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Marc Ciunis & Carsten von der Heide
Reinventing a City Center

01 MBO Tortue Hamburg Header Carsten Van Der Heide Marc Ciunis
  • Words Ken Baron
  • Images Steve Herud

By mining the spirit of Hamburg’s French past—and their own spirited way of looking at life—this veteran hospitality duo has reshaped an entire district in Hamburg’s heart.

On the outside looking in, you wouldn’t take Marc Ciunis and Carsten von der Heide to be the fun-loving hospitality gurus that they are. Sure, both complement each other’s skills perfectly: Ciunis is a renowned nightlife impresario, with a host of Hamburg hotspots to his name. And Von der Heide is the much-celebrated restaurateur behind a number of important upscale establishments in the city. But sit them down together for a serious chat and beware the lighthearted sense of perspective that rules the day!

02 MBO Tortue Hamburg Canal View
03 MBO Tortue Hamburg Harbour Boats

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Marc Ciunis: Life is too short for bad wine and only moderate food. Always quality!

So being bold helps you to avoid having regrets in life. But is there anything that haunts you?

MC: Well, one thing does haunt me: Long ago I opened a beverage company with partners who didn’t understand business as well as I did. And after about nine months, it was all over.

002 Tortue Marc Ciunis

“Only when relaxing are we truly receptive to the beautiful in life.”

Marc Ciunis

How important is design to you and how big a role did it play in the conception of Tortue Hamburg?

MC: With Tortue Hamburg, one should remember that its Stadthöfe district setting is a unique complex of five detached houses connected by four courtyards in the middle of downtown. Only through the purchase of the ensemble were we able to revitalize this area with gastronomy and the hotel. So, in many ways, our design scheme included the city itself!

Carsten von der Heide: Exactly. We designed and formed an urban mix of retail, restaurant, residential, office, and boutique hotel, and all with the goal of creating a new go-to location in Hamburg’s center.

So in a way, you created a city within the city.

MC: Yes, that’s the feeling we try to bring across with Tortue Hamburg, but also with the transition to a slower time, to a place where one need never hurry. Et voila! The turtle—the hotel’s namesake—reminds us to take our time. Only when relaxing are we truly receptive to the beautiful in life.

CvdH: Critical to this sense of relaxing is providing guests with a variety of excellent gastronomic offerings, so that they can have good food and conversation by a fireplace in the bar, dine on exquisite cuisine, or celebrate an authentic nightlife experience with a good mix of locals.

05 MBO Tortue Hamburg Restaurant Interior
06 MBO Tortue Hamburg Turtle Sculpture

Opening a new hotel can certainly be a scary process. But outside the business arena, what was the scariest thing that you ever experienced?

MC: During a wine tasting in the South of France, there was a power outage. So when it ended, I staggered away in the pitch dark and fell into a two-meter deep hole. Nobody knew where I was—least of all me!

Were there any contemporary inspirations for Tortue?

MC: The two brothers behind Hôtel Costes, in Paris. We wanted very much to adapt their mix of classic French flair with a fine-art appeal. And we were lucky because Tortue’s courtyard is a fabulous canvas for this approach.

CvdH: I was inspired by Dirk and Rüdiger Kowalke from the Fischereihafen Restaurant in Hamburg. The way they interact with their guests, the warmth and the personal commitment they emit, is something one would do well to emulate. They create a feeling of inclusion and welcome that is at the core of a meaningful hospitality experience.

07 MBO Tortue Hamburg Cook
08 MBO Tortue Hamburg Food Detail

If you could know the answer to any question, what would it be?

MC: My question would be for my wife: After almost 28 years of marriage, do you still love me as you did on the first day?

009 Tortue Hamburg Harbour View

Featured Hotels

Tortue Hamburg

Tortue Hamburg

Germany, Hamburg

Featured Hotels

Tortue Hamburg

Tortue Hamburg

Germany, Hamburg
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