Not the party of the century but they do have lovely wineTruman Capote threw a black-and-white ball at New York’s Plaza Hotel in 1959, and it was described as the party of the century. That was the kind of unique event the Marriott Hotel’s Bar Rouge aspired to when it threw an opening party on Dec. 21. While they may not have drawn the kind of crowd Capote would have admired, it did bring in the kind of cool trendsetters who had previously avoided the Marriott as a place for provincial businessmen.
Standing elbow to elbow, hotel executives glowed at the sight of 450-plus guests, more than double the number of their VIP customers. It was none other than the hotel’s general manager, Robert Lohrmann, who proposed a toast of celebration to his well-heeled clientele. Raising his Moet flute, he proclaimed: “Bar Rouge is for people who enjoy and deserve the finer things in life ― people such as yourselves.”
Mr. Rohrmann spent 18 months discussing his plans to renovate the Seoul hotel with the Marriott’s Hong Kong office. The Bar Rouge party followed the recent re-opening of his two other ambitious projects : Olivo, the brand-new Italian restaurant and the Marquis Thermal Spa & Fitness Club.
But Olivo and the Spa were not enough for the Marriott to claim a top spot in Korea’s nightlife industry. Before Bar Rouge, the hotel’s location near the bus terminal worked against such an ambition but that might change from now on. The hotel hired DesignSpder Co, led by Aileen Park, whose resume is full of the city’s big-name dining spots, such as COEX Bizbaz and O’Kims.
In September 2006, the hotel also hired Doff, a local PR agency, which won the contract after open bidding. And it was apparent at the party that the hotel had benefited from Doff’s social network. Doff is well-connected to the country’s elite through its chief executive, the renowned fashion photographer Kim Yong-ho. When he throws a party, it’s usually for a few hundred of his closest “friends.” Lawmakers, CEOs, fashion designers, architects, financiers, gallery owners, who usually opt for the other upscale bars in Seoul ― in downtown (Vine), in Namsan (Naos Nova), in Cheongdam-dong (Casa Del Vino), in Sinsa-dong (Vinga) and in Samseong-dong (The Timberhouse) ― have added one more option in what had formerly been the unglamorous district of Seocho.
Sprawling across a spacious floor covering 690 square meters, or 7,500 square feet, in the hotel’s basement bar Rouge offers many social and oenological choices: a wine-tasting zone, a social hub, a semi-private zone and four private rooms.
Putting themselves ahead of other upscale bars, Bar Rouge has introduced the Cruvinet system, which allows tasting of rare wines by the glass. From the bar’s cellar, stocked with 256 different wines, prices start at 45,000 won (plus 10 percent VAT and service charge) for a bottle of house wine, the 2005 Martinez Bujanda Candidate Tinot Joven from La Mancha, Spain. At the top of the wine list, for those who need to impress, there is a bottle of 1993 Chateau Petrus Pomorol, at 2.5 million won.
When all the right people jam-packed into the spacious stone-and-wood interior, punctuated with red accents, the social temperature was bound to soar, with or without special entertainment, but, just to be sure, Bar Rouge had the glamorous LaDee Streeter for its opening night. The former Miss Black America-turned-jazz vocalist will continue to perform for the next three months.
by Ines Cho