Give us a brief overview of the Four Seasons Hotel Baku…
Our beautiful Hotel is located on the promenade and on the shores of the Caspian Sea in the capital of Azerbaijan – Baku. We offer the city’s finest accommodations in our 171 rooms and suites; great dining options at Zafferano restaurant, Piazza lounge and Bentley’s Whiskey Bar; superlative wellness treatments at the exclusive enclave of the Jaleh Spa and Pool; lavish meeting spaces, and, of course, the signature service of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts worldwide.
What makes the Four Seasons brand so special, especially in this location, and how is its ethos showcased throughout the hotel?
Baku is an evolving and very unique destination and is the host to world-class events like the Formula 1, Zhara Music Festival and UEFA. As the world’s leading luxury hospitality brand, we take a lot of pride in representing the Four Seasons in this beautiful and vibrant destination that has tremendous possibilities.
Our presence in this location definitely represents the appetite for the luxury segment. Our ethos of practising the golden rule with our team members of treating others as we want to be treated ourselves has made this brand very special and helped us distinguish ourselves in each of the locations that we are present in globally. One of our main goals when it comes to employees who create all the magic in the heart and front of the house is to create an environment for them to feel comfortable at being themselves yet being able to improve and master their craft.
We proudly stand by the four main pillars that have helped develop the unique approach that Four Seasons has towards their guests – quality, service, culture and brand. Our purpose of creating impressions that will stay with the guests for a lifetime comes from our belief that life is richer when we truly ‘connect’ to the people and world around us.
What does luxury mean to you and how is this incorporated into the experience at the hotel?
Luxury to me is superior quality ‘experience’ with an element of uniqueness, exclusivity, customization and a sense of harmony. We in Baku, like each of the Four Seasons around the globe, take pride in providing refined and customized experiences to our guests.
I have always believed that a hotel is like a watch. When you open the watch from the back there are many small parts working together tirelessly to show the time. I believe that no one is more important than the other; we all work together and do our part to ensure that guests get the best all the time. It starts with our people and having the right people to deliver these experiences. We hire for attitude and not for experience.
In terms of experiences, we at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts make sure that the experience of our guests is always tailored and personalized: we care about every little detail and are aware of our guests’ preferences globally and for our repeat guests, what they prefer locally.
Can you tell us about your favourite highlights of the hotel, including accommodation, facilities and amenities…
One of the main highlights for me personally is the iconic location of our hotel. It is located right in the heart of the city, literally between the new and the old. While one part of the hotel overlooks the National Boulevard, the promenade of the Caspian Sea, skyscrapers and newly built structures, the other is a proud part of the most historic place in Baku – Sheher (The Old City).
The design of the hotel – both exterior and interior – are also very beautifully done. You can see how each detail was carefully thought through. Especially when we look at the façade of the building, one of the most frequently asked questions within all these years since the opening is whether the building is old. The reason people ask that and then get surprised to know it’s new is because our beaux-arts-style palace matches the city’s architecture in an absolutely perfect way.
Tell us about the culinary offerings at the hotel. What can guests expect food-wise and do you think it is important to champion local cuisine and products?
We have one main restaurant called Zafferano which is the hotel’s signature all-day restaurant, named after the Italian word for “saffron,” the spice that grows abundantly in Azerbaijan. Zafferano offers one of the most delicious choices of Italian dishes in the city. Then there’s the beautiful Piazza lounge, which is the retreat for afternoon tea time. Finally, there’s Bentley’s Whiskey Bar, designed in a refined private club style that offers an exclusive selection of cigars and whiskey.
For private events, we have seven venues in total with our Segah Ballroom being the largest and guests’ favourite. Reached via a winding grand staircase, guests find themselves in the most splendid and ballrooms, with interiors that resemble 18th-century France.
For us, it is very important to give our guests a sense of place, and we do reflect that in our culinary offerings at breakfast including signature local egg dish with tomatoes called “pomidor yumurta” in Azerbaijani. We feature our local products in our weekly Sunday Brunches and we also serve the highlight of local cuisine – the Caspian caviar.
Our In-Room Dining also features local cuisine gems such as Dushbara and Lamb Dolma which is prepared and guided by our teams’ generational recipes and are signature dishes of any local household. Even though our main restaurant is Italian, our talented Chefs led by Executive Chef Talha Barkin continue to add local touches to the menu and create a connection with Azerbaijani roots.
Tell us more about Baku through your eyes – what are the truly special (possibly undiscovered) aspects of the city that make it a must-visit destination?
Baku is an incredible city that blends ancient history and strong Azerbaijani culture with a vibrant contemporary city lifestyle. That on its own is a very unique and special aspect for me personally. The city has so many architectural gems: both new and old. It is always fascinating for me to walk around Baku as I always tend to find something new and inspiring on its streets.
The people here are extremely hospitable, warm and friendly which made the transition for me so much easier during the first few months after the move. The food here is also something different and as such, is a must-try!
Baku might still be somewhat unknown for many, but it is a city definitely worth visiting. You know how they say about some places that you can either love it or hate it? With Baku, there’s only one option, and that’s love.
Are there any must-see events or celebrations during the year and what is the best time of year to travel to Baku weather-wise?
I believe that the best time to visit Baku is from middle March through to October. The weather is extremely nice, you can witness the festiveness that comes to the city with early spring holidays such as Novruz or enjoy the fall vibes with the beautiful Pomegranate Festival that happens in late October to early November every year and participate in grape harvesting in wine regions.
But Azerbaijan has something to offer to our discerning travellers throughout the whole year: in winter guests of the city can visit cosy Christmas markets right nearby the Hotel or enjoy the world-class skiing facilities at a breath-taking 2,500 metres (8,200 feet) above sea level located in Shahdag Mountain Resort with the stunning views of the untouched mountains of Azerbaijan.
In summer, two really popular events in the city are Zhara Music Festival that hosts many famous singers and continues for several days and, of course, the one and only Formula 1 Grand Prix. This year F1 races will be held in a bit of an unusual setup – there will be no spectators. However, guests of our Hotel will still be able to enjoy the whole race right from the comfort of their balconies as Four Seasons Hotel Baku is located right on the main track. We created a special offer for our guests to enjoy the race and we’re looking forward to welcoming them very soon.
COVID-19 has had a big impact on everyone’s lives and is sure to affect the way travellers select their destination and accommodation. What steps has the hotel taken to ensure the utmost safety for guests?
The health and safety of our guests and employees have always been the first priority at Four Seasons. To offer a safe environment for them, Four Seasons properties across the globe are implementing Lead With Care, a full-scale health and safety enhancement. While the Four Seasons experience may look different, it still feels the same. Our dedicated people are committed to delivering the same intuitive service and personalised care for which Four Seasons is known and trusted the world over.
What memories and emotions do you hope travellers will leave the city with and how are these fostered during their stay?
We would like the guests to leave with lasting memories of true Azerbaijani hospitality and the feeling of awe of what the destination had to offer, in the sense of pleasant unexpected revelations of the city and the country. With that being said, our Concierge team is here to ensure that our guests are able to explore the destination as much as possible in the most unique ways.
Images courtesy Four Seasons Hotel Baku.