Leicester Square & Soho
Leicester Square and Soho may be neighbours but they exude very different vibes — the former, theatreland’s fast-beating heart; the latter a maze of streets filled with creative types looking for sustenance and drink in not quite equal measure. What they have in common is how often they fling up new hotels, from five-star international brands to home-grown boutique chic. Residents will always trade touristy Leicester Square for the more scenic Soho although the opening of the W Hotel has brought some fashionable focus back to this London landmark.
We recommend: W london — Leicester Square
One tiny letter; one hell of a big brand name. The funky hotel franchise made its first foray into the UK earlier this year, set in a brand new building on the site of the old Swiss Centre. The usual W superlatives are all here (rooms with categories like ‘Wow’ and ‘Spectacular’, for example) but the design has a bold British glamour about it. Sit back on oversized Chesterfield sofas in the lounge bar or peep through curtains designed with ghostly silhouettes of such national treasures as Kate Moss, in the bedrooms. The hotel hosts starry annual BAFTA parties and its oversized foyer windows offer cinematic views of Leicester Square. But the restaurant heads across the Atlantic: Spice Market, sister to the New York restaurant of the same name, serves dishes inspired by South-east Asian street food.
■ Rooms: From £269 a night. 10 Wardour Street.
T: 020 7758 1000. www.wlondon.co.uk
■ X-factor: The location, in the thick of London’s theatreland.
For foodies: St John Hotel
Opened this spring in the heart of the West End, this hotel is very much about the food. The sister to St John restaurant in Smithfield offers characterful snacks like Little Bun Moments (fresh buns and Champagne… ‘Or tea, if you must,’ sniffs the website), plus an extensive breakfast menu that is ‘no after-thought’. Oh, and the rooms are delicious too: open-plan and boldly all-white with apple-green floors that proudly set off the white Victorian baths.
■ Rooms: From £200 a night.
1 Leicester Square. T: 0203 301 8020.
For Soho cool: Dean Street Townhouse
This four-storey Georgian townhouse, formerly the decadent and divey Gargoyle Club, is now a fresh, modern, 39-room boutique hotel, with large bathrooms offering either rainforest showers or Victorian baths. A nod to its edgy, artsy past comes in the shape of works by the likes of Tracey Emin and Peter Blake, hanging in the dining room, which serves traditional Brit’ fare. The bar’s Bloody Mary menu will shift the fiercest of hangovers.
■ Rooms: From £95 a night.
69-70 Dean Street. T: 020 7434 1775.
Long gone is this area’s reputation for squats and late-night dive bars. Money has been ploughed into St Pancras train station as the slick starting point for Eurostar journeys to France and Brussels, complete with Champagne bar, delicatessens and high-end shops. Next door, the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel breaths new life into the beautiful old gothic building that once housed the 18th century Midland Grand Hotel. Other tourist addresses in the area can’t match this architectural romance but can offer a bargain and quirky design to boot.
We recommend: St Pancras Renaissance London
Grand, opulent, lavishly appointed… The poet Sir John Betjeman called this building “too beautiful and too romantic to survive”. He was wrong. This Grade I-listed, neo-Gothic hotel is more beguiling than ever; its original Victorian features the subject of a lengthy £200m renovation. This former terminus hotel for the old Midland Railway has been updated with subtle additions to Sir George Gilbert Scott’s 1873 design, that once again transforms it into a five-star landmark.
Of its 245 rooms, the 38 Chambers Suites in the original building pack the wow factor. High ceilings, ornate mouldings and vast windows lend a stately home feel, while luxurious furnishings and high-tech touches such as flatscreen TVs and wi-fi complete the experience.
Rooms: From £300 a night. Euston Road.
T: 020 7841 3540. www.marriott.co.uk
■ X-factor: The superb restoration of an architectural masterpiece that recalls the golden age of rail travel.
For Shabby Chic: Rough Luxe
Named after the hotel’s design concept — half rough, half luxury — this Grade II-listed building was converted into a nine-room hotel in 2008 by architect/designer Rabih Hage. Rooms and bathrooms teeter at times between compact and poky (guests share bathrooms on certain floors) but the decor — distressed walls, mish-mash furniture, Victorian tin baths — is what attracts overnighters in droves. Not wanting to compete with the multitude of cafes and restaurants on its doorstep, the hotel only serves breakfast, while just a few of the rooms have
TVs. The thinking? Who wants
to watch the box when they’re
in London. Quite.
Rooms: From £177 a night.
