What is the best advice you have ever received?
Marc Ciunis: Life is too short for bad wine and only moderate food. Always quality!
Anne-Marie Bauer: Listen to your gut. There’s a reason why the poet said, “First thought, best thought!” We tend to know what is right but often spend many unnecessary hours trying to convince ourselves why we shouldn’t do what we know we should. Courage to act is 90 percent of the battle.
So being courageous helps you to avoid having any regrets in life. But is there anything that haunts you?
AMB: Actually, no there is nothing. I would do everything exactly the same—even knowing in advance how it has all turned out.
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.
How important is design to you and how big a role did it play in the conception of Tortue Hamburg?
AMB: Design is hugely important, but it always has to be practical. It shouldn’t be fun just to be fun. Or surprising just to surprise. Those features are great, but not at the expense of the larger mission, which is to create a pleasing, cohesive, and fresh visual experience for guests.
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.
How did the look and feel of the hotel take shape?
AMB: It was largely about flow and expectation. When you stroll the Stadthöfe between Stadthausbrücke, Grosse Bleichen, and Neuer Wall, you find yourself right in the middle of Hamburg's history. Between 1806 and 1814, the city was a department of Paris, and Napoleon brought a savoir-vivre to the city that had not previously existed. Then, it was all about slowing down and having fine things to appreciate and savor. That’s why we put an idyllic courtyard in the heart of Tortue, and why a vaulted passageway leads guests from the city center into another world.
MC: That’s the feeling we try to bring across with Tortue Hamburg, the transition to a slower time, to 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.
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!
AMB: For me, it was when a burglar broke into my home. I was there at the time. Fortunately, I was able to get him to run away!
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.
AMB: Which is exactly what we are after with Tortue!
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?
AMB: Mine would be: Where will I be and what will I be doing in 10 years?
CvdH: Ha! I think I have a much simpler question for you, Anne: Where were you at 2pm yesterday?