Words by James Gregory Wilkinson
While New York might have started the hip boutique hotel revolution, London continues to push forward as the leader in Europe, with cutting edge properties continuing to open up right across town. Here, seven of our favourites.
1. Mondrian London at Sea Containers
The new kid on the city’s accommodation block, the hip 359-room Mondrian London at Sea Containers might be one of the British capital’s biggest openings in recent years, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a huge hotel when you walk in the front doors.
Managers Morgans Hotel Group are known for creating hip, eclectic and fashionable hotels across the world and notably in London, with existing properties Sanderson and St Martins Lane having been popular with the global creative set for many years.
Mondrian London at Sea Containers is the company’s first Mondrian-branded hotel outside the United States and like its Miami, New York and Los Angeles cousins, expect an urban boutique hotel experience across the board from the rooms to the day spa, bar, restaurants and lobby.
Morgans Hotel Group’s Chairman, Jason Kalisman, summarises it well: “The combination of incredible design, amazing partners, and a one-of-a-kind building make this hotel a perfect match for what Morgans does best, and I believe the resulting product will be embraced by the local and international community.”
The property embraces its position on the edge of the Thames and features a handcrafted copper hull that sweeps from the entrance right through the lobby. That’s also evident in the signature 200-seat restaurant Sea Containers headed up by chef Seamus Mullen and right through the eclectic bar spaces including Dandelyan, led by leading London mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana.
There’s also a world-class day spa, Agua Bathhouse and Spa, which offers a range of city-best treatments, and a range of accommodation options, including our pick the River View Balcony Suites, which offer spacious rooms and uninterrupted views up and down the Thames.
2 & 3. St Martins Lane & Sanderson
Over the Thames, St Martins Lane hasn’t been left behind, however, with the hotel recently going through a makeover of its rooms, completed late last year. The iconic Philip Starke-designed lobby, Light Bar and Asia De Cuba restaurant are currently being transformed.
And sister property Sanderson in the West End also underwent a rooms renovation which was also completed late last year, bringing it back up to its designer best. There, a must is afternoon tea at the Mad Hatters, followed by drinks at Purple Bar and dinner at Berners Street Terrace.
4. Ham Yard Hotel
While Morgans has been a leader in hip boutique hotels in the United States, in London it’s been Firmdale Hotels that’s been the star for years and their latest opening, the Ham Yard Hotel in Soho is modern British design heaven.
Designed by owner Kit Kemp, each of the hotel’s 91-rooms are uniquely individual (her trademark) while common areas of the hotel give it the feel of an urban village, albeit in the heart of London and just moments from Mayfair.
Our favourite spaces? The Library and Drawing Room, which boast books curated by literary legend Philip Blackwell and, as you’d expect, there’s a wide selection on travel and notably a few prize-winning novels in there too.
There’s also a spa, gym, a 1950s-style bowling alley, theatre, private event rooms and the brilliant Ham Yard restaurant and bar, which serves up fresh local produce. The afternoon tea here is also quintessentially British, while at breakfast the rarebit, poached eggs and greens is hard to skip past.
5. Dorset Square Hotel
Another other gem in the Firmdale collection is the Dorset Square Hotel in Marylebone. Like Kemp’s work at the Ham Yard, expect 38 individually-designed rooms, many of which look into a courtyard that carries a lot of history – this was the site of Thomas Lord’s original cricket ground. As such, you’ll find cricket memorabilia throughout the hotel.
The Potting Shed bar and restaurant is a top spot for breakfast, lunch and dinner and like its Ham Yard sister, prides itself on serving brilliant British cuisine alongside an excellent selection of wines and spirits.
The man who started the global hip boutique revolution was Ian Schrager, perhaps most notorious for also having opened, owned and operated the famous New York nightclub Studio 54. Schrager started Morgans Hotel Group in 1984 and owned it until 2005, when he sold the business and formed Ian Schrager Company which owns, develops and manages hotels.
6. The London Edition
Schrager also has a partnership with Marriott International and co-created Edition Hotels, which have fast become one of the most popular hip chains on the planet. In late 2013, The London Edition opened on the site of the Berners Street Hotel in the West End and a short walk from popular Oxford Street. Here, you’ll find 173 designer rooms featuring wood panels throughout, popular eatery Berners Tavern helmed by star chef Jason Atherton, two bars and a dance club.
There’s a range of rooms on offer at The London Edition, including our favourite the one-bedroom penthouse suite, located on the top floor of the hotel and comes complete with a balcony and views of the city.
7. The Halkin
In Belgravia, near Knightsbridge and Buckingham Palace, is another star in the boutique hotel set, The Halkin by Como Hotels. Here, there are 41 contemporary designed rooms and suites, which stand-out for their luxury finishes and oversized bathrooms and beds, and a restaurant that’s been taking Belgravia by storm, Ametsa with Arzak Instruction. This one Michelin Star Basque restaurant is headed up by Elena Arzak, recently voted Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef, who says the focus is on “pairing the earthy flavours and techniques of Spain’s Basque region with modern, surprising twists featuring locally-sourced and organic produce from land and sea”.
Here, reservations are essential and The Halkin bar is then an ideal spot for a cocktail or two before enjoying the rooms upstairs and if they are available, the ones to book at the Belgravia Suites, complete with designated private phone numbers.
British Airways flies daily to London from Sydney via Singapore on modern Boeing 777-300ER aircraft featuring First, Club World (Business), World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) and World Traveller (Economy) cabins.