The note from the Little Nell concierge is pretty clear in its intent, “Nick Barb is waiting for you in the cellar.” I quickly make a mental checklist of anyone I might have upset during my stay in Aspen and, relieved Nick is not a name that immediately jumps out, I take the stairs.
The cellar, far from being my last resting place, turns out to be where 22,000 bottles of wine are resting, lorded over by the Little Nell Advanced Sommelier, Nick Barb no less. Nick is a legend in these parts, and greets me holding a $55,000 bottle, Nell’s most expensive wine. I gulp, thinking of the consequences of that particular pairing not quite matching up to the guest’s palate. But it’s clear to me Nick knows his Cabs from his Cotes, treating this immense collection with almost reverential attachment.
The Little Nell cellar is a perfect example of how this particular luxury hotel sets itself apart from Aspen’s many other prestigious lodging possibilities. After all, a luxury hotel named after Aspen’s most famous lady of the night could perhaps point to its years of experience in the boudoir as testament to its quality, but with the Nell, it’s the whole package that takes luxury lodging to another level.
This is Aspen’s only Forbes 5 star, AAA 5 diamond boutique hotel; 52 guestrooms choreographed by Holly Hunt to impress even the most stringent of guests, levels of courtesy seldom witnessed in the history of hospitality and a talented team of chefs creating their own works of art. Nell has a distinct personality, chic but understated. It’s like home but with lots of bells on and trust me, it pulls it off perfectly.
It’s summer right now, but I can picture the Little Nell in winter, her exclusive ski-in, ski-out gondola access to Aspen Mountain a magnet for the people watchers gathering for drinks or lunch on the Ajax Tavern patio, and later, after dark eating at its award winning restaurant Element 47.
Back upstairs in my room, I feel ashamed as I adorn the floor with my hiking gear, following an afternoon scaling the giddy heights of Ajax. It is far too pristine to be tarnished with my boots and sweaty t shirt, and I quickly dispose of them in the nearest cupboard. I breath out again. Balance has been restored. The pastel colours soothingly comforting. I delve into the mini bar and make full use of the free soft drinks and snacks before crossing Crème de Marfil heated marble bathroom flooring and sinking into the marble bath for well earned soak before my aforementioned meeting with Nick.
On the way down I share an elevator with Maddy and her poodle Rex. She has been coming to the Little Nell in summer for years. “it’s the only place in town for Rex and me ” she tells me on our short journey together, “Rex just loves the pet amenities here.”
The doors open and she’s gone, just a faint linger of Chanel to remind me she was here at all. I briefly get pet amenity envy as I think of Rex enjoying his epicurean treats and puppy jet lag kit, but all that vanishes as I hit the lobby and wallow in Nell’s hospitality. This is the place where Aspen’s great and the good meet up; girlfriends catch up over cocktails, deals are done, families talk about their day and lovers canoodle on the comfy banquettes next to a roaring fire.
The Little Nell is for me a breath of fresh Aspen mountain air and throws down a marker as to how to do top drawer hospitality perfectly.
Back in the cellar, I remark to Nick about a visit I once made to the Petrus vineyard in Pomerol. ” I have a few of those ” he says as he rushes off to find a bottle.
I want more information on The Little Nell in Aspen.
The Little Nell is in downtown Aspen and has rooms from $300 according to the season and availability. Address: 675 E. Durant Avenue Aspen, Co 81611
United offers nonstop trans-Atlantic service from more U.K. cities than any other airline, including daily nonstop flights from London Heathrow to its hub at Chicago/O’Hare, with onward connections to Aspen, Colorado and over 300 other destinations across the Americas. Return fares in Economy from Heathrow to Aspen start from £888.16 (including taxes, September 2015). For latest prices, visit www.united.com or call 0845 8444777.