Hotels Above Par is an expertly curated online guide of under-two-minute articles designed for the savvy traveler. Its founder, former public relations pro-turned-travel specialist and entrepreneur Brandon Berkson, has recently launched HAP Concierge service.
This is a new kind of travel agency focused specifically on custom planning boutique-style hotels and experiences via a carefully selected team of travel savants who are experts on what and where is cool. Flights, hotels, activities, as well as meals, are all taken care of. Moreover, Hotels Above Par’s unparalleled relationships within the travel industry allows members VIP-style perks and privileges at a bevy of hotels.
“I feel there’s nothing else in their travel agency world like it,” says Berkson. “We position ourselves as a hip new travel agency that focuses on custom planning boutique-style trips. The concept is very to the times, as in addition to an existing trend of travelers wanting hyper-authentic stays that are redolent of the destination they are visiting, right now, more than ever, people are interested in supporting locally owned businesses and boutique hotels when on vacation, a result of the pandemic decimating the tourism industry.”
Unlike a majority of travel agencies that book hyper-franchised tourism operators and mega-resort-like places of accommodation for their clients, HAP Concierge prioritizes the out-of-the-ordinary.
“On the itinerary, instead of overly commercialized resorts, you’ll find intimate hotels that connect you to the heart of a destination through elements such as its curation of local artwork or unique backstory.”
We chatted with Brandon Berkson, Founder of Hotels Above Par and HAP Concierge on what he thinks are the coolest, most unique boutique hotel restaurants and bars. Here’s what he had to say!
Hotel: Hotel Matilda
Location: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Everyone who knows me will tell you that I don’t stop talking about San Miguel de Allende; it’s my favorite town in Mexico. I often like to stay at the beautiful 35-key Hotel Matilda. Their collection of contemporary art is impeccable. When in San Miguel de Allende, even if you’re not staying at Hotel Matilda, definitely try their fantastic restaurant, Moxi. Head Chef Paul Bentley’s menu options are exceedingly diverse, ranging from roasted octopus and duck carnitas to barbacoa tortellini (the last one is my favorite dish on the menu).
Restaurant: Café Riggs
Hotel: Riggs Washington D.C.
Location: Washington D.C.
Located in the nation’s capital, this hotel used to be a bank, one at which many presidents handled their finances. The interior preserves Riggs’ former life: the lobby’s bronze door frames, marble floors, barrel-vaulted ceilings, and L-shaped front desk redolent of a teller counter are to thank. It also hosts the grand Café Riggs, which feels like a grand European brasserie, one you would expect to see in Paris or Vienna. Its high ceilings and clean design make for a spacious atmosphere, whether breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. I’m always game for brunch, so it’s only natural for me to recommend their French Toast, which comes with bacon and pecan maple syrup.
Hotel: Sea Containers London
Location: London, England, United Kingdom
Sea Containers London is a sleek hotel in the U.K. capital’s South Bank area. Constantly receiving accolades, its bar Lyaness is a must-visit. The design is super refined and retro-glam—expect a color palette of pale blues and soft greys, from the banquettes to the walls; green-marble bar; plus blue and bronze-mirrored cocktail tables. Illustrious mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr. Lyan, is the mastermind behind the menu. You must try their Spirited Tea, which includes creative cocktails (you’ll love the Orchard Spritz: vegan honey, apple reduction, Roku Gin, and soda); an assemblage of tea sourced from all around the world; and a selection of English treats perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth (like me).
Restaurant: Un Piano Nel Cielo
Hotel: Casa Angelina
Location: Praiano, Italy
This is one of my favorite hotels in the world. It’s right on the Amalfi Coast in Italy—imagine a white-washed façade, hyper-contemporary décor, and the most breathtaking sea views you’ve ever seen. Their top-floor restaurant Un Piano Nel Cielo’s menu is superb, with many dishes paying homage to the area’s region, Campania’s, rich cultural traditions (think locally-sourced produce, meat, and fish—to sum it up, the culinary offerings here are exceedingly fresh and farm-to-table-oriented). In addition to ambrosial food, dinner here is a dream: the sound of the swishing Tyrrhenian Sea; a starlit sky, with not one ounce of light pollution; and a sommelier-curated selection of wines help enhance the already incredible experience.
Restaurant: The Oak Room
Hotel: Adare Manor
Location: Adare Village, Ireland
Located in Adare Village, in Ireland’s County Limerick, this 842-acre, bucolic castle hotel oozes grandeur, from its manicured gardens to haute 19th-century-style furnishings and splendors. The hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, The Oak Room, serves contemporary Irish cuisine helmed by Head Chef Michael Tweedie. Inside, the fine-dining establishment’s oak-paneled blueprint is elegant and well-appointed, a perfect pairing to its views of the meandering River Maigue.
Restaurant/Bar: Candy Bar
Hotel: The Siren Hotel
Location: Detroit, MI, USA
In addition to having a great cocktail menu, The Candy Bar at The Siren Hotel in Detroit is eye-catching to its core. The bar has Old Hollywood-style glam infused in its veins: the setting is an impressive glass chandelier, plush furnishings, and walls dressed in Jayne Mansfield pink paint. Additionally, a glittering disco ball from a 1970s Paris nightclub serves adds a perfect dose of sparkle to your night.
