructure, visitor amenities – and lots and lots of choice at the top end in terms of hotels. The latest addition to a hotel scene which is undeniably impressive for a city of less than two million inhabitants, is the brand new Boulevard Hotel, marketed through Marriott’s Autograph Collection. We tried it out; read below our honest review.

Location
Give it a couple of years or three, and the Boulevard Hotel will be in the thick of it. For now, however, the hotel is clearly separated from the rest of the city and action, being at the far end of the 16 km long pedestrianised walkway along the shoreline of the Caspian Sea. It's a good two kilometres along the sea to the Port Baku Mall. However, taxis are cheap and plentiful, and the hotel is right on the sea. Hence, only if you absolutely need to be able to walk to where you need to be is the location a drawback.
Who stays?
I stayed during the 2015 Baku European Games, so the hotel was full of officials, performers for the different ceremonies as well as a few athletes. However, this is clearly a conference and business hotel.
Style and Character
This is a massive hotel, and things are done on a large scale. However, it doesn't actually feel quite as big as it is, despite the large lobby and the long corridors. It's a wee bit too "golden" for my taste, but it's honestly relatively subdued and downright stylish in places, and we're definitely a few notches above the run of the mill Marriott experience, approximating what you'd find in a modern Ritz Carlton both in terms of style, character and clientele. I loved the use of wood, particularly the dark wooden panels.
Service
They're clearly trying here, but it's not without its hiccups. For example, I had to extend my stay by one night - and this necessitated endless visits to reception, phone calls (and people knocking on my door to tell me it was check out time). Housekeeping was good - but the staff absolutely miserable. And, perhaps this is only in Azerbaijan, but I found it incredibly annoying that the hotel all the sudden was in complete lockdown because the President decided to have a meeting at the hotel (unannounced). The consequence: I had to walk my partner 1.5 km in 35 degrees heat in order to put him on a taxi. This is absolutely unacceptable for a hotel of this standard, Presidential visit or not. Furthermore, on check out, there was a discrepancy on the final bill which was never resolved - this left me absolutely furious.
Rooms and Suites
It's an impressive hotel for its attention to detail; and this is also visible in the rooms and suites here. While the style is not to my personal taste, it is as mentioned, executed very well, and it feels both quite fresh and sumptuous at the same time.
My Superior room had an awful view to a building site, but the room itself was quite smart, though very standard in its layout and size (some 30 sq.m. or so). It had mega comfy beds, ample closet space, a large flatscreen TV and all the business amenities you'd want (including plugs near the bed, good wifi, safe, ironing board and so on).
The bathrooms could've been done better; they've squeezed in both a tub and a shower - but none are particularly luxurious. The shower cabin is way too small. I loved the Elemis amenities though.
"Club" rooms are the same as the lower category rooms but come with access to a club lounge.
Food and Drink
Another area where they're doing an excellent job; the dining options are varied and good - with both the While City Bar & Lounge, Black City Cafe and Green House Kitchen being among the all day options. I enjoyed my beef tataki in White City Bar & Lounge whilst having a fab view over the Caspian Sea. Green House Kitchen is where breakfast is served, and it was great, too.
Additionally, a small cafe corner in the lobby, as well as a juice bar in the spa and gym area, are available.
Service across all outlets was ok - friendly, but slow.
Features, Wellness, and Amenities
The knockout facilities here are, clearly, the fully kitted out gym and the fabulous 25 metre indoor pool. It's rare the facilities are as good as here; the staffed gym has any and all machines you'd find at an upscale fitness club, and the pool is, honestly, among the best I've seen in a long time.
The spa is staffed by the kindest ladies and offers Elemis treatments.
Perceived Value
Outstanding; practically on a par with the top properties in Baku in terms of the hard product (e.g. JW Marriott, Fairmont, Park Hyatt and so on), the Boulevard Hotel is significantly cheaper - probably due to its scale.
Verdict
A top choice for Baku, the sheer scale and the relatively remote location (and, the service issues...) are the only drawbacks. While you're not in for the most stylish city break of your life, the hotel manages to be contemporary and fresh, and the countless amenities and outlets make this feel almost like an urban resort. Demand a room with a sea view, and you'll smugly appreciate you're not paying a fortune for a pretty fabulous hotel experience.