The most recent hotel opening from Soho House members’ club – joining Dean Street Townhouse and High Road House – might even be the best, perfectly catching the local atmosphere with its unfussy, slightly retro design.
The rooms feel a bit like urban beach huts, with pastel-coloured tongue- and-groove, shutters and swing doors to the en suite showers. They feel fresh, bright and comfortable, even though they’re furnished with little more than a bed, an old-fashioned phone and DAB radio, and a big, solid dresser (minibar, hairdryer and treats within, flatscreen TV on top).
Guests get access to the fine eating, drinking and fitness facilities (yes, there is a gym, but more importantly an excellent rooftop pool) in the members’ club next door. Everything’s put together with a light touch, from the ‘Borrow Me’ bookshelf by the lifts (jelly beans, umbrellas, boardgames) to the room grades: Tiny (from just £105), Small or Small+ (with little rooftop balconies from which to survey the grey horizon).
Thursday April 30 2015
An affordable slice of east London right in the middle of the West End.
Shoebox, Snug, Cosy and Roomy. That’s the choice you get when you stay at The Hoxton’s trendy Holborn outpost, but who cares about room size when you’re just about as close to the centre of London as it’s possible to be – you’ll be right on the doorstep of Covent Garden, Soho and Oxford Street, and the rest of the city is just a couple of stops away on the tube, so sacrificing a few square metres really isn’t a big deal.
In truth, these rooms are so well designed that you barely notice their size. Ours, a Cosy, had a large, circular mirror that helped enlarge the space, reflecting the room’s dark walls, soft lighting and casually hip vibe. Add to this the radio that’s already tuned into a smooth-hits station when you first enter the room, a snazzy TV and the lovely walk-in shower, and it’d be quite easy to spend an entire day lounging around in this place.
If you do want to get out and about there’s a great little map of the local area in each room which is packed with the kind of on-trend recommendations you might ordinarily find in, ahem, Time Out, but you’d do just as well to spend some time in the hotel’s bar, which is decked out in ‘70s furniture and does a mean negroni. Failing that, next door there’s the Holborn Grind – good for both caffeine and cocktails – and Chicken Shop, where you can get a plate of juicy meat for less than a tenner.
If there’s a downside to this place it’s that the foyer has become so popular with the city’s wi-fi-hungry laptop users that it can feel a bit overcrowded and busy when you first walk in, and that’s not necessarily the first impression you want to have if you’ve come here to get away from people and relax. But hey, this is a minor quibble, and just like those guys, you’ll find The Hoxton, Holborn is a hotel you won’t want to leave.
Time Out tip: Just around the corner you’ll find the best doughnut in London at Bread Ahead in Covent Garden’s Seven Dials. Or, if you’re feeling more virtuous, pop along to Sunday Assembly in Conway Hall for a feel-good celebration of all that’s fun in life.
By: Alex Plim
Wednesday February 22 2017
A boutique time-warp in the depths of Clerkenwell, full of four-poster beds, antiques and one very proud house cat.
Wander down the alleyways of Clerkenwell and you’ll eventually find The Rookery, its door so satisfyingly hidden we walked past it twice. Once inside, wood-panelled walls lead to an antique reception desk, where guests check in to this playful boutique hotel: a converted Georgian townhouse, heavy with local history and as far from luxury chain monotony as you can get.
It’s impossible not to fall under The Rookery’s spell. Like the slinky house cat who winds around the furniture, the place feels elegant and full of secrets. Lady Grey purred proudly as she showed us around the nooks of the library and into the sitting room, with its decadent honesty bar. Antique armchairs slept around an open fire. Afternoon cakes appeared as if from nowhere. And the magic continued up into the warren-like, art-filled corridors of 33 individually decorated large bedrooms (plus a few hidden doors, I’m sure of it).