Restaurant: El Asador
Hotel: The Singular Hotel
Location: Puerto Bories, Patagonia, Chile
A repurposed refrigerator factory, the now family-owned Singular Hotel, Patagonia in Chile, artfully preserves its past life from corridor to corridor. This includes in-house restaurant El Asador, which struts a façade dating back to the 19th century. Inside, a rustic-style space serving a wide variety of wood-fired meats: skirt steak, lamb steak, and ribeye, among other cuts, make carnivores’ mouths water.
Restaurant: Nomi Park
Hotel: The Wayfinder Hotel
Location: Newport, RI, USA
Located in Newport, RI, the Wayfinder’s Nomi Park restaurant offers a relaxed, retro aesthetic. You can’t go wrong with brunch, lunch, or dinner here. When it comes to dinner, my favorite dish is the Spicy Calamari: ‘Nduja butter and short rib mafalde pasta with shaved grana Padano, plus cured hen yolk.
Restaurant/Bar: The Elysian Bar
Hotel: Hotel Peter and Paul
Location: New Orleans, LA, USA
Located in New Orleans’ Marigny neighborhood, the trendy Hotel Peter and Paul occupies a historic rectory, church, and convent. Situated on the ground floor of the rectory, the hotel’s Elysian Bar sports a unique décor with thoughtful nods to both its new-world location and old-world roots. Yellow walls (I’m biased as this is my favorite color), red bar stools, and an auburn-adjacent bar frame make for an inviting atmosphere. Try the Boulevardier: bourbon, Campari, sweet vermouth, orange bitters.
Hotel: The Shore Club
Location: Providenciales, Turks & Caicos
The Shore Club is a gorgeous oasis right on the beach in Turks & Caicos. Their restaurant, SUI-REN, hosts a well-appointed, open-air atmosphere that celebrates warm Caribbean nights. The menu combines Japanese cuisine with Peruvian flair—try the Chicken Katsu, which contains organic chicken breast with spicy lemongrass curry sauce and fried rice. Also, ordering their sushi offerings is always a good idea.
Hotel: Shinta Mani Angkor
Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia
Creative genius Bill Bensley is at the helm of design-forward Cambodian hotel, Shinta Mani Angkor. Located inside, Restaurant Kroya is designed to the nines, with many eye-popping patterns. Their menu has a big focus on regional cuisine. Whenever in a new country, I always like to try the local cuisine—when here, try the 7-Set Khmer Tasting Menu, as it’s an excellent foray into Cambodia’s traditional culinary offerings.
Restaurant/Bar: Pulitzer’s Bar
Hotel: Pulitzer Amsterdam
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
I keep on going back to Amsterdam. There’s something so charming about the city, from the canals to the gingerbread-style architecture. I like to stay at Pulitzer Amsterdam, a luxe hotel with 25 canal houses built in the 17th and 18th centuries. The hotel’s signature Pulitzer’s Bar is sexy: the Art Deco-style bar, old members’ club feel, and widespread rich velvet furnishings make it as refined as they come. My go-to at this eye-catching bar is the Patchouli Mojito, consisting of rum blend, pine, mint, Patchouli, lime, and soda.
Restaurant: La Terraza
Hotel: Lo Sereno Casa de Playa
Location: Troncones, Mexico
Located in the Mexican state of Guerrero, in the quiet coastal town of Troncones, Lo Sereno Casa de Playa is a dreamy 10-suite beach escape. Their restaurant, La Terraza, is perfect: contemporary furnishings, the soundtrack of crashing waves in the background, and a menu of farm-to-table Mexican and Spanish dishes delight all who dine here.
Restaurant: Pasquinel Bistrot
Hotel: Banyan Tree Puebla
Location: Puebla, Mexico
In my opinion, Puebla is one of Mexico’s most underrated destinations. This Spanish Colonial-style town is full of endless cobblestone streets, authentic eateries, and cathedrals. When here, you have to stay at Banyan Tree Puebla, a boutique hotel with a stunning design that artfully blends past and present at every corridor. Pasquinel Bistrot is their signature restaurant, which blends Mexican and French cuisines. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they have a bevy of dishes that are traditional to Puebla. I love sitting next to the restaurant’s colossal window that looks out at the verdant hotel gardens. If here for lunch, proceed to grab a cocktail after your meal at the hotel’s stunning rooftop bar—you can see the whole city and Puebla’s most famous volcano in the distance.
Restaurant: Tierra Atacama
Hotel: Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa
Location: Atacama Desert, Chile
Chile is incredible. If you have the chance, you should absolutely go. When here, stay at Tierra Atacama, a boutique hotel in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile. Tierra Atacama restaurant’s design flaunts beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows that look out at the surrounding landscape. The menu features twists of Northern Chilean cuisine, with most ingredients sourced locally. Native traditions are incorporated into the menu: fresh, colorful salads, Peruvian corn, quinoa, and a range of delicious meats and vegetarian mains are what you can expect.