News & Reviews Europe Greece Review: One&Only Aesthesis, Greece

Dorsia Rating:

3/5

Desperation makes us do strange things.  Consider the harrowing dash across the mine-strewn Korean Demilitarized Zone in search of freedom, or the poignant sacrifice of self-immolation for a cause.  Or running out of toilet roll and being forced to wipe on the cat.  Kamikaze pilots.  James Franco cut his arm off in 127 Hours as he hated hiking that much.  Kayne West crashing Taylor Swift’s speech.  Or anything Kanye West does.  And every Nicholas Cage decision since 2010.  One&Only Aesthesis plugs into this human desperation.  It offers you a solution to be in Athens if you’re absolutely desperate to be in Athens.  Except you’re not in Athens.

Setting

Nestled a mere 35 minutes from Athens Airport, the One&Only Aesthesis exists in what can only be described as real estate limbo—too far to be a convenient city hotel, yet too close to pass as a resort.  It is the luxury hotel equivalent of Schrödinger’s Cat, attempting to be both, but never one or the other.  You’re close enough to hear the buzz of traffic and feel the city’s pulse, yet your view is less Acropolis and more “Ah, crap, is that a cruise ship?”.  So, it defaults to being a resort—but, why would you want a resort here?  The azure waters of Fiji it is not.  It’s like if Atlantis, after Bahamas and Dubai, decided their next location was Bognor Regis.

We arrived to a very serene (read: half-empty) property.  Entering through a large, open-plan reception area that was a cross between a lobby and a magic trick.  Don’t look over there!  The upstairs balcony overlooks the sea—or at least, I think it’s the sea.  The derelict buildings and the nearby poorer neighbourhoods drown it out.  And the cruise ship, in the near distance, gives all the exclusivity of a free-for-all at your mum’s house.

I might not have made it clear: but I’m not keen on the location.  However, the property itself has clearly had a few pieces of gold thrown at it.  The decor is modern and well thought through, with a palette of earth tones accented by deep blues and vibrant whites, and embellished with natural materials like polished wood, marble, and stone.

This reception area is the heart of the resort, housing the majority of amenities including the beach and restaurants—all conveniently close.  The beach leaves a lot to be desired, but you probably guessed that already.  There is a mixture of generic and spectacular spread around.  The architecture is mostly simplistic, but the interiors do their best to compensate.

Facilities

So now I’ve concluded how pointless existence is, let me bring some happiness back and explain why living isn’t such a chore.  Firstly, they have an ice cream shop and if that doesn’t save you, nothing will.

Despite the beach feeling a bit like a music festival with its tightly packed sun loungers, the rest of the facilities exude a sense of luxury.  The reception area, the real hub of the place, is conveniently close to three pools, including a shaded kids’ pool, and surrounded by inviting cabanas.

All the other facilities – the spa, gym, and kids club – are just a short walk from the reception.  There’s a yoga pavilion, two tennis courts with a pro shop and bar, and a spa complete with a full-length pool.  The gym offers outdoor equipment – which is basically some weights and a single machine for proving you are 100% man and can do callisthenics.  The gym is decent, though you’d expect something bigger for such a sprawling property.  The spa, a Guerlain—the first in Greece—feels less pioneering than it sounds, as they’re now showing up more often than Espa and stupidity.  The design is more understated than, say, Cheval Blanc Randheli, but it serves its purpose.  There’s also a beauty salon and one of those trendy cryo chambers that I bet will go the same way as curved TVs.  In 10 years time, we’ll look back and laugh at how stupid those idiots in the past were, whilst doing something equally ridiculous, like giving AI the nuclear codes.

The separate changing rooms come with a sauna, steam room, and ice fountain—unfortunately, they’re gender-specific, so Lucie and I couldn’t enjoy them together.

