- Subpar restaurant
- Wi-Fi daily fee
- Valet parking costs a steep daily fee
- No pool
- No spa
The 273-room Taj Boston keeps most of the beloved old Ritz just the way it was, from afternoon tea in the upstairs lounge to the elegant European-style guest rooms.
There's a time to completely revamp a hotel and a time to stick with what works. Fortunately, the Indian hotel company Taj, which acquired this beloved old Ritz-Carlton back in 2007, knew better than to mess with it. (The company has some experience with legendary old hotels, having also assumed ownership of the Pierre in New York City and Campton Place in San Francisco.) Little has changed about the 273-room Back Bay hotel, a fixture in Boston since 1927 and former host to such luminaries as J.F.K., Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, and Joan Crawford (who allegedly demanded that her room always be stocked with peppermint Life Savers). The last major renovation was back in 2002 (while it was still the Ritz), and Taj management has done little more than upgrade the dainty pastel-hued rooms with 32-inch Samsung flat-screen TVs and add high-top seating areas to the bar.
The appeal of the hotel is obvious. The landmark Beaux-Arts building occupies one of the prime spots in Back Bay, bordering the Public Garden on one side and Newbury Street on the other. Guests enjoy views of Newbury Street from the lounge during the afternoon tea service (another tradition from the Ritz days); at the bar, you can linger over hot toddies next to floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Public Garden. Here and there, Taj has made some subtle attempts to insert a little Indian culture into the mix -- a Bollywood night in the restaurant; traditional Indian dishes on the food menus; a short film of India's famous palaces on the hotel channel. But these feel more like a warm welcome into Indian culture than disjointed add-ons, effectively introducing a fresh element to the hotel's European classicism.
Overall, you'll be hard pressed to find another hotel in this price range that can match the Taj's level of service -- including a free ride in a Jaguar around the city -- and picturesque location. The Lenox, the Eliot Hotel, the Fairmont Copley, and the Back Bay Hotel don't come close. You'd have to book at the much pricier Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton Boston Common to find an equivalent combination of services and location.
All the frills -- like twice-daily housekeeping -- but food service falls short
Outside the restaurant, the service is superb -- from the bellman who showed me around my room to the complimentary shoeshine. A "fireplace butler" tends to the working fireplaces available in some suites (you can choose from a menu of firewood), a "bath butler" can set up your tub for a customized soak (for a fee), all rooms have pillow menus with six options, and the green Jaguar house car will shuttle guests around Back Bay or downtown. The staffers don't always address you by last name, as they often do at the Mandarin Oriental and Fairmont Copley Plaza, but this level of attention is a rare thing at this price range. And the free luxury perks at the Taj are only rivaled by hotels that often cost a lot more -- the Mandarin Oriental, the Intercontinental, and the Four Seasons among them.
Centrally located in Back Bay, bordering the Public Garden and the shops and cafes of Newbury Street
The Taj is located in the middle of the city in Back Bay, an upscale commercial and residential area where skyscrapers tower above centuries-old churches and expensive brownstone homes. As the home of the Hynes Convention Center, Back Bay is a popular area for business travelers, but it also has some of the city's best shopping, from the quaint boutiques on Newbury Street to the massive Prudential Center mall. The area is filled with midrange and upscale restaurants, many of them chains, but the South End, a more lively bohemian area with trendy bars and eateries, is a quick, 10-minute walk away.
The Taj enjoys one of the most scenic locations in Back Bay, overlooking the Public Garden on one side and Newbury Street on the other. The Boston Common lies just one block past the Public Garden.
The hotel's old-world European style extends into the guest rooms, all of which are large -- about 325 to 410 square feet, considerably larger than the standard rooms at the Fairmont Copley Plaza -- and beautifully decorated.
No pool or spa, but a sizable (if dark) fitness center
While offering an extensive amount of top-of-the-line equipment (many with individual video screens), the spacious fitness center here can feel a little dark -- with windows that just offer an interior view of the air shaft. But like the business center, it's free.
Perfect proximity to parks, but only small pets are welcome, and there's a $125 per stay fee
Fine choice for families -- large rooms; ideal location
Subpar food, especially for the price; ample dining elsewhere
My biggest complaint -- and this is not a small point -- is that the restaurant seemed to have a complete breakdown while I was there. The lasagna I ordered from room service arrived nuked to within an inch of its life, the pasta so dried out that it was hard to cut through on the edges. In the morning at the cafe, I watched as waiters argued with one another while seating guests. My own waiter, who rarely stopped by, brusquely discouraged me from ordering the Indian breakfast dish by saying, "That's going to take a while." If fine dining in the hotel is a high priority for you, try the Eliot Hotel, with its phenomenal James-Beard-Award-winning restaurant Clio, or Hotel Commonwealth, with its popular and much-raved-about Eastern Standard brasserie.
Twice-daily housekeeping keeps everything spotless.
Though the last major renovation was in 2002, the hotel is very clean and in flawless condition -- no dust or mildew anywhere. The Taj refreshed the hotel upon its purchase in 2007.
It's costly, no doubt, but for a beautiful space overlooking the Public Garden from its rooftop function space, the Taj is a fine choice for small- to medium-size events.
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