Returning for its second series, Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby entertains and fascinates in equal measure.
Giles Coren and Monica Galetti roll up their sleeves to work alongside staff in some of the most extraordinary hotels in the world. They discover the unique challenges that come with providing top-tier hospitality in extraordinary and often wild, remote and demanding locations.
Adorning various uniforms in each episode, from the tweed of the country activities manager at Ashford Castle, to the traditional Omani robes for a welcoming ceremony at the Anantara Al Jablal Al Akhdark hotel, the pair throw themselves into bed-making, towel origami and saj-bread flinging with enthusiasm and esteem for their new colleagues.
Monica and Giles are no hotel inspectors, snobs or critics. They interact with the staff in the most humble way. They are far more interested in telling the story of the communities that make these hotels tick, rather than indulging themselves in the sumptuous cuisine and surroundings as guests.
Each episode is therefore very much a tale of the people that work within the hotel: the pillow butler, chief towel-hugger, guest foot-washer or the food hygiene manager that aspires to be the first female general manager in Oman. This makes for gratifying viewing, and the emphasis on history and people is a refreshing change to the profit-driven hotel industry that we know too well.
This ‘behind the scenes’ format is endlessly appealing. You can’t help but be inspired by the technologies that these hotels have fashioned or adapted to their specific needs, such as the deep-sea water air conditioning system in the Brando, French Polynesia.
Innovation stands alongside tradition however, and the detail given to following shuwa recipes in Oman, for example, as well as cultural requirements for privacy are both impressive and informative.
Whilst Monica, a chef who’s worked at the top end of hospitality for over 20 years, gets fully involved in the kitchen, Giles who, as he says, has “opinions on just about everything” is boyish and sometimes irritating in his persistent jokes or exclamations that this is “so cool”. This is an important element however, and the bravado that he initiates between himself and his new colleagues brings banter and warmth to the screen.
These visits to these amazing hotels therefore do not seem exploitative, promotional or critical, but driven by a genuine interest to learn about and share the stories of life beyond the lobby.
Image: Production via BBC Studios