Typically most travellers, no matter their personal taste and the purpose of their visit would agree that they want to feel immersed and enveloped by their surroundings, while at the same time enjoying the comfort, convenience and ease of ‘home’. London is a past master in the hospitality game and its hotels are an expression of this. These boltholes bring you the best of all worlds – stays in picturesque quintessentially London neighbourhoods, infused with history and character, that allow you to linger a little longer, as a local.
Part of history
Located in the heart of Whitehall, in the landmark Grade II* listed former Old War Office building, walking distance from Buckingham Palace, St James’ Park, Westminster and an abundance of art galleries and theatres, it doesn’t get more British than Raffles London at The OWO. Or more grand. Once home to historical figures such as Sir Winston Churchill and Lord Haldane and playing host to icons like Ian Fleming – many scenes from James Bond have been filmed here – it’s as culturally rich a venue as they come.
Meticulously restored over eight years – with the skill of hundreds of craftspeople contributing to historical interior elements like delicate hand-laid mosaic floors and oak panelling – and reimagined by EPR Architects, the hotel is a unique proposition beyond its enormous historical clout. Eighty one rooms and 39 suites designed by the late Thierry Despont occupy five floors, with the five Heritage Suites (the Haldane, Churchill, Raffles, Granville, and Turret Suite the most storied – as former offices of influential political and military leaders).
Nine destination restaurants – including the London debut for three-star Michelin chef Mauro Colagreco, a sake bar and Japanese-influenced restaurant by Michelin-starred Chef Patron Endo Kazutoshi and global restaurateur Misha Zelman, and the first London opening for Milanese restaurant Langosteria – are complemented by four event spaces (including a ballroom set up for West End theatre level productions), and two hotel bars. The cherry on top – a spa over four levels by world-leading brand Guerlain alongside movement and nutrition experts Pillar.
Taking it up a notch still further, is a residential component adjoining the hotel element of The OWO. The ultimate in hotel-style living, these 85 spectacularly appointed spaces by 1508 London are the ultimate in exclusivity and offer access to residents-only facilities like a private dining room, gym and fitness studio, games room and 16-seat cinema.
Join the club
The first impression of The Twenty Two once you’re beyond its stately façade and standing in the lobby is created by the personable staff (outfitted in bespoke suits by Charlie Casely-Hayford) who encapsulate the playful but polished energy of the hotel – a hideaway for the ‘creative and curious’.
The English Edwardian manor, consisting of 31 studios/suites and manor rooms, and one self-contained Mews House, all individually designed, is situated in elegant Mayfair. Giving way to maximalist interiors by Natalia Miyar that draw on influences from Christian Dior’s Parisian apartment to Chateau de Malmaison (once owned by Josephine Bonaparte), the combination of English restraint and French opulence purposefully defy easy pigeonholing.
Not only does it feel like you’ve been warmly welcomed in however, it’s a literal in. As guests, you benefit from access to The Club for the duration of your stay. From private previews with leading galleries like Gagosian, wellness workshops with cult fitness and beauty brands, and talks with industry experts, The Twenty Two’s private member’s club is an invitation into the city’s cultural and creative scene.
In the suites themselves, four-poster beds, antique chandeliers, specially commissioned passementeries by Samuel & Sons, velvets from Designers Guild, and wallpapers by Iksel and Pierre Frey create lush and welcoming cocoons. Thoughtful touches like handwritten ‘do not disturb’ tags and minibars stocked with own-brand spirits, artisan kombucha and a variety of CBD oils further emphasise the personal and boutique feel of the hotel.
On a purely functional level – The Club’s spaces (the Living Room, an all-day hub and workspace; the Music and Dining Room, for dining, dancing and DJs; and the Vaults, an outdoor terrace with chic cabana-style seating) cater to shifting needs throughout the day, while The Restaurant (also open to the public) is an elegant powder blue space spearheaded by Alan Christie serving modern British fare elevated by Mediterranean flavours.
Just like home
In some of London’s most desirable locations, and with an instantly recognisable identity, Kit Kemp’s Firmdale hotels offer a fresh modern take on English tradition, and the unmistakable warmth of home. Something of an institution – as a designer-owned hotel group, the eight boutique hotels in London and two in New York are uniquely interior forward – they’re also known for their particular brand of unstuffy luxury.
It’s the group’s three London townhouses, however, that perfect the neighbourhood immersion that makes staying longer seamless and so appealing. From the Knightsbridge Hotel, located on a quiet tree-line street in Knightsbridge, to Dorset Square, a Regency townhouse in Marylebone overlooking the private square which was once Thomas Lord’s first cricket ground, and Number 16, part of a mid-Victorian white stucco terrace with an oasis like tree-filled garden in the heart of South Kensington, all are within easy distance of the museums, cafés and parks.
In all the hotels – a touch that sets Firmdale apart across the board and adds to the sense of home – each room is individually appointed, in Kit Kemp’s uplifting and dynamic signature style. With curated art, music and culinary events (anything from gallery walkabouts, yoga and brunch mornings, cooking courses, and private cinema screenings) you’ll be plugged into the cultural heartbeat of each location. And with your newspