If your appetite for UK travel has been whetted by Harry and Meghan’s wedding, you’ll be pleased to know that the flurry of new and refurbed luxury hotels in London recent years shows no sign of slowing down. Here’s the best of the most recent batch.
Best for a Couples Weekend:
Soho institution Kettner’s, one of London’s first French restaurants opened in the 19th century and frequented by the louche likes of Oscar Wilde, has been bought by the Soho House company. Based next door to the inaugural Soho House private members’ club on Greek Street (rumoured to be the setting for Harry and Meghan’s first date) it’s now a boutique hotel and is open to non House members.
Renamed Kettner’s Townhouse, the establishment has been restored to its deliciously decadent glory along with some urbane Soho House touches including Cowshed spa toiletries and fully stocked drinks trolleys. Purists may rest assured that both the Piano Bar and the Champagne Bar remain (the latter now open to hotel guests only) while the addition of bedrooms means you don’t have far to go after a night cap.
All the guestrooms are sumptuously decorated with opulent fabrics in rich colours. The Medium and Big categories feature roll top baths in the rooms while the showstopper Jacobean Suite has original wood paneling, a large sitting area and a stunning bathroom with a copper tub. This corner suite also has its own private entrance onto Soho.
In the revamped restaurant Kettner’s original fin de siècle spirit joyfully lives on. From the banquet seating and antique silverware to the classic French menu and white jacketed wait staff. Try the excellent chicken liver parfait followed by the truffle roast chicken with pommes anna. Even if you’re the sort who usually skips dessert, don’t miss the pink grapefruit coupe – a champagne glass of sorbet topped up with Ruinart, deliciously refreshing.
In keeping with the Soho House creative rather than corporate ethos, laptops are frowned upon so the place feels more pleasure than business. And breakfast is served until an ultra civilised 12pm.
29 Romilly St, Soho, London W1D 5HP
Tel +44 207 734 5650
Best for Culture Vultures:
The first sign that this is no ordinary hotel is the eye catching sculpture in the window. Then there’s the fact that the dramatic tunnel entrance manned by a sharply dressed greeter feels more like a nightclub than a hotel. Inside, the public areas feature a bounty of fascinating and eclectic artworks and artefacts collected by the owners on their travels. A monthly changing artist in residency means there’s also a constantly evolving selection of art on show throughout the hotel.
In the basement of this former television production studio, cultural wellbeing classes are held regularly. Weekly Gong Baths – a meditation class using Tibetan prayer bowls – are particularly popular with locals working in the creative Fitzrovia area, just north of Soho and close to Theatreland.
While the suites at The Mandrake are also dark and theatrical, the Terrace bedrooms open out onto a shared deck lined with living walls of jasmine and passionflowers and overlooking the courtyard below.
Jewel in the crown is Serge et le Phoque, first outpost of the Michelin starred Hong Kong restaurant. Go for the omosake Chef’s Tasting Menu which is a magical mystery tour of clever cooking through Frédéric Peneau’s artfullyexecuted modern European dishes. While the entire table must order the menu, unusually a succinct three courses are on offer as well as five or seven. Opt for the wine pairings as well – the somm here, Bert Blaize, is Young Sommelier of the Year.
20-21 Newman Street, London W1T 1PG
Tel +44 203 146770
Best for Business:
The Principal London
This imposing terracotta tiled and turreted mansion on Russell Square first opened as a hotel in 1898 and has just been refurbished and rebranded. The new owner, Principal, has retained the former Russell Hotel’s Victorian grandeur including marble columns, mosaic floor tiles and soaring ceilings but the place has been brought firmly into the present with the help of top interior designers including Tara Bernerd who has brought a cool and calming aesthetic to the lobby and guestrooms.
Of the several F&B outlets, Burr & Co is a casual space for a meeting over coffee while Fitz’s, designed by Russell Sage, has a part Belle Epoque, part traditional London gentleman’s club feel (depending on which side of the bar you choose) for evening drinks.
The City Singles rooms featuring custom made single beds with wraparound headboards are a hit with the solo business traveller (The Principal is on the doorstep of commercial district Holborn which separates the City from the West End). A clutch of meeting rooms are due to open over the next few months and there’s a 24 hour gym if/when jet lag strikes.
1-8 Russell Square, London WC1B 5BE
Tel +44 203 553 6112
Best for Shopaholics:
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
Opposite Harvey Nichols, around the corner from Sloane Street and down the road from Harrods, the Mandarin is a shopaholics’ dream. Check in to one of the newly refurbished Knightsbridge rooms and you’ll have a view of the designer mothership, Harvey Nicks, at all times (sweetie).
The guest rooms and public spaces have been revamped by Joyce Wang, the designer responsible for The Landmark M.O. Hong Kong rooms and suites. Wang’s signature style of a light and contemporary take on 1930s glamour is much in evidence here. The designer has also taken inspiration from nearby Hyde Park with witty touches such as using horse hair as a feature in the hallway light fittings.
Fans of chef Daniel Boulud will be pleased to know Bar Boulud is still in residence at the hotel, a favourite with the well heeled Knightsbridge crowd mid or post shopping. As well as signature charcuterie and burgers, the restaurant has introduced French regional specialities which will change seasonally. For Spring it’s the Basque Country with dishes such as traditional tapas and monkfish tail wrapped in Bayonne ham with crush potatoes.
The spa is due to reopen next month, redesigned by Adam H Tihany who is also responsible for the moody ground floor bar while two new penthouse suites will be revealed this summer.
66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA
Tel +44 20 7235 2000
Best for Families:
Practically opposite the British Museum, The Bloomsbury has completed a major face lift including bright new bedrooms and an enchanting outdoor restaurant, Dalloway Terrace (a nod to famous past resident writer Virginia Woolf of the Bloomsbury Set).
The terrace is charmingly decorated in foliage which changes according to the seasons so right now it’s filled with spring flowers which will segue into summer blooms in the coming months. (And yes, there are heaters and blankets for colder times.)
The hotel offers a concierge service tailored to children, kid’s robes and toiletries await in the room and there’s milk and cookies for your little ones at turn down. If you’re staying in a Studio Suite or Luxury Suite you can also book a Teepee for up 12 year olds to sleep in.
Take advantage of the baby sitting service to enjoy a cocktail in The Coral Room, the hotel’s gorgeous new art deco inspired bar.
A version of this story was originally published by Robb Report Singapore