Our room was dominated by a magnificent four-poster bed and a huge clawfoot bath with brass fittings. I could have done without the twee lace curtains, but the overflowing bookshelves of leather-bound books were a great distraction. While the decor is dialled to eighteenth-century glamour, modernity is definitely not forgotten. Local ‘on trend’ brands stock the minibar, REN toiletries soothe weary time-travellers, and wifi bounces off the marble surfaces throughout the hotel.
There’s no restaurant, but that’s no problem considering the location in one of London’s major foodie districts. Hix Oyster & Chop House and the original St Johns are just next door, and the Zetter Townhouse is close by for a great pre-dinner cocktail. A wonderful, if slightly modest, breakfast is included – though we’d suggest to eat it in your room and stay under The Rookery’s spell just that little bit longer.
Time Out tipThe bedrooms are all named after characters from Clerkenwell’s past, so take inspiration and go on your own tour of the local history. Smithfield Market and St John’s Gate are right on the doorstep, but see if you can find the hidden Church of Saint Bartholomew the Great; it’s London’s oldest surviving church and has been in continuous use since 1143.
By: Phoebe Trimingham
Wednesday November 23 2016
Could this colourful Kit Kemp complex be the perfect mini-city break?
Assuming you’ve got pockets down to your ankles, we’d recommend booking into the Ham Yard Hotel for at least a month to truly get the most out of it. Not only is it situated in Soho, the buzziest bit of the West End, itself one of the buzziest bits of London, it’s also much more than a hotel. The Ham Yard Village complex comprises (deep breath) a bar, a restaurant, a nail bar, a spa, a theatre, a bowling alley and a handful of boutiquey shops. Trying to squeeze it all into a weekend just isn’t going to happen.
The whole place is basically an unofficial art gallery, too. Pieces are dotted here and there throughout common areas, all of them playful and engaging but not so out-there that they’d spook your mum if you brought her in for afternoon tea (which you definitely should). Like the Firmdale group’s other hotels, decor is colourful, quirky and eclectic, with interior designer and Firmdale co-owner Kit Kemp’s trademark patterned fabrics everywhere. In the bedrooms, even the walls are upholstered.
Bathrooms deserve a special mention. Even if you see the wall-embedded TV – and accompanying waterproof remote – as a bit of a novelty, there’s no denying the luxury of a shower that packs the force of a fireman’s hose, or a bath almost big enough to practice your breaststroke in.
Service at the in-house restaurant is excellent, though on our visit the food was hit-and-miss. Bread was stale, while a rib-eye steak was well below the standards of the city’s top meat merchants, lacking colour on the outside and beefy juiciness on the inside.
Kitchen slip-ups aside, everything else about Ham Yard just feels special. Whether you use it as a base to discover the best of the West End or stick within its self-styled community, it’s a luxurious treat from start to finish, and one of those hotels that even long-time Londoners ought to experience at least once.
Time Out tipFor a cheap and cheerful taste of French cuisine in a stunning space created by Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, look no further than Brasserie Zedel, housed in the former iconic ’80s club venue Atlantic Bar and Grill.
By: David Clack
Wednesday November 23 2016
Live like royalty in this palatial hotel, which has more heritage than you can shake a jewel-encrusted sceptre at.
Let’s be honest: The Ritz probably isn’t the place to stay if you’re on a budget. Rooms start at around £300 and escalate to more than £1,000, if you want one of the really swanky suites. But it is of course no ordinary hotel: this is a London institution that’s been setting the bar for luxury ever since it opened in 1906, so doing things on a budget isn’t really the point. The name alone evokes a sense of opulence and class. The building is full of sparkling chandeliers, marble plinths, mirrored walls, plush carpets and neatly upholstered furniture. Frankly, it feels totally palatial – there’s even an inhouse gilder who goes around making sure all of the gold leaf keeps on gleaming, just as it did when the Louis XVI decor was first unveiled more than a century ago. Of course, this is entirely appropriate for a building that sits a stone’s throw away from classy haunts like Fortnum & Mason and The Wolseley, not to mention Buckingham Palace, though it’s unlikely you’ll want to leave your room to check out the neighbourhood. For a start the beds are super cosy, and you’ll find it difficult to resist diving straight into one of the thick dressing gowns embossed with The Ritz’s regal logo. And the bathrooms – oh, the bathrooms! – are just sublime: think gold taps, lots of marble and baths deep enough to go swimming in. If you’re splashing out, you’ll also want to pack some fancy clothes and book yourself a table for afternoon tea in the Palm Court. It’s an unforgettable experience, and the unlimited supply of sandwiches means it’s easy to get your money’s worth. Or, if you really want to go all out, get yourself a seat in the restaurant, which was recently awarded a Michelin star, and order the sumptuous crêpes suzette: they’ll wheel a trolley over to your table and prepare the dessert in a sizzling pan right in front of you. In truth, all this grandeur can feel a little overwhelming at times. And, if you’re more bothered about hotels with gadgets and gizmos, you might see all this as a bit old-fashioned. But, then again, you don’t come to The Ritz for the modern touches, you come for the heritage, the excellence and the sense of occasion. And when it comes to this, The Ritz is as close to perfection as you’re ever likely to get.Time Out tip: You’re right in the centre of London, so there are plenty of top-drawer things to do nearby – the Royal Academy and National Gallery are a must for art lovers, while the West End is within spitting distance for fans of the theatre. But if you really want to make the most of the area, head to Mr Fogg’s for a cocktail with character, or Hawksmoor for one of the best steaks on the planet.
By: Alex Plim
Thursday November 10 2016
Step back to the 1930s in this iconic masterpiece of a luxury hotel.
Open since 1931, the magnificent art deco Dorchester is one of the world’s great hotels, and pretty much deserves every superlative you care to chuck its way.
Located slap-bang opposite Hyde Park, it is not the biggest or brashest place you’ll ever stay in; the suites are relatively compact, and there’s no pool. But it’s hard to imagine anybody with any sort of romantic notion of Britain’s pre-war past not having to scrape their jaw off the floor of a hotel in which every room is more or less a work of art, from the deep marble bathtubs to the gorgeous mirrored cabinets.
Over the years there have been dabblings with various vogueish refits – some of which sound faintly alarming – but in 2016 the Dorchester is as close to the original as possible, albeit with a few discreet upgrades added throughout the twenty-first century like drench showerheads, sophisticated thermostats and touch phones.
You could cheerily spend your entire stay drinking in the details – the opulent carpets, a different colour for each floor, the gorgeous art deco clocks by the lifts – but you should probably also have a drink in its various nightspots, notably the imperiously named The Bar, the Promenade (a cosy extension of the foyer, with five sittings of afternoon tea, a champagne bar and a pianist in the evenings), and happening West End hangout China Tang at the Dorchester (the Dorchester’s Cantonese restaurant, opened in 2005 by Hong Kong restaurateur Sir David Tang and done up in a ’30s Shanghai style). The China Tang is just one of three restaurants here, the others being Alain Ducasse (the UK’s only three Michelin-star hotel restaurant), and the grand old The Grill, where I enjoyed some rich, meaty modern British dishes and a fine pistachio soufflé. The love of definite articles continues with The Dorchester Spa, where one of the agreeably involved Carol Joy signature facials knocked a few years off me, and in 2009 it acquired its own light-dining restaurant, The Spatisserie, a predictable picture of elegance. It goes without saying that throughout the building the staff are friendly, knowledgeable, helpful and prompt.
Yes, it costs an arm and a leg. But if you want to escape from the grimness of the twenty-first century to a more elegant age, the building is a holiday in itself.
Time Out tip
Sack off dementedly busy Hyde Park and head to the quiet, beautiful Mount Street Gardens, just a block away from the hotel. And for evening entertainment, make the most of the fact that this is the only hotel in the capital to boast its own dedicated theatre desk.
By: Andrzej Lukowski
Wednesday November 23 2016
Vegans and health buffs rejoice: this sleek Japanese-inspired hotel in Bayswater has been designed with your lifestyle choices in mind.
Let’s be real: in a city as wonderfully indulgent as London, staying on the right side of healthiness can be torture. But kudos to La Suite West. With its yin and yang interiors, Japanese minimalist furnishings, Zen vibes, and on-site Vegan food restaurant Raw, this stylish hotel has made well-being its USP – all the more noble in a buzzy, central London neighbourhood where anything dipped, fried or curried goes. That stuff’s fine and dandy if that’s what you’re after – Toa Kitchen on Queensway does a mean beef ho fun – but if you’re seriously committed to clean living, a few nights at this boutique hotel will be a relief. Raw, for instance, offers a vegan afternoon tea, complete with mocktails, delish sarnies and fancy raw food desserts that tasted a million times better than I expected. But if you need meat, the hotel’s partnered with Kalamaras – a 50-year-old Greek restaurant that likes to make known that it’s fed and watered the Beatles and er, Kojak. Still, it’s a good spot with a generous menu, and conveniently around the corner.
Once you’re ready to snooze, the rooms aren’t half-bad either. There’s free wifi, plenty of wardrobe space and I loved the moody lighting, steamy marble bathroom and comfy four-poster bed with squishy pillows. And whoever had the clever idea of making the telly pop-up out of the bed via a remote? Give that person a raise. Could they also sort out the room’s sound-proofing? A weird clicking sound outside Suite 112 didn’t relent all night. Bummer.
Still, breakfast made up for the disturbance, big time. Along with the vegan options, they do a continental spread and a full English – which impressively comes with turkey bacon and chicken sausages. The coffee’s great too. Oh, and there’s a modest gym in the basement if you fancy squeezing in a quick workout before heading out. In a place this dedicated to virtuousness, it only makes sense.
Time Out tipBayswater is a wonderful, diverse and cultured neighbourhood ripe for exploring. Do your shopping at Whiteleys – London’s first proper department store, then unwind at the nearby Porchester Spa. The legendary baths still have its original art deco decor intact.
By: Matilda Egere-Cooper
Friday January 20 2017
Design mogul Sir Terence Conran’s Boundary Project warehouse conversion was a labour of love. Its restaurants – which include Albion, a downstairs fine-dining establishment and a rooftop bar – are high quality but relaxed places, and all 17 bedrooms are beautifully designed. Each has a handmade bed, but all are otherwise individually furnished with classic furniture and original art.
The five split-level suites range in style from the bright and sea-salt fresh Beach to a new take on Victoriana by Polly Dickens, while the remaining rooms (the slightly larger corner rooms have windows along both external walls) are themed by design style: Mies van der Rohe, Eames, Shaker. There’s also a charming Heath Robinson room, decorated with the cartoonist’s sketches of hilariously complex machines.
Tuesday May 26 2015
The rich and famous continue to flock to Claridge’s, but the real stars of the show are the hotel’s staff.
Where do you start with a hotel like Claridge’s? Well, if you put aside the starry clientele and illustrious history, the thing that sets it apart: its staff. Regular visitors often wax lyrical about the staff being an extended family, and you can see why: a conveyor belt of friendly faces from around the world are on hand throughout your stay to make it the most memorable you’re ever likely to have had in a hotel. Of course, this sort of cossetted experience comes with a premium price tag: rooms start from several hundred pounds per night and decadent suites are two-to-three times as much. But there are ways to experience it for less – the jaw-dropping art deco Foyer (open from breakfast through afternoon tea to dinner) is one of the grandest rooms in London. Alternatively, you can head for drinks in the old-school glamour of the Fumoir bar, or book a table at chef Simon Rogan’s fine dining outpost, Fera. Nothing beats being able to go upstairs afterwards, though. And again the hotel does this in style with what’s claimed to be the oldest working lift in London, manned by a dapper-looking liftman, where you can rest your behind on the velvet sofa and imagine you’re in the Grand London Hotel. Which you are, kind of. As you’d expect rooms are immaculately designed in a sort of luxurious but understated British way. It’s the sort of aesthetic you’d imagine their Anglophile punters lap up. Suites like the Mayfair take things into fantasy-land – a capacious bedroom with one of the Comfiest Beds on Planet Earth is bookended by an actual separate lounge at one end and a marble-tiled bathroom at the other. The bathtub provides a fun talking point – there’s a buzzer system with buttons for privacy, a waiter, a maid or a valet. What happens when you press all four at once while you’re covered in bubbles? That’s something we didn’t find out, tempting as it was. Back downstairs there’s a sense of theatre that comes with simply hanging out. Oh, there’s Sienna Miller and Ben Affleck having dinner in the corner. No biggie. And that’s exactly why the rich and famous continue to choose this hotel over the many other five-star hotels in town – no-one makes a fuss (even if other punters are secretly checking them out on the sly). All the while, staff continue to keep Claridge’s ticking over like a metronome. This is a hotel that excels at every turn and deserves every one of its five stars. Seriously, I’d give the staff six if I could.
Time Out tipBook for breakfast or afternoon tea and ask for a cosy corner in The Foyer. Here, you’ll get to soak up the theatre of Claridge’s in a seat that’s had Hollywood and – chances are – actual royalty sat on it.
By: Mark O’Donnell
Monday January 30 2017
The hype is totally justified in this lofty Asian hotel, where perfect rooms come with the best views in town.
Making a splash even before it had opened, the Shangri-La continues to impress with its breathless list of highest this, that and the other – notably highest swimming pool in western Europe, highest champagne bar in western Europe, and of course its setting in the highest building in western Europe. It’s this height and attendant views that are the big draw, but the Shangri-La goes the extra mile with everything, and has one magical effect that no other London hotel can achieve.
There are the rooms for a start – spacious, comfortable, and decorated with understated Asian-inspired motifs including delicate silk chinoiserie wall panels and Asian art. Then there’s what is actually in them: Nespresso machines; fresh milk and fresh fruit; a well-stocked minibar and tea tray; a teeny-tiny TV in the bathroom mirror; Japanese Washlet toilets with warm seats; drench showers and bathtubs (many with views; ask for one when you book); cotton yukata kimonos, and Acqua di Parma toiletries. And, natch, a copy of Time Out alongside such salubrious titles as CNT and luxury London mag In London.
But of course what dominates these superbly appointed rooms are the views, and Renzo Piano’s design of the building ensures that each one, with its floor to ceiling windows and glass corners, ensures they’re as expansive as possible; from ours, using the binoculars provided in each room, you could see virtually the whole of north London. By day its sheer size beggars belief, by night the clusters of twinkling lights are mesmerising enough to make leaving your room very difficult.
When you do venture out, it should be no further than to Ting bar on floor 35, and restaurant, or gym, pool and GŎNG bar on floor 52 – all of them, as you’d expect are luxurious, tranquil, high-end and pitch perfect. At the plush and romantic Ting, Gareth Bowen’s perfectly judged market menu at £65 for four courses (£110 with wine pairings) is unforgettable, especially if you manage to eat it at a window table. At the GŎNG Bar, champagnes run from a glass at £20 to a bottle of Cristal Brut 2005 at £2,500, but more fun are the Circle of Life cocktails; 18 drinks devised to reflect our journey through life. Next to it, the infinity pool becomes part of the bar after 8pm and offers amazing views of the city. By day or night, the pool experience is magical, and it’s from here that I fell in love with the Shangri-La… not least because, gazing out of this beautiful, serene space at the messy, sprawling, chaotic place I’ve chosen to make my home, it makes me fall in love with London all over again. And that’s really special.
Time Out tip: Don’t leave the hotel unless you have to; but if you do have to, the Royal Oak is a proper old-school Victorian London boozer that offers a great close-up experience of the city and fine ales.
By: Yolanda Zappaterra
Thursday November 17 2016