Hotel review

Groundbreaking Londoner dazzles in the West End

THE PLACE

The Londoner bills itself as both “the world’s first super-boutique hotel” and an “urban resort.” Eight years in the making and costing around $1 billion to develop, it spans 16 floors – eight above ground, eight below – with 350 rooms and suites, state-of-the-art event spaces and various dining temptations. catering, beverage and wellness. Big on green credentials, this sustainably designed hotel has LED lighting throughout and generates its own electricity on-site.

THE LOCATION

No place for camera shy people, The Londoner is right in the heart of the West End, flanking a new luxury Odeon cinema on the southwest corner of Leicester Square, where red carpets are rolled out for film premieres and statues of William Shakespeare, Paddington Bear, Mary Poppins and Mr Bean attract selfie lovers.

SPACE

Award-winning Canadian-American designers Yabu Pushelberg have crafted the Londoner’s lavish interiors. Attentive international staff (some with movie star looks) usher you into the seductively lit lobby, which blends into The Stage, a champagne bar and afternoon tea venue with regular performances piano and soprano and artwork inspired by the location of the hotel’s theater. There are also guest lounges, where you can browse newspapers, play board games, and enjoy complimentary soft drinks and antipasti.

Deep in the basement, The Retreat is a haven of peace with hairdressers, manicures, men’s treatments, gym, swimming pool, steam room and spa. I have a 60-minute ginger-infused, tension-relieving Back on Track treatment (£100 or $186), which includes back and leg massages, compresses and exfoliation. The Retreat’s “superfood clinic” offers vitality shots, herbal teas (herbal infusions) and Ayurvedic ritual bowls.

BEDROOM

Behind a lacquered door with a glass knob that reminds me of a giant diamond, my entry-level 23-square-foot king room offers decadent downtime. There is a pleasantly comfortable bed, parquet flooring, a salmon pink velvet lounge chair, a Nespresso machine, a radio and a Roberts Bluetooth speaker.

A theater-style lighted vanity mirror rests between a double bath-shower with Miller Harris tea tonic products and a W/C with a heated-seat Toto toilet. I use the room’s retro opera glasses to take a look at Leicester Square – where an ongoing project is revitalizing the 17th century square. Other rooms, including the lavish signature and penthouse suites, offer even more cinematic views of London.

THE FOOD

You can have breakfast (both buffet and made-to-order) at Whitcomb’s, an elegant and casual French restaurant that also offers prix-fixe lunches and à la carte options, with an extensive wine list. Rather sake, sushi and sashimi? Zoom up to 8, a chic version of a Japanese izakaya, with a heated terrace and a garden with a retractable roof.

At street level – the entrance is on the side of the hotel – patrons sup ales and gins at Joshua’s Tavern, named after Joshua Reynolds, an 18th-century artist who lived in the area.

GET OUT OF

There’s something to entice and intrigue in every direction, whether you’re looking for historic sites, high culture, shopping, theater or international cuisine. Chinatown, Soho, Covent Garden, Bond Street and Piccadilly Circus are all within a 5-10 minute walk.

The same goes for St James’ Park, which leads to Queen’s Pad, Buckingham Palace. Directly behind the hotel are the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and Trafalgar Square.

THE VERDICT

It’s no surprise that this hotel has been well received by reviewers. Fit for a movie star, it’s a dazzling addition to London’s entertainment district, though it will take a big hit to your bank balance.

ESSENTIAL

Rooms start from around £485 ($900), including Wi-Fi. The Londoner, 38 Leicester Square, London WC2H 7DX. See thelondoner.com

HIGHLIGHT

My three-course dinner at Whitcomb’s (£62/$115) is the best hotel meal I’ve had in ages: seared king prawns in garlic, chilli and olive oil, followed by a filet mignon with chanterelle mushrooms and aged parmesan, and a sticky, puff pastry mille-feuille.

LOW LIGHT

Leicester Square still looks a bit cluttered and messy, but it should improve as 2022 and its redesign evolves.

Steve McKenna was a guest on The Londoner and Visit Britain (visitbritain.com)


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