If you have ever wondered what it was like to play with the jet set in the 1960’s and 70’s then Round Hill in Jamaica is a good place to start your research. From the old black-and-white photographs of visiting celebrities, to the piano in the bar, to the colonial style architecture and brass fixtures, the resort is a glimpse of an era of luxury and privilege when Jamaica was regarded as an exclusive destination for the rich and famous with a price tag that few could aspire to. Or could even aspire to today. Make no mistake Round Hill is very far from a cheap resort for masses of tourists; the place is not cheap and the style is not cheap. Round Hill is all about total elegant excellence: the design, the style, the bathroom fixtures, the soap, the towels, the pool, the food and, most importantly, the staff.
As soon as you walk in you are greeted warmly, usually with your name, and there is a genuine desire to make you feel comfortable. A lot of this casual elegance is mediated through the manager, Josef Forstmayr, who is an outstanding professional and who must be one of the best in the business. Clearly he is a very skilful leader and selector of staff. His attention to detail is extraordinary - because nothing is overlooked - and he brings warmth and passion to his work as well as a great sense of humour.
I’ve been on a number of occasions both for work and with my family so I have experienced a variety of sides to it. My children gave it a huge thumbs-up (despite the lack of waterslides, TV’s and other cruder entertainments). The children particularly loved the floor show at dinner – including fire eaters, limbo and contortionists. It felt a bit retro but my children absolutely loved it – they are still talking about the man who put the flaming torch down his underpants.
The food is quite delicious and healthy. A very wide menu with daily specials and a variety of locations to eat. One meal sticks in my mind: a mixed salad with arugula/rocket, the superb house dressing, as well as the avocado and crab salad (I was being greedy). For the main course jumbo shrimp cooked with garlic on a bed of stewed vegetables, with buttery mashed potato. The restaurant was full that night but the meal tasted as if it had been hand-cooked for me (maybe it had – I have no idea how many chefs they have..). The vegetables and salad are grown locally and you can taste it in each mouthful – the tomatoes explode with richsun-filled juice in your mouth. That night there was a whole range of East Asian and Indian curries on offer as well as the standard menu with a full range of seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes. I wanted to eat at least eight different dishes. A tour of the kitchens or even a table inside them would be fascinating. The children were able to get all their favourites (pizza, pasta, chicken and rice, fries etc) but they were of high quality.
Gazing out over the sea as a fully-lit cruise ship left Montego Bay, listening to the waves on the beach, drinking Pinot Grigio in the candlelight I could see how good a honeymoon hotel this was.
If the overall style of Round Hill is old-fashioned, elegant, and patrician (and proudly so) the resort is far from being a museum. It is exceptionally tasteful, happy and constantly renewed. Each villa has its own distinct personality and homeliness. The hotel rooms are cool and stylish (designed by Ralph Lauren I was told in a sort of retro-nautical style with big brass fixtures and everything painted white, bamboo beds made in Jamaica, candles and easy chairs and views over the bay) and the entire grounds are a thing of wonder. The gardens are bursting with Jamaican colour: anybody interested in tropical gardens should visit as there is a super-abundance of gorgeous plants and small garden areas arranged in a hybrid species of English/tropical garden (ie ordered chaos). If you care to explore there are walkways and jogging tracks for miles through the woods and coastline.
I never went to the spa but I plan to... one day, when i have more money.
But it is the staff that make it – the sheer care taken with our children was extraordinary. Hercules, the water sports man, had a big impact on their holiday and clearly enjoyed his work; it is a happy, intimate place, the more so because there aren’t loads of people there. The staff never look rushed and seem to take a delight in personal contact in a totally non-formulaic way. The only person who rushes around is Josef Fortmayr who spends his day bounding around the huge complex ensuring everything is perfect and everyone is happy.
Criticisms? My children would lament the lack of water slides and TV’s, which obviously reflects the hotel’s distinct sense of taste that appeals to a more sober crowd. But for me it such a relief to have so little noise, except the tree frogs, cicadas and the water. It’s a great place to read and think. It they could only ban cell phones it would be perfect. The gentle walk along the side of the water on the little trail to the spa house is a perfect way to finish dinner. Tranquility.
My guilty pleasure? The underfloor heating in the hotel rooms – it makes such a difference to a nighttime visit.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Round Hill Hotel and Villas is situated on a lush 110-acre peninsula just west of Montego Bay, Jamaica. Boasting a guest list of world leaders, cultural icons and Hollywood A-listers, this classic resort continues to attract a jet-set from around the world who enjoy timeless glamour and understated luxury along with pristine natural beaches and the inimitable Caribbean waters. Accommodations include 36 Ralph Lauren-designed oceanfront guest rooms, 90 luxurious villa rooms and suites or a selection of 27 private 2 - 6 bedroom Villas – most with private pools. Other highlights include open-air terrace dining and The Grill at Round Hill, award-winning family programs, an infinity pool, tennis courts, and an Elemis spa located in a beautifully-restored 18th century plantation house. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Round Hill Hotel And Villas
- Round Hill Resort
- Round Hill Jamaica
- Round Hill Hotel & Villas Jamaica/Montego Bay