Historic Bank Transformed Into Luxury Hotel In Bucharest’s Old Town

Historic Bank Transformed Into Luxury Hotel In Bucharest’s Old Town
Culture

Historic Bank Transformed Into Luxury Hotel In Bucharest’s Old Town

Columbia Hillen

Sipping cocktails in an underground 100-year-old bank vault reminiscent of a glamorous speakeasy is a rare treat, but that’s what friends and I enjoyed in the heart of Old Town Bucharest. 

Columbia Hillen

Long before it was renovated and opened as a stately hotel by Lithuania-based Apex Alliance Hotel Management (AAHM) more than two years ago, the Marmorosch Bucharest was one of Romania’s most influential banks during the La Belle Epoque era. Known as Banca Marmorosch Blank, it was established in 1912 by Jacob Marmarosch and Mauriciu Blank and during the 40-60 million euro renovation, the new owners, fully aware of the building’s rich heritage, were determined to retain much of its old decor. That included the bank’s main vault which was creatively transformed by YES architects Indre Sangus and Greta Valikone into an intimate subterranean ‘destination’ bar, complete with wall-lined deposit boxes and a faded gold mat finish. Guests can even leave notes for friends in the boxes. 

Mixologist Mihai Costea. Photo by Columbia Hillen

It was here my wife, Columbia, and friends, Oana and Razvan Velterean imbibed on cocktails prepared by mixologist and sommelier, Mihai Costea, including one comprising vodka, Italicus, an Italian liqueur dating from the 15th century made with rose petals, blended with lychees, lemon and egg white and another featuring Bulleit bourbon, Galliano liqueur, lychee syrup, lemon juice and egg white.

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Nostalgia for a golden past is obvious even before entering the Marmorosch, with a vintage Cadillac parked outside as a symbol of opulence. Inside, a wide marble staircase leads guests to side-by-side reception desks beyond which is an eye-popping architectural vista – a vast atrium flooded with natural light from an ornate, stained glass ceiling high above, with a gleaming checkered marble floor, tall, sandy-colored Corinthian-style pillars and four massive hanging chandeliers. 

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Six arched windows with intricate lace metalwork overlook the scene with two intricately-designed wooden bar counters at the far end once used by bank tellers in their dealings with clients in a bygone age. The lobby also features soft blue and beige armchairs and sofas for guest comfort and authentic artifacts including a banknote cutter, a gramophone, and humorous portraits around the walls. Works by artist Cecilia Cutescu-Storck, a leader of the feminist movement in Romania, decorate walls on the first floor including an impressive fresco entitled ‘Paradise Garden.’

General manager, Ausra Lucinskaite. Photo by Columbia Hillen

General manager, Ausra Lucinskaite, with previous experience at the Grand Hotel Kempinski in Riga and the Park Plaza Riverbank in London, keeps a close eye on proceedings and you’re most likely to see her at her computer in the lobby, one of her favorite places to work. Ausra is one of many women GMs in the AAHM group.

Columbia Hillen

A member of the Autograph Collection comprising 17 hotels including five others in Bucharest, the Marmorosch, now a protected national monument, comprises 217 rooms, a restaurant, ballrooms, a cafe, lounge bars and a fitness center and spa with indoor pool, dry and steam saunas and a treatment center. It also features meeting rooms for business and personal events, the largest accommodating over 100 people.

Columbia Hillen

Our room was spacious reflecting a contemporary design with wooden panelling and neutral gray carpeting. Furnishings included a long writing desk, wide-screen TV, a vivid red armchair and a chic blue headboard and humorous portrait above my bed, with opaque globe lights as reading lamps on either side. Our bathroom featured a glass-enclosed shower with twin shower heads and toiletries by The White Company.

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Fine-dining takes place at the hotel’s Blank restaurant where my companion and I kicked-off our evening with two classic cocktails, a gin martini with olives and a Negroni. To bookend the breadth of the menu created by executive chef, Raymond Chettiar, and head chef, Flaviu Muresan, a generous choice of six starters and salads ranged from foie gras and veal marrow bones to burrata and New Zealand oysters while an impressive list of twelve desserts included pumpkin pie, blueberry fantasy and chocolate pralines.

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To open, we opted for Caesar salad which featured croutons laced with slices of poppy-seed bread, pancetta dust, a light, well-balanced sauce and a generous helping of plump, juicy grilled prawns, all sprinkled with fresh Parmesan. For mains, we moved from land to sea, cutlets of lamb with pistachio and herb crust accompanied by sweet potato purée and tuna steak with truffled mash potatoes.

Columbia Hillen

Being located in the heart of Bucharest, the Marmorosch – formally known as the Marmorosch Bucharest, Autograph Collection – is close to many key city highlights including the National Museum of Romania, a short five-minute walk away, and the historic Old Princely Court, as well as an array of vibrant cafes, bars and shops. 

Columbia Hillen

For exploration trips further afield, the National Art Museum, being 15 minutes away, the hotel also provides free bikes. As a memento of a stay here, guests are also offered the opportunity to have special Marmorosch Gold Coins with their names inscribed on them.



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