Unique on every level, the Quadrille is the magical hotel that Gdynia deserves
I’m a beer-bellied bloke in his 40s, so I’m rather ill-qualified to judge just what constitutes ‘on-edge’.
Bizarrely, however, that does nothing to deter people from asking me. “Where’s cool in Poland,” ranks somewhere near the top of questions that I face on an all too frequent basis.
For the record, my stock answer hasn’t really changed in over a decade: Katowice and Łódź I’ll usually reply. As former sites of heavy industry, their history has proved conducive to modern-minded reinvention; once scarred by abandoned facilities, today these have been intelligently utilised and revived, lending their gritty host towns a sense of dynamic, artsy thrust.
But then there’s Gdynia. Hardly fitting the above model, this coastal town has nonetheless also entered a new, exciting era in which it has appeared to capture the very essence of contemporary Poland.
For sure, big ticket events such as the Open’er Festival have helped elevate its profile among a younger audience, but so too has the regeneration of its inter-war modernist architecture. Attracting a new wave of creative professionals, the Gdynia of today is spoiled by its wealth of hip cafes, maverick bars and trending restaurants. In terms of aesthetics, few cities feel as design-forward as this town.
Despite that, I’m a firm believer that you can’t market yourself as a hip and happening city unless you have a hotel to aptly reflect that. Fortunately, in the shape of the Quadrille, Gdynia has exactly that.
So named after ‘The Lobster Quadrille’, a dance once performed by the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon in Alice in Wonderland, I must make it clear that I had strongly wanted to dislike this hotel.
As a premise, the idea of theming your accommodation around the works of Lewis Carroll sounded fiercely silly and overly contrived. In short, I feared a barbarically tacky bastardization of a literary classic. How wrong I was.
But before I go into that, some history is in order. Housed in an 18th century palace in the leafy suburb of Orłowo – itself an area lined with elegant villas and neatly-trimmed lawns – the property took shape under the auspices of the von Krockow dynasty.
Originally influenced by the Baroque and Rococo trends of the time, in 1847 the estate was purchased by Baron Wilhelm von Brauchitsch – the Starost of the Gdańsk District, and a gentleman enigmatically described on Quadrille’s website as being “a secret advisor in Koszalin”.
It was on his behest that the palace took its current form, shedding its more ornate trimmings to instead tout the kind of Neo Gothic form you’ll find in a Hammer Horror production. As part of his sweeping renovations, the gardens too were transformed to become more English in their styling.
Switching into Polish hands in 1920, it fleetingly served as the seat of the Union of Polish Teachers until being seized by the Gestapo in 1939 for the duration of the occupation – their activities here remain largely wrapped in mystery, and that’s perhaps for the best.
Then housing a high school for six decades, it was finally purchased in 2006 by the local real estate developer Przedsiębiorstwo Budowlane Górski. Briefly rented to the newly-born Gdynia Film School, it was after their short tenure that the palace truly took its next step forward.
Handed the reins by their father, in came Anna and Martyna Górskie. Brought up as kids on a diet of Alice in Wonderland (“we watched the VHS tape in the 1980s until it fell apart,” they have been quoted as previously saying), it was these sisters that envisaged the palace as a celebration of Lewis Carroll.
As ambitious and absurd as this plan was, it ultimately bore fruit when the Quadrille eventually opened for bookings in 2015.
And really, what a place this is. Presenting a lemon-coloured façade, guests enter to step inside an extraordinary realm whose impact is immediate: chessboard floors leading to a reception desk so tall that the staff barely peer above the counter.
Instantly, one gets the idea of this hotel’s guiding playful principles, and this feeling is amplified the more you explore: upstairs, a high-ceilinged living room has been eclectically equipped with armchairs and sofas, the vibrant colours clashing well with the stark white stucco embellishments.
Even the corridors feel special – details abound, not least portraits of the owners reimagined in the form of Carrol’s fantastical characters. Some might see this as an act of tremendous hubris, but for me they impart a quirky individuality and lend further personality to this curious space – hell, if I was the owner damn right you’d find pictures of me dressed in Mad Hatter costume.
But it’s not just Lewis Carrol that is celebrated. Riffing on literary inspirations, suites have been bestowed with high-brow names. Designed to “emphasize the ethereal and fanciful feminine nature”, the Nabokov suite is a pleasure of pastels; suitably theatrical, the Flaubert, meanwhile, follows a boudoir style and comes decked out with feathery lamps. Of course, there is the Lewis Carrol itself, a whimsical joy that marries elements of vintage to the present day.
Being a cheapskate though, I opted for a single (PLN 380) and found myself climbing a small but sweeping staircase leading to an attic room honouring Jane Austen. Deliciously plush on the eye, its luxury makes a mockery of the kind of singles that I’ve stayed in before. And as a devoted fan of primates, the monkey wallpaper feels a witty touch.
Executed with deft aplomb, there is nothing in this hotel that feels like a misstep. Every surface, ever corner and every little nook has a purpose or some tiny magic detail: a trinket of some sort whether it be a book or a photo or some charming decoy to keep you amused.
These are not superfluous flights of stupidity, but rather part of an over-arching strategy aimed at delivering an experience that you won’t forget.
Moreover, it is a detail-minded, quality-driven approach that heightens with the F&B – a ground floor restaurant (The White Rabbit) whose intimacy and creativity have made it one of the premier dining rooms in the Tri-City, and a downstairs cellar bar in which smartly-attired staff fix cocktails tailored to individual demands (granted, in my case that’s hardly a challenge: “anything that gets me smashed,” I answer when the barman enquires as to my alcoholic preferences).
Housing also a premium standard spa and pool – itself accessed in a separate building via a surreal underground passage – it is a hotel that leaves an imprint on all those that stay. And a positive one at that.
Billing itself as a venue for ‘adults only’, this in itself is a masterful triumph; I’m not one of those Dickensian villains that believes children should eat gruel and be kept locked in workhouses, but too many times I’ve had a posh palace stay wrecked by kids thundering over the floorboards as they wreak riotous havoc – you end up more stressed than when you arrived. At the Quadrille, that is no such problem.
Carefully balancing lavish extravagance with style and grace, it is a hotel that meets its own hype. Unique on every level, it is the special hotel that Gdynia deserves.