The view, the view! London and its river glitter outside: the panorama from the Rooftop Bar rivals
Manhattan or Hong Kong. A shifting cast of cyclists, skaters and commuters on the Thames Path passes as you eat and the tide rises and falls under riverside rooms.
Designer Tom Dixon has had fun with the hotel: a vast, copper-bottomed ship’s hull ploughs straight
through the building to the river and peering out of one side are the reception staff, clad in baby-
blue 2001 Space Odyssey-style sweatshirts by the stylist Karen Langley. Parts of the original 1970′s
‘Deco’ design by Warren Platner remain and Dixon has paid homage with brass and glass. It feels quite nightclubby, with lots of stylish low lighting; I was surprised to find it cheery and bright in the
morning. Lost? Look for the blue over-sized ship’s anchor chain which unfurls outside and in.
Shangri-La at the Shard
On floors 34 to 52 of Renzo Piano’s Shard, at 1,016ft the tallest building in Western Europe, made up
of 11,000 glass panels (which do not touch, allowing the building to “breathe”) with 44 lifts. It
takes just 26 seconds to travel from the hotel’s 35th floor lobby, so places of interest nearby, such
as Borough Market and Tate Modern, are only minutes away.
The interior of the hotel would be a challenge for anyone, given the nature of the building with its
walls of glass and sloping structural pillars, but surely more imagination could have been brought to
bear. Shangri-La have opted for the standardized ‘hotel group’ approach and decorated the public areas and bedrooms in formulaic, impersonal style. The result is certainly smart, with plenty of Asian touches, but its unimaginative combination of bland and bling is no match for the building itself and the carpets and chandeliers (especially in the private function rooms) are a particular eyesore.
Marriott County Hall
Opened in 1922, County Hall sits on the south bank of the Thames next to Westminster Bridge. For 64 years it served as the monumental headquarters of the London County Council (which was later replaced by the Greater London Council). Converted into a luxury hotel in 1998, it is just a stroll away from many top London attractions including the London Eye and Houses of Parliament.
Being a landmark listed building, the hotel has an engaging historic character. Old photographs
showing its construction hang in the lobby and it is easy to imagine top brass bureaucrats convening amidst its wood-panelled splendour. Within this all the amenities you would expect from a five-star Marriott hotel have been deftly inserted, including 11 meeting rooms and a 6th-floor spa and health club with a 25-metre indoor pool adorned with artificial palm trees.
Four Seasons Canary Wharf
It looks rather isolated on the map, but this hotel is well-connected. Thames Clipper boats departing
from the adjacent Canary Wharf Pier offer a scenic voyage across to Greenwich or west to central
London. A short, if windblown, walk east will get you to the shops and attractions of Canary Wharf,
plus the DLR and Jubilee transport lines.
Corporate palatial. The hotel rises to eight floors, a polished and somewhat hushed affair that gives
it a sanctuary-like feel. The sense of wellbeing is encouraged by a glass-walled Virgin Active health
club next door to which guests have complimentary access – here there’s a 20m pool and steam rooms.
ME by Melia London
Ooh it’s like an updated version of 2001: A Space Odyssey: everything is so clean. Love it or hate it,
you could never accuse Foster + Partners of playing it safe with their first foray into the World of
Hotel: the 141 rooms and 16 suites wrap around a 30-metre tall hollow white pyramid, The Atrium. This space contains reception and such spacey sofas that even the most uptight guest is forced to lie back and stare at the light installation projected onto the marble.
Busy bar Marconi, with its twisting clusters of chrome pillars, is near the hotel entrance and
popular, but the superstar is 10th floor Radio, with its terrace of sleek seating and a glass covered
interior should the weather play up. Queues form partly for the views along the river from Battersea
to Tower Bridge (and into Somerset House) and partly for the music and cocktails.
In an unbeatable location: sandwiched between Whitehall and the Thames, it’s moments from Embankment tube station and within easy reach of dozens of attractions, including the South Bank, Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden.
The rooms are elegant in style, with views of the Thames and the London Eye from the upper floors. Big windows provide plenty of natural light (although irritating health and safety rules mean the balcony doors only open a fraction). Expect horsy artwork, white orchids, leather recliners, big chunky desks, wide beds and easy-to-decipher taps and lamps. Modern features include monsoon showers, heated bathroom floors, plasma screen televisions, iPod docks (with speakers – not to mention another television – in the bathroom), and – thank heavens – free and speedy Wi-Fi access. Proper coffee and milk, instead of instant and UHT, would have been appreciated. Among the 283 rooms are a few real treats, including the spectacular top-floor Tower Suite – yours for around £10,000 per night.
Set back from the busy Strand and above the river, an island between two busy road, though trees mask the river view from lower rooms. Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square a spit away, 10 minutes to St Paul’s.
Rooms are large and fresh, safely traditional without being frumpy – white on white sheets with a
discreet gold pattern, lots of linen, Murano glass chandeliers – and bathrooms have all the bits
without being gimmicky.
The famous River Room – now open all day, with a modern French menu – comes into its own in summer, when the huge windows are opened, but is slightly outshone by the uber-stylish Savoy Grill, which has its own entrance, and the busy Thames Foyer, packed with well-heeled shoppers and expensive suits. The louche Beaufort Bar – £38,000’s worth of gold leaf on its black walls, menu of Champagnes by the glass, 8pm cabaret – is true oligarch territory.
Shamelessly opulent. This is a hotel that wants to impress – and it succeeds. Get ready for fabulous
chandeliers, intriguing modern art, palatial public rooms, a Daniel Galvin hair salon, a mini-branch
of Harrods – oh, and there’s also a magnificent four-floor spa with ESPA treatments and dazzlingly
indulgent relaxation areas.
The 251 rooms, some with river views, are warm and welcoming with restful beige and olive tones backed up with dreamy Hypnos beds, Loewe TVs and Italian marble bathrooms. There are also 43 sumptuous suites plus seven penthouses.
A floating hotel in a 128m/420ft yacht moored in the docks, just near the DLR and ExCel, a 15-minute taxi ride from London City Airport. The engineless yacht, a symphony in white and charcoal with a long, raked prow and more than a touch of flash, could easily have been left behind by a departing oligarch. The interior features peach faux-suede, cream panelling and Finnish oak stained a startling shade of sweet-and-sour, with the sort of patterned glass, brass, mirrors, curvaceous stairs and bar that make you think of an upmarket ferry. The key is not to think ‘superyacht,’ but pretty good value afloat.
Size matters in this city, where space is at a premium, and the 136 rooms (they don’t call them
cabins) are spacious and light. All have at least a coffee-table-sized porthole and the executive
rooms have little terraces with water views and enough room for two chairs. Décor is bland but beds
are firm, pillows feather-filled, showers excellent and even the standard rooms have Lavazza coffee
machines, 42” TVs, Sony tablets, hairdryers and irons.
The Chelsea Harbour Hotel
Part of a smart 1980s development overlooking the small marina at Chelsea Harbour which is accessed from the Thames at high tide and used by luxury yachts and powerboats. Although there are some dilapidated dockland buildings which have yet to be developed close by, the hotel is within walking distance of smart King’s Road shops and fashionable Chelsea.
A total of 158, including four penthouse suites. All are large, with a divided sleeping and sitting
room area, decorated in warm colours and modern art. In a city where cramped rooms command high prices, it’s a real bonus to have this space which is furnished with sofa, coffee table, desk and broad sideboard for tea- and coffee-making. Large French windows open onto broad terraces, the
quietest rooms overlook the marina.