The standout feature for us is the Kids Club, which, if we’re claiming this is a city hotel, is easily the best I’ve ever seen.  If we’re calling it a resort, it’s one of the best I’ve seen in Europe.  It boasts a substantial outdoor playground, a huge shaded area, perfect for dodging bad weather or the midday sun, and offers daily activities that really engage the kids.  There are multiple rooms, including one for arts and crafts and a music room stocked with instruments and books.  Plus, there’s a PS5, which I will always approve of.  For me, that is.  The internet, however, left much to be desired.  It cut me off more often than my ex’s.

Room

If you’re contemplating a stay here and find the room options overwhelmingly confusing, you’re not alone.  I had to ask them to send over a marked map just to figure out what was what, and even then, my tiny brain felt like it was solving a maze designed by the ghost of Escher.  It finally made sense once I arrived, but it was possibly the most baffling room selection process I’ve ever encountered.  And if you’re thinking, “But isn’t it your job to know this stuff?” I say this to you, “It’s E. L. James’ job to write, and look how that turned out.”

Our suite – one of their top one-bedroom suites, the Riviera Bungalow Suite Seafront – was situated right at the edge of the development, adjacent to where the villas begin.  The rooms are quite spread out and buggies are offered to take you around.  We prefer walking, and with our room the furthest point away from reception, it never proved an issue, even with the children in strollers.

Upon arriving at our room, we started to go through the stay list.  First item: don’t give us a cot.  Guess what was in the bedroom?  A cot.  Then there was the now infamous teepee, which looked like it was barely standing—perhaps the perfect metaphor for the service.  On the brighter side, they did include some cakes, kid-themed sweets, and a beautiful hamper of products from the local market, which was extremely generous.

Privacy is a serious issue.  It’s possibly the least private place I’ve ever stayed.  Had I sent my drone up, I could’ve collected enough compromising footage to last year’s—though, frankly, a phone camera would suffice.  The vegetation, pretty and flowery as it is, needs to mature significantly to provide any real privacy.  The gardener needs to start juicing his fertiliser or something as until the plants have grown; it’s like a free-for-all to spy on everyone.  Accessing the beach required parading past other guest’s rooms, while our courtyard was overlooked by two other rooms.  From our pool, we could look up and see into others’ pools – you could practically whisper to your neighbours above on their balcony and have a coherent conversation.  Our suite was like a stage set for the amusement of others.  It’s someone else’s Amphitheatre.

The suite’s courtyard features a small pool and a large daybed.  For those with kids, beware the pool.  It’s more Arctic plunge than sunny swim and doubles as a potential “Where did the kids go?” panic inducer.

From the courtyard, you enter the living area, which is beautifully decorated with an abundance of wood, stone, mirrors, and light colours, enhanced by floor-to-ceiling glass facing the ocean.  The design is quite beautiful and thoughtfully laid out, with only one flaw: the bathroom feels like navigating a tight subway car during rush hour, and it lacks the luxury of Japanese toilets.  It’s surprisingly cramped for a new build.  At least the wardrobes, though not huge, manage to keep your luggage out of sight.

The living room offers the basics of comfort: a sofa, dining table, and large glass doors with a sea view.  The suite thoughtfully provides two bathrooms—one off the living room and the other adjacent to the bedroom.  However, I immediately noticed a broken rail in the room, raising concerns about recurring maintenance issues reminiscent of those at One&Only Mandarina.  Mandarin Oriental is known for opening strong and quickly fading, and I hope One&Only doesn’t follow a similar pattern as they continue to expand.

The in-room dining menu is interesting—it’s displayed on the TV in a font size that would challenge a microscope.  The blackouts – not even close; they gave a very comfy eyemask instead, just accepting their immediate failure.  And the toilet door is see-through – at what stage of your relationship are you in for this to not be a problem?  Definitely not newbie, “sun shines out of their arse” type, as you’ll literally be able to see that for yourselves.

Step onto the balcony, and you can practically join your neighbours for a nightcap without either of you moving an inch, thanks to the “what’s privacy?” design.  The partitioning between your balcony and your neighbours is, well, nonexistent.  The balcony stretches generously, offering sun loungers, a cosy sofa, and even an elegant fireplace for evening chill-outs.  However, while you have ample space to bask in, you might occasionally find yourself on a casual stroll through your neighbour’s lounge area just to reach the beach, being able to stare into their room – or vice versa.

The outdoor spaces are genuinely the selling point.  It’s a shame that it suffers so badly from privacy, as everything else is a minor issue that can be overcome or forgiven.

Food

At the time of writing, there are only two restaurants, but a third, a Peruvian spot, is set to open soon.  Ora is their nearly all-day dining option, while El Bar de Paco Morales serves up dinner.  Both were (mostly) fantastic.  The fish of the day for lunch was amazing—often, this dish can be an excuse to serve whatever three-eyed abomination was found near the sewer, but here, combined with the sauce, it was phenomenal.

The breakfast buffet offers a decent selection of salad bar items, fruits, cheeses, and pastries, complemented by a solid à la carte menu featuring Greek and international options.  I would love to tell you about some of their hot breakfast dishes, but they forgot to bring them.

El Bar has a unique way of welcoming guests.  We waited and waited to get a table while other guests pushed past us.  The tapas-style food was superb and high quality.  We enjoyed it, and even the kids got excited over caviar.  Live music starts at 8 PM, adding to the ambience.  The only disappointment was a dried-out chicken main course, which they promptly removed from the bill, along with comping the desserts.

There are also three bars, although they are essentially clustered near the reception and beach area.

Service

Service was a mixed bag.  It wasn’t about laziness—more about a chronic case of forgetfulness and a consistent misunderstanding of our requests.  Like most One&Only resorts, you get a host who is more like a dedicated receptionist than a butler.  Your experience largely depends on how good your host is, and ours was both forgetful and inexperienced.  Our messages seemed to disappear into the digital void, and there was a constant eagerness to please and say yes, but without actually comprehending what we were asking for.

Housekeeping did turndown at 6pm on the first night, which gave me all the feels and showed someone grasped the needs of families with young children.  But then the next day, they took over five hours to show up after multiple requests.  The cot we asked to be removed?  It made it as far as our courtyard, where it stayed until we left.

The service policy here seems to be: Don’t ask, don’t get.  And if you do ask?  Well, ask again.  And again.  You’ll often find yourself repeating your room number and ordering multiple times—even for something as simple as Greek yoghurt.  It’s a Greek yoghurt.  It’s your own yoghurt!  It’d be like someone asking me, a Brit, for Spotted Dick and ending up with a wildly inappropriate misunderstanding.

On our final day, my host messaged to ask when we were leaving, despite me speaking to him in person the day before about our departure and him promising to confirm our pick-up from Kea Island.  Reservations were initially clueless about our transfer, and I was repeatedly asked if they could assist with a transfer I had already arranged.  I must have spent over an hour of my stay discussing our transfers and departure.  It felt less like organising a ride and more like negotiating a treaty.

The Good

  • Food
  • Spa
  • Gym

The Bad

  • Location
  • Service

The Luxurious

  • Kids Club

Conclusion

One&Only Aesthesis is equally spectacular and generic.  The issue I have is: what’s the point of it all?  It’s a (mostly) good setup in a terrible location.  No one comes to Athens to avoid being in Athens.  You’re not paying for a superb beach or view here; in fact, you’re mostly surrounded by derelict buildings.  Is this supposed to be a city resort?  A place where you visit Athens without the indignity of actually staying in it?  You see the sights for a few days and then head elsewhere?  If that’s the case, the price is hard to swallow.  Going to Athens and staying here is like hitting the quiet beaches of Dover with your mate Baz and claiming you stormed Normandy.

But this is a luxury travel blog, and I’ve done many a desperate thing to stay somewhere and ensure it’s in luxury.  So if you really want to pretend you’re in Athens or need somewhere to stay for a layover, then One&Only Aesthsis is the best option. But coming here for the sake of the property?  That’s more nuts and desperate than queuing in a blizzard to get Bill Cosby tickets.

Suites start from €5,000/n

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 18th Jun '24

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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