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Garden view or Kremlin? Raffles heads to Moscow

12 December 2020

In the 1970s even the best hotels in Moscow were brutal-looking concrete eyesores run by the state-controlled Intourist organisation. Shady characters in heavy coats traded black market goods in the lobbies, the bars were dotted with glamorous “escorts” and KGB agents lurked in the shadows eavesdropping on foreign guests.

Despite their luxury aspirations, the service was appalling and even the top hotels were infested with cockroaches. Most have been demolished, or revamped, to be replaced by modern five-star hotels under international brands such as Ritz-Carlton and Radisson.

In a further sign of the advances being made in the Russian capital, Accor, the French hotel group behind such brands as Sofitel and Fairmont, announced yesterday that it had signed a deal to open a luxury hotel in 2022 under its Raffles Hotels & Resorts brand next to the Kremlin.

The hotel will be developed by the Kievskaya Ploshchad Group of Companies, one of Russia’s biggest property outfits, and designed by Winch, a British design studio, working with Accor’s in-house team. It will have 153 rooms, including two presidential suites with two bedrooms each and a large outdoor terrace with views over the city.

It will also have a spa, shopping gallery, a ballroom, five restaurants and a Raffles Long Bar harking back to the original bar at the Raffles hotel in Singapore. That hotel, which dates back to 1887, was famed for its colonial grandeur and was a watering hole of literary figures including Somerset Maugham and Rudyard Kipling. It is reputedly where the last tiger in Singapore was shot in 1902.

Accor said that the bar, home to the Singapore Sling cocktail, was an “emblematic” concept that was “a key marker for the brand and a prominent feature in Raffles hotels around the world”.

There are Raffles hotels in Paris, Istanbul, Dubai, Warsaw, Jakarta and the Seychelles. The Old War Office in Whitehall is also being turned into a Raffles.

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