There is a name for people who love Aman hotels: Amanjunkies. If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford a night at any Aman (there are 26 world wide), then it is highly likely you too will become addicted to them. Because these hotels are one of a kind. Unique, exclusive and utterly heavenly, they are not your usual five star. And the price per night (from £1,000 per night) certainly reflects this.
Through work I was fortunate enough to spend a weekend at Amanzo’e – one of the newest additions to the Aman brand in Europe, situated near Porto Heli in the Peloponnese in Greece. A two and a half hour drive from Athens, or a short helicopter ride (which, despite costing 2300 euro one way, is a frequent mode of transport for the Aman guests). We of course opted for the drive, and thank god we were upgraded to an Audi as would had felt a little out of place rocking up in a Fiat Punto.
Aman comes from the Sanskrit word for ‘peace’ and zo’e, the Greek word for ‘life’. Indeed, peace and tranquility is what you get. Set high on a hill, surrounded by pine forests and olive groves with sweeping views of the azure sea (the sunsets are some of the best I have seen), 38 pool pavilions enjoy complete privacy and luxury. You can understand why people come here to escape their hectic lives, to get away from work and forget their worries. Aside from the crickets chirping, you are completely undisturbed.
The resort is very Grecian in style, with grand, open communal areas. Clearly inspired by traditional Greek acropolises, you can expect elegant colonnades and pretty cornices, cream stone and light interiors. For those who know the Aman brand, the design and interiors are always simple, with clean lines and few frills. Critics call the Aman hotels ‘sterile’ and ‘soulless’. But Amanzo’e is none of this.
Our pavilion is as large as my house in Fulham. We had to pinch ourselves constantly to make sure we weren’t dreaming. They’ve thought of everything, from the heated loo seat, to the Bose speakers, the complimentary mini bar to the his and hers bathrooms. The sunken bath has views of the garden and a tiny bit of the sea. Our terrace is so big we don’t know where to sit. The bathrobes are so soft I want to take one home. They provide sun hats and a beach bag, mosquito spray and a constant (and complimentary) supply of bottled water. Our infinity pool is shallow but big enough for a cooling swim.
The main infinity pool is huge and in some photos looks almost like a lake. Guest rarely seem to sit around the pool, preferring the beach club or their own pavilion pool, so it feels like it’s just yours. The restaurant here is open for lunch and dinner, and serves Greek food. Prices are reasonable here (for an Aman), and we enjoyed numerous glasses of 8 euro wines, spaghetti bolognese (14 euros) and fresh salads. My sea bass carpaccio (14 euros) was exquisite too.
GREEK RESTAURANT BY THE POOL
The main, fine dining restaurant truly reminds you you’re in Greece. With stunning views of the ocean, and private dining options amongst the gardens, this may be one of the most special restaurants I have eaten at. The food is as beautiful as your surroundings and Amanzo’e were kind enough to treat us to an incredible dinner here.
RAW SEA URCHIN & FENNEL
SEA URCHIN AND BLACK TRUFFLE RISOTTO
The bar is one of Amanzoe’s big wow factors. Guests probably Instagram and Facebook the photo of this more than anything else at the resort. The main place to sit is on an ‘island’, surrounded by a water feature, overlooking ‘that view’. The cocktail list is based on the Greek Gods, and there is also a non alcoholic cocktail list named after the Greek Demi gods. I tried the Hera, being a big fan of pomegranate, and while I found it delicious I struggled with the 18 euro price tag. But at Amanzo’e there is no point worrying about the cost, you just have to embrace it as a treat of a lifetime.
Amanzo’e is 6km away from the beach club. Many find the distance Amanzo’e’s weakest feature. It is far away, but you can bike there (the loveliest down hill bike ride ever) or be driven. Or walk. And if you wish to bike down and be driven back up (like we did), it’s not a problem. The beach club is in a completely isolated bay, you truly feel like it’s just your beach (even though none of Greece’s beaches are private). While it is a pebbly beach, amanzoe have added sand too. There are two swimming pools, a beach restaurant (serving food with a focus on Asia), and lots of water sports available. Rob initially resisted kayaking, in the end we went for it and loved it. The sea is crystal clear and you are completely undisturbed, apart from the odd yacht mooring at the jetty.
ROB BIKING TO THE BEACH CLUB
QUINOA & RAW SALMON SALAD AT THE BEACH RESTAURANT
Apart from the material luxury, there is one other thing which stands out. The service. You’ll never be looked after better than here. The staff, elegantly clad in creams and browns, are helpful to the extent that they preempt what you want. They remember what you like. They are always there if you need them, but not in your face. Rob briefly mentioned he wanted to iron his shirt. An ironing board was placed in our villa immediately. Every evening a little gift is placed on your pillow – one night am olive soap, the next a small bottle of Greek spirits. Small touches which make a difference.
When the time came to leave, we both felt fairly miserable. They drove our car round to the front. We found that they had not only cleaned the inside, but also the outside. Were we surprised? A little. But at Amanzo’e you quickly come to realise that their aim is to constantly exceed your expectations. In our case, the staff, and the resort, certainly did.
Around the corner from Amanzo’e Nikki Beach Porto Heli is opening at the end of July. We were invited on a tour around the building site which is quickly turning into what will be a very cool beach club and resort (like the one in Koh Samui, this Nikki Beach will have accommodation too). Their rooftop restaurant has the most incredible views of Porto Heli and the sea. It’s sure to become a big hit. I’m sure people from Spetses will water taxi over to party here for the day.
VIEW FROM NIKKI BEACH
With the Chedi also set to open in the next few years, Porto Heli – or the Greek Riviera as it is called – is soon to become the place to be in Greece.
213 00, Greece
Tel: (30) 275 4772 888