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13 January 2023
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so lofty bedroom

SO/ Hotel, Auckland. Words Josie Steenhart

The lowdown

One of New Zealand’s most sought-after quarantine hotels during peak pandemic times is now back in the business of regular guests, and offers a playful yet luxurious urban accommodation experience.

The 130 rooms and suites are divided into categories from SO Playful to the penthouse SO Lofty, and again into five “elements” or design themes. There’s also an onsite cafe, VIP lounge, spa, gym, indoor heated pool, function/meeting rooms, a restaurant and both lobby and rooftop bars.

The location

Set on the corner of Customs Street East and Gore Street in downtown Auckland, it’s a buzzy spot that’s walking distance to Britomart (like, across the road), Commercial Bay, Queen Street and the Viaduct, as well as the waterfront.

The style/vibe

Think quirky but opulent. Each SO/ hotel around the world has an artistic vision brought to life by celebrated names from the world of fashion and design – from Karl Lagerfeld for Singapore’s, Christian Lacroix for Bangkok’s and Viktor&Rolf for Berlin’s.

Auckland tapped into the talents of WORLD, with designer and director Benny Castles working with the SO/ team on a brief to reflect the city’s volcanic origins, New Zealand’s natural beauty and the history of the building itself – the former Reserve Bank, which once held the country’s gold reserves.

The result is a unique mix of quirky and glamorous, with the lobby area – creatively fitted out by Dutch design house, Moooi – a particularly memorable spot.

The experience

Don’t let the sideways couches and oversized chandeliers made up of lampshades fool you - while the hotel has its fun side, the staff are all (friendly) business when it comes to service, and this carries through to the rooms, which are slickly kitted out with all the bells and whistles, as well as decadent features from standalone tubs (complete with a tray for your glass of wine) to complimentary snacks and drinks (mine had such treats as L&P and Whittaker's Sante bars).

Also extremely notable is SO/ Spa, located below ground alongside a stunning glass-walled lap pool, jacuzzi and sauna. Here, pick your pampering from a thorough menu of options dependent on your time and requirements – from 30-minute de-stressing massages and hour-long detox facials to 90-minute volcanic hot stone treatments.

so cozy bathroom

Eat/drink

On a cool corner setting at street level, Javalab cafe serves Hummingbird coffee (Christchurch, represent!), hot items from breakfast burritos to paninis, cabinet fare and housemade French pastries from 6:30am weekdays and 8am on Saturday.

Also on the ground floor and merging with the dramatic designer lobby is MIXO, with an edgy wine bar mood, creative cocktails, tasty nibbles and some great people-watching as guests come and go.

Located on the 15th floor with fabulous views out to the Hauraki Gulf, Harbour Society is SO/’s star eating spot, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as brunch on Saturdays. Helmed by chef Marty Kindleysides, the vibe is Kiwi-Asian fusion, with a focus on local and seasonal produce (don’t miss the seafood platter).

For more of a party vibe and even more breathtaking views, head to the top of the building for a cocktail and some shared boards and bites at HI-SO, which boasts intimate tables with floor to ceiling windows on one side and an open air balcony on the other.

The nitty gritty

Rooms start at $400. Go to so-auckland.com for more information.

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