By Paul Wade
The Alma is in a residential neighborhood on the east bank of the Mississippi River. Downtown Minneapolis is on the other bank – shops and restaurants, the Mill City Museum, Guthrie Theater and the US Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings American football team. Get there easily by taxi or catch the number six bus, one block away. In fine weather, stroll 15 minutes across the historic Stone Arch Bridge.
Style & character: 8/10
Is this a hotel or a restaurant with rooms? Who cares, when the quality is top notch. Behind the painted red brick façade, the look is thoroughly modern: exposed brick, painted walls and loads of light thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. Furniture is plain and practical; decoration veers towards rustic chic. Note that there are no lifts or overnight reception staff. Think of it as a private hideaway – a stylish home from home.
Service & facilities: 7/10
The small team is eager to help with advice, from what to see in the city to how to get there. Irons and ironing boards are available on request, and there is a safe at the front desk. Instead of spa and fitness facilities, the hotel has arrangements with nearby health clubs for those seeking exercise or a pool (guests will find free classes at nearby Alchemy and Yoga Fit). Nice Ride, the city’s bike sharing scheme, has a docking station across the street. For $9 (£7), overnight valet parking is good value.
In what were once offices, the simple look belies the carefully thought-out design. Walls are soft white, ceilings are high and large windows have wooden shutters. Each room is different, but the blonde wood furniture is custom-made and the decorative touches, from modern woodcuts to antique Japanese calendars, come from around the world. There are robes and slippers, dimmer switches for the lights, and trays for wet or snowy boots – essential in Minnesota’s winters. The tiled bathrooms have spacious walk-in showers. Margo, the owner’s wife, creates the Bespoke Body & Wellness skincare products. Pillows and duvets are down-filled (hypoallergenic by request) and handwoven throws are pure wool.
Food & drink: 9/10
A small display case highlights chef-owner Alex Roberts’ James Beard Foundation award, the highest accolade for chefs in the USA. Roberts’ cooking, dubbed by some as 'Nordic meets New York', is precise but not prissy: top-class fresh produce and clean flavours. The restaurant’s three-course prix fixe dinner ($62/£47) might feature a bison tartare starter, a soft-cooked egg in a mushroom broth with a polenta crouton, and a lightly smoked pork tenderloin. From the crackers and pastas to sourdough loaves, everything is made in-house.
A complimentary continental breakfast is served in The Cafe, with its own bakery counter, bar and all-day menu. On offer are buttery home-made croissants, scones or rhubarb and peach galettes. Guests can pay for heartier fare: French toast or a baked egg strata (similar to a frittata or crustless quiche). Vegan and gluten-free requests are met with a helpful smile.
Value for money: 9/10
Double rooms from $175 (£135) in low season; and from $275 (£215) in high. Continental breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi.
Access for guests with disabilities?
One room on the ground floor is fully accessible, with a ramp and roll-in shower.
This is really a hotel for couples but cots are available.