A hotel whose architectural grandeur and finishing touch leaves you breathless
If you are compiling a list of say, Nine Wonders of Nigerian Hotels, it will be difficult to omit its name. Its dazzling beauty leaves you gobsmacked. If you are led blindfolded into its lobby or any one of its rooms, you would be stunned by the sight before you. And if you have knowledge of architecture, you would for a moment contemplate that perhaps you were somewhere inside St Louis Castle. Facades, arches, portals, chandeliers and hues––so grand they seem to be a verisimilitude of Château de Versailles. It is not out of vanity the hotel’s name is Lilygate. Indeed, it has the elegance of fleur-de-lis, the stylised lily adopted as a decorative symbol of French royalty. Lilygate is architectural beauty by another name. As I was to find out later, it is a dream that has its roots in Paris.
Its va-va-voom fills me with a sense of cinematic déjà vu. Where have I seen this plush, exquisite setting? I wrack my brain. Oh, yeah: The Wedding Party. That opens the floodgate of memory. A rush of recall of flashes of its splendour in a couple of music videos––Davido’s “Hookah” and D’Prince’s “OYO.”
You would find Lilygate nestling in a corner at Olubunmi Owa Street, off Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase I, in an environment of quietude that insulates it from the crazy Lagos atmosphere.
Now three years in existence, it is the brainchild of Chief Julius Ama Orji, a man known for not doing things by half measure, a man described by Ukpai Ama Orji, managing director of Lilygate, as “a traveller, someone who is picky of service and a connoisseur of architectural beauty.”
Chief Orji, who is also the hotel’s executive chairman, explains the hotel’s French connection. “I lived in Paris for a long time with my family, my kids were born in Paris,” says he, “ I have been to Fleur de Lys in Paris. Lily is a beautiful flower of its kind and we decided to give this edifice a name that can reflect what you see when you come into this hotel.”
The art in the architecture and ambience, he says, is directly influenced by his long years of enjoying the beauty of Paris’ hotels.
To build Lilygate, he discloses, “I brought people from all over the world.” The marbles were designed overseas and produced to fit. For this custom-made hotel, the marbles and tiles were laid by workers from Benin Republic, who were complemented in other areas by skilled artisans from Togo.
However, the hotel is a not a replica of any other. “I have a vision of the type of hotel I wanted in my head,” he says.
That vision was driven by one philosophy: to change Nigerians’ orientation of going to Dubai to see wonder hotels.
According to him: “I wanted to give them the luxury hotels they go to see in Dubai. That was why we partner with the producers of The Wedding Party so we could showcase that what our people jet out to Dubai to see is just around the corner here in Lekki.”
Built under three years and half, Lilygate is a 74-bedroom edifice comprising two business suits, four executive suites, 32 standard rooms and 36 superior rooms that altogether scream of luxury, art and state of the art in design, fixtures and fitting. The swimming pool (or rather the poolside setting) is surreal. The gym is as good as you can get in top hotels round the world. The terrace, cozy with “luscious garden atmosphere is perfect to unwind with a cool drink.” From Thursday through the weekends, it is the heart of the hotel. There on weekends, guests – describes by Ukpai as “highly corporate” – are fete by a live band, from 7 to 10 pm, with variety of savoury victuals available for the asking, from small chops to fried chickens to grilled fish and salad.
The banquet hall––fine and fabulous with magnificent chandeliers––can accommodate as many as 200 and can easily transforms into a glamorous ballroom. It makes you dream of a fairytale wedding, one as colourful as a Disneyland production.
As for its two boardrooms––suitable for executive meetings of 25 and 30 people––there is nothing better to ask for. The opulence of Restaurant Dunya, spacious for a set of 70 diners, is the very idea of a king’s banquet.
Overall, one can detect high attention to details in all ramifications. You can feel the little touches that make the difference in the design, texture and tone, everything, including the walls.
On Sunday, brunch, from 12 noon till 4 pm, draws people from the neighbourhood, to Lilygate, courtesy of its omnibus cuisines. But really, the richness of the cuisines is in the Egyptian chef, described as a man that comes up with rich menus. His specialty is The African Platter. What is it really? The Yoruba word is Orisirisi for The African Platter is a mixture of everything: chicken, beef, snail, this and that, a bit of all. Nobody eats once and fails to come back for a second helping, Ukpai brags. The regulars are there: homemade apple-pie, burger, club sandwich, salad and Shawarma.
The man behind the menu is Chef Hesham Ali. A medium height smiley face fellow who has spent three years in Nigeria, and was formerly a chef at Eko Hotel. Ali has to his credit over 20 years experience as a chef in Egypt’s finest five-star hotels in Cairo, including J.W Marriot, Intercontinental Cairo Semiramis, and also Sheraton and Hilton. Chef Ali takes particular pride in his Catfish Pepper Soup, which they said people are willing to wait for it.
Since its grand opening on October 6, 2013, Lilygate has been one of the biggest fascinations with the Lagos’ corps of professional photographers. For wedding photo shoot, photographers think it is the ultimate location.
“We charge and they pay,” Ukpai avows, “We even put the time to 10 to 3pm, and still they patronise us.”
That speaks volume about its allure.
The Lilygate vision is to be one of the best boutique hotels in Lagos, with emphasis on service delivery. That is why it joined the Preferred Hotel Group whose portfolio includes some of world’s independent but stylish boutique hotels and hotel groups across 85 countries.
“As an independent hotel, our target is the standards of global hotels. That is why we joined Preferred, to look like a global brand so that whoever comes to Lilygate can take for granted the quality assurance that the Preferred group in the US, UK, or South Africa.”
It is in pursuit of that QA that the hotel rolled out a gratifying loyalty programme, which already have “over 10,000 registered members.”
For members, the benefits include redeeming their points by spending as many as seven days in any Preferred Group hotel while abroad without any payment.
In the next four years, Lilygate plans to build branches across Nigeria, starting with Abuja and Port Harcourt, and expanding in Lagos to Ikeja, and Ikoyi.
The hotel has its management team, but the chairman is always around. For him, “sitting and watching the operation from the backend has been a positive experience.” That way, there is synergy between him and management to forestall a complacency that could lead to decline in value.
Just for the record, I ask Ukpai: “What is Lilygate’s USP?”
He tells me in few words: First, the serene ambiance, which makes it the to-go hotel when privacy matters. Two, in his words: “Our lobby. It can compete with the best of hotel anywhere in the world.”
That’s true. I have not seen a hotel with a lobby of that intensity. It captivates, the curves and angles, excellent architectural geometry, polished off with marbles and colourful aesthetics.
It was Ernest Hemingway who say: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
In Lilygate, Chief Julius Ama Orji brought with him a piece of Paris.
If you need inspiration about a deluxe home designed, go spend a night at Hotel Lilygate – I recommend the business suit – and your idea of palatial homes will be changed forever after that rich and lavish visual experience.
Finally, my memory clicked as we rounds up our tour, the moment we are coming down the curvy staircase of ornate wrought-iron railings of arabesque design. Gotcha! Titanic. Remember the moment when Jack Dawson meet Rose DeWitt Bukater at the RMS Titanic’s Grand Staircase before dashing off to the ballroom?
The staircase is the key.
A hotel of “Titanic” grandeur.