The Met Hotel is unique in Thessaloniki, a sole iconic modern design hotel in a city filled with traditional hotels more geared to your parents taste than yours. The Met is the kind of hotel you’d expect to find in Los Angeles or London or any other large world-class city, which makes it all the more surprising to discover it in the small city of Thessaloniki in Northern Greece. Located in the industrial port area 20 minutes outside of downtown it defines a new boundary pushing era for this ancient city.Built by the small Greek chain Chandris Hotels the first thing you notice about the hotel is that not only is the Tasos Zeppos designed building a work of art, but the hotel itself is an art gallery filled with some very serious art. While waiting for our suite (they upgraded us) it was hard not to notice the amazing Bill Viola video piece in the lobby.
On the way up to our suite Neil and I both commented on the moving digital display pieces that ran the length of the atrium walls. Looks like Jenny Holzer one of us said, nah can’t be…yes indeed they can be and they are.
Our suite – love the big chair at the end of the hallway…and the writing running the length of the hall describing the history of Thessaloniki.And the photograph on the way to the suite…The room was lovely, with a huge marble clad bathroom with a sleek white composite double sink that ran along the wall opposite the equally large bathtub. At the end was a shower stall. On one wall of the shower is a frosted glass window which I assume is there to allow natural light in, at first I found it annoying that in the middle of the night when either of us used the bathroom if you turn the lights on the bedroom was flooded with light, then I discovered the sliding wood door in the main room that could be pulled closed to prevent this from happening. The floors are wide planked and dark, the bed was from Coco-Mat an environmentally conscious Greek bed maker who has a huge store here in NYC in Soho. All I will say about the bed is that neither Neil or I ever wanted to leave it.
Let me backtrack a little bit and tell you how we ended up at The Met and in Thessaloniki, Neil had a conference that was being held at a fashionable old hotel right in the center of town a block away from the water – the perfect location. One of my jobs is to deal with travel arrangements, the hotel that we were suppose to stay in and where the conference was being held was not really to my tastes, perfectly fine but just kind of stuffy and old-fashioned, which is fine but what made me look elsewhere was how incompetent they were at doing even the basics – like making a reservation (it took them 5 days and when they finally did confirm the reservation they made no mention of the fact that I had written three emails in the interim asking why I had not gotten confirmation). So I cancelled the reservation (which took the 7 days to confirm…) and looked elsewhere and boy I am glad I did. The staff at the Met are on efficient, quick and friendly. They confirmed my reservation immediately and went above and beyond to ensure we were well taken care of. The reason for the upgrade was that a week or so prior to arriving we got a standard email saying we’re looking forward to having you stay with us blah, blah, blah the thing was that it was addressed to: Mr and Mrs Mark Owen. So I wrote back and said, well, um it’s actually Mr and Mr or maybe Mr and Doctor, but certainly not Mr and Mrs and you might want to change that – in the nicest of ways and I rambled on (as I am want to do) and said that even recently we were married yada,yada,yada thanks so much. Within 15 minutes of my sending the email I got an email from the General manager saying congratulations and let me upgrade you. Not only did they upgrade us, but they sent strawberries and sweetened whipped cream and a bottle of Prosecco to the room upon arrival. Amazing.Our original suite was on the second floor, all the suites and harbor view rooms are above a busy road way, after a 12 hour journey with no sleep I am often fairly prickly when I arrive at the hotel and the noise from the street on the second floor made me crazy. The windows and doors are double-paned and it’s not like it was noisy it was just something that I latched onto like a dog with a bone and so… the next day I had the nerve to ask to be moved to a higher (quieter) floor, and without blinking it was done – I went out for lunch while Neil was in his conference and upon my arrival home they had already assigned us the same suite on the fourth floor. I don’t tell you this story to demonstrate my prickly behavior, but rather to give a demonstration of how insanely accommodating and professional the General Manager and staff at the Met are. I think had we stayed in the original room I would have forgotten about the background highway drone once I had gotten caught up on my sleep, but as it was I will say that when you book at this hotel and you want a water view definitely go for a high floor. I spent hours on the balcony… watching the cranes busy at work with the lazy sea beyond. Breakfast was included in our rate (which is something when you book you must make sure of as there is no place close to go to eat if you don’t eat at the hotel), the dining area where it was served had a brilliant outdoor section where you could eat your sunny side up eggs in the warm Greek Sun… and smoke, it’s so strange to me now to go to countries where people smoke with gay abandon even at breakfast. Don’t get me wrong I smoked for years and still have the occasional guilty drag it’s just been so long since anyone has been allowed to smoke inside the confines of a public building here in New York it’s odd to see it done so casually. Food and beverage at the hotel was of a high quality, breakfast was good, a large selection of buffet items and made to order eggs which were slathered in green Greek olive oil and cooked to perfection. The thing that I most liked about the breakfast was that in spite of its need to please the generic bacon and egg types (of which I include myself) it had enough local, seasonal, Greek produce and food items to remind you (lest you forgot) that you were still in Greece. One day in the fruit and yogurt section they had a big plate of local grapes… next to the Greek yogurt. Simple and perfect.
In addition to breakfast the Met has what in Greece seems to be a fairly new and radical thing: a sushi/asian restaurant. Greece is a very traditional country with a very traditional food palate so most people have not experienced Japanese food. We were there just as the roof top location of the restaurant was changing locations from here:to this location on the main floor just off the lobby.The second restaurant of the hotel has a very appealing menu, but seems a little bit of an afterthought in the back room of the breakfast area, it has no signage, I’m not even sure if it has a name? I went one night to check it out and was surprise to see it tucked away in such an inconspicuous back room. This is unfortunate as I think the hotel could really benefit from a more established restaurant culture. One where more than just hotel guest would be inclined to dine. Both the Asian menu and the downstairs menu looked very appealing so why not put up a sign and promote your talented kitchens by giving them a higher profile in your Hotel? Seems to me a little bit of a missed opportunity. At the same time it is very exciting to see the management of the Met going out on a limb to push the culinary boundaries by opening what I am guessing is the first primarily Japanese restaurant in the city. And even though it changes location seasonally my understanding is that it is doing a bang up business. I just wish it has a permanent location with its own unique look and place in the hotel. A visible destination.
Obviously this hotel made a great impression on me as I don’t normally go on about my hotel experiences to such an extent as I have just done. Thessaloniki is a vibrant city filled with ancient wonders, the best food scene in Greece and a large student population that makes this city an endlessly fascinating and fun place to spend time and to use a base to tour some of the incredible sites near by like: Mount Athos, Meteora and Vergina (not to mention some kick ass beaches). There is really no place else in town like the Met which is why when you visit this is the only place to stay. A shuttle bus leaves every hour to the center of town, a taxi cost 5 Euro or you can walk it in 15 – 20 minutes which Neil and I did day and night and felt very safe. The Met is the kind of hotel that makes traveling a pleasure, they have an awesome spa which I used daily and a good gym which Neil used daily. At the end of your day nothing beats a drink on the roof by the pool and then there is that bed ….I spent an hour one day just touring the Met’s art collection, when you stay in a hotel like this you never really ever want to leave. The blue car outside is a sculpture