Stamba Hotel, Tbilisi, Georgia
Don’t be deceived by the brutalist architecture: this communist publishing house-turned-hotel in the dynamic Georgian capital offers the warmest of welcomes – and a multitude of sustainable, design-forward diversions
17 March, 2023
On first stepping inside Stamba Hotel, it's hard not to gasp. In the IMAX-scale atrium lobby of this 1930s publishing house, five floors have been removed, leaving only the rugged structural columns for support. The printing equipment from which Georgia's first communist newspaper once emerged is still in place, now sprouting a jungle of foliage. Red neon illuminates a labyrinth of bookshelves - just a fraction of the property's 84,000-strong curated book collection, made up almost exclusively of English-language titles spanning Elvis biographies to the classics. Contemporary Georgian art is everywhere - including a sky-high pair of giant rabbit sculptures, watching over it all.
A 140-key member of Design Hotels serviced by a staff of 500, "boutique" is something of an oxymoron when describing this brutalist wonderland. Over the past decade, its owner, Adjara Group, has demonstrated a rare knack for taking old superstructures and turning them into community touchstones - see also Rooms Kazbegi hotel, set in a Soviet-era sanatorium in the country's mountainous north; Tbilisi's Fabrika hostel, in what was once a sewing factory; and TEC, a quartet of gritty, achingly cool nightclubs operating across a cavernous former electrical plant on the left bank of the Mtkvari River.
The hotel's leafy front doors, left, and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves frame a door.
In addition to Stamba's much-lauded guest rooms, the property is home to a sustainable SpaceFarms hydroponics project, growing microgreens, miniature vegetables and edible flowers for the in-house restaurant and beyond, an ethical coffee roastery, bean-to-bar chocolatier, design shop, sewing atelier - responsible for the team's fabulous, highly stylised uniforms - and Tbilisi Photography & Multimedia Museum - the first institution in Georgia dedicated to the contemporary image in all its forms.
Even in a boundlessly creative city that buzzes with a never-sleeps breed of energy, the 2018-opened Stamba has always been ahead of the curve - proving that Tbilisi's accommodation offering has not just stepped out from behind the Iron Curtain but performed a high-kicking song-and-dance act worthy of many encores. As grand eastern European hotels go, it's impossible to imagine how even the great Wes Anderson might have improved on this one.
An industrial-luxe living space, and one of the hotel's light-filled suites.
Sprawling over 52sq m, all 140 rooms offer a nothing-feels-accidental, industrial-luxe aesthetic. Think more books, more art, exposed brickwork, a huge bed with buttery tan leather headboard, fully stocked bar, coffee machine, white sofa, round, flokati-covered chair, desk - with red rotary phone - and magnificent freestanding copper bathtub.
Bathrooms have bespoke scarlet tiles, standalone brass showers and built-to-last Catchpole & Rye fittings - after getting used to a wooden toilet seat, you'll never want to encounter another plastic one again.
What's for breakfast?
Not just for residents, Café Stamba is a favourite meeting place among local hot-deskers, offering all of the kudos of a London members' club without any of the "look at me" vibes. Start with the organic in-house-roasted coffee - ethically sourced in Costa Rica, Columbia, Venezuela and Madagascar - then take your pick from a menu that runs the gamut from matcha yoghurt and homemade viennoiserie to ricotta pancakes with banana and honey.
Lunch and dinner?
You'll gladly return to Café Stamba. Decked out in soothing, sage-green mosaic tiles, the all-day menu delivers an avant-garde take on Georgia's diverse cuisine, along with the spoils of its open Asian kitchen, whose specialities include ramen and in-house-made noodles. Try the famously indulgent cheesy khachapuri - best paired, the traditional way, with a glass of cream soda-flavoured Laghidze water - then work your way through a menu of crowd-pleasing Georgian classics such as a caramelised plum salad, Georgian trout with sautéed swiss chard, and chicken with pomegranate and walnuts. Desserts are as gorgeous as the signature blue crockery on which they're served.
Take a look inside Stamba Hotel...
Is there a bar?
A local institution, the Pink Bar serves up zingy cocktails, craft beers and spirits under a glittering, outsized crystal chandelier. Our order? A slow dive - a blend of chacha, pisco, port, pear liqueur and lime. For people-watching, grab a seat in the Lobby Bar.
All the home-from-home comforts you could hope for, from fast, free WiFi to fluffy robes and high-end, heavenly fragranced Prija products. Don't leave without visiting The Shop - a destination in its own right selling design-led gifts, art prints, locally made jewellery and a range of pyjamas, jumpsuits and vintage fabric co-ords whipped up in the in-house atelier. Also unmissable is the second-floor Tbilisi Photography & Multimedia Museum, where a Patti Smith show is in the pipeline. Check the website for dates.
What are the hotel's eco-credentials like?
Robust, across the board, but particularly of note is the SpaceFarms hydroponics project, which produces - at twice the speed of traditional growing methods and using 75 per cent less water - pesticide-free leafy and micro greens, miniature vegetables and edible flowers for the hotel and beyond. The rest of the produce comes from the Adjara Group's 15,000 hectares of responsibly farmed arable land in Kakheti, a 90-minute drive east of the capital.
A colourful coffee station, left, and a sneak peek at what's on the menu.
What's the crowd like?
Berlin-cool creatives and next-gen entrepreneurs.
Within a short walk I can find?
While Rustaveli Avenue - site of the Georgian National Museum, the Opera and Ballet Theater and the Parliament of Georgia - is practically on your doorstep, make time, too, to zig-zag around Vera's hilly backstreets, home to vintage boutiques that look more like galleries (including the swoon-worthy Fidel), pet shops, old-school tailors, cafés, restaurants (Alubali is a standout) and hidden gardens.
Things I should know
Stamba's older sister, Rooms Tbilisi, and its restaurant, The Kitchen, can be accessed via a connecting tree-lined courtyard complete with events-ready amphitheatre, part of Adjara Group's ever-growing co-working development, D Block, or through a subterranean car park - think John Wick's Continental Hotel.
Early flight to catch? Order a breakfast to go from reception. Any of the four box options will go some way towards easing the pain of leaving.
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