Mondrian at Sea Containers
This South Bank hotel has bedded in well and is a welcome addition to the London hotel scene. It’s been a smash for two reasons: firstly, the fabulous interiors, courtesy of Tom Dixon of Habitat fame; think bold colours and design touches that nod to the building’s nautical heritage, such as the Cutty Sark-like copper hull in reception. Then there’s the location: bang on the river and great for Tate Modern and Southbank Centre. Icing on the cake? The 56-seat Curzon-run cinema and the Austin Powers-y sounding rooftop club, Rumpus Room.
Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard
For London’s best views, it’s a no-brainer. The Shangri-La inhabits floors 34-52 of the Shard, Western Europe’s tallest building, so on a clear day you can pretty much see the whole city (unless you book one of the cheaper, south-facing rooms). A less welcome aspect of the impressive floor-to-ceiling glass is that you can also see your neighbours in their room, reflected in the glass exterior. Awkward! (Don’t worry, there are blinds for the timid.) Decor can feel a little ‘Asian neutral’, but with touches like in-room binoculars, it’s obvious that the star of the show was always going to be the vista.
You’d never guess that central London’s most striking-looking hotel was Selfridge’s former garage until a few years ago. After humble beginnings, the Beaumont is now, quiet literally, a work of art, with Antony Gormley’s part-suite, part-sculpture, ROOM, adorning its front. Elsewhere decor is pure art deco fantasia, courtesy of ace restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, and service manages to nail the fine line between efficient and obsequious; friendly and pseudo-matey. It’s a convenient spot for Selfridges, too, and the American bar is perfect for a post-spree old fashioned.
Ham Yard Hotel
The first thing you notice about Ham Yard is just how big it is: a three quarters of an acre horseshoe of central London given over to 91 generously proportioned rooms and 24 apartments, along with a small collection of independent shops. The second is just how little it feels like a hotel; in part thanks to a drawing room styled like a gazillionaire writer’s living room, a bowling alley, a 190-seat theatre and – because where would you be without it? – an air-locked gym where you can practise training at altitude.
No hotel in London is more English than the family-owned Goring, famous for the place where the Middleton family stayed before the feted wedding. Expect lots of chintz, mahogany and silk, together with genteel luxury: polite tent cards ask you not to use your smart phone or conduct business during Afternoon Tea. For a true ‘Downton Abbey’ experience, book a suite and the services of a footman are yours. Hide all 21st century encumbrances in the safe and go back in time for a few days.
Does the most famous hotel in the world need an introduction? Probably not, but to step into the Ritz is still a semi-magical experience, transporting you back to a time when Britain ruled the world and someone had just invented the train. An update in 1995 injected some modernity and mod-cons into the 1906-does-Louis XVI design, but there’s a wonderful sense of old-school decorum here, appropriate given the sheer quantities of marble and 24 carat gold leaf on site. Be warned: no jeans, no trainers, and jackets for dining, please – apart from at breakfast.
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