1 Birkenhead Street. T: 020 7837 5338. www.roughluxe.co.uk
On a budget: YHA London St Pancras
If the thought of staying in a hostel makes you shudder, think again. London’s offerings are generally of a good standard with plenty of mod cons. The YHA in King’s Cross, for instance, has recently been refurbished, making it a popular choice. Its 184 beds, in several room categories, range from seven-bed dorms to doubles. There’s also a TV room, a comfortable lounge area and an internet cafe offering free wi-fi access for those armed with laptops. The hostel also has a cafe offering breakfast and a wide range of cold and hot snacks.
Beds: From £22.65 a night.
79-81 Euston Road. T: 0845 3719344.
Victoria is often simply seen as a thoroughfare, a noisy hub for the capital’s trains, Tube and bus traffic. But within walking distance to the major sights of Westminster — Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and the River Thames — hotels here score big points for convenience. And the choice of places is legion, from the budget backpackers’ to the downright ostentatious, geared for both visiting and residing royalty. The roll call of presidents, celebrities, film stars, kings, queens, sultans and princesses who have bedded down in this part of town lend this district a definite glamour if you know where to look.
We recommend: The Goring
If you hadn’t heard of The Goring before 29 April, you’ll know it now. On the eve of her marriage to Prince William, Kate Middleton spent her last night as a single, non-royal, woman here. The keys to her suite now cost a cool £5,000 a night. Opened in 1910 and located in the shadow of Buckingham Palace, The Goring’s 71 bedrooms and suites have been individually designed with Gainsborough silks and bespoke pieces of furniture. A candidate for the finest afternoon tea in London, dining here
is just as regal, with ‘scrumptious English food’ served throughout the day.
Rooms: From £410 a night. Beeston Place. T: 020 7396 9000.
■ X-factor: Getting to stay in the same hotel as the future queen.
For boutique chic: 41
Located behind Buckingham Palace, this beautiful, 30-room hotel exudes old world charm from the moment the friendly doorman greets you. A monochrome theme pervades each room, while the Leopard Champagne Bar has a tongue-in-cheek safari theme.
Rooms: From £349 a night.
41 Buckingham Palace Road.
T: 020 7300 0041. www.41hotel.com
For cheap and (almost) cheerful: easyHotel
You can’t beat the EasyHotel for value. A convenient five-minute walk from Victoria Station, its 77 rooms have a toilet and shower, and guests pay from £5 a day for extras such as a window and flatscreen TV.
Rooms: Doubles from £35 a night. 36-40 Belgrave Road. T: 020 7834 1379. www.easyhotel.com
Harrods and Harvey Nichols are what put Knightsbridge on the tourist map but this rizty district’s hotels are increasingly grabbing the headlines too. Chef Heston Blumenthal’s first London venture has opened in the gilded enclaves of the Mandarin Oriental, while The Capital has scooped near-countless hotel awards in recent years. This area is not for those lacking cash or flash but it is the perfect base for some of London’s best galleries — Natural History Museum, V&A and Science Museum to name a few.
We recommend: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
The recent buzz surrounding this hotel is down to Dinner, Heston Blumenthal’s first London restaurant, backed by executive chef Ashley Palmer-Watts. Opened in February to rave reviews, the menu is based on modern overhauls of traditional recipes — some dating back to the 14th century. The hotel itself has 10 categories of suite — the largest at 2,42sq metres — and 200 rooms, so heavy-wallet-carrying guests have plenty of choice. Rooms have silk cushions, Edwardian-style bathrooms and Bang & Olufsen audio-visual systems. The award-winning spa has eight treatment spaces, an Amethyst Crystal Steam Room and Zen colour therapy relaxation area.
Rooms: From £395 a night. 66 Knightsbridge. T: 020 7201 3773.
■ X-factor: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.
For chic elegance: Jumeirah Carlton Tower
Shop till you drop, then flop in one of 216 rooms and suites. As well as serving the eponymous dish, the Rib Room has excellent Aberdeen Angus beef; afternoon tea can be taken in the Chinoiserie, while the Gilt Cocktail Lounge is marking its 50th year with Champagne cocktail, 1961.
Rooms: From £455 a night. Cadogan Place. T: 020 7235 1234. www.jumeirah.com
For accolades: The Capital
The 50-room, family-run Capital
has scooped 11 awards in six years and been home to royalty, heads
of state and celebrities in its time. One recently refurbished two-bedroom suite even has a private entrance — to appease the kind of guest who doesn’t ‘do’ foyers.
Rooms: From £320 a night.
Basil Street. T: 020 7589 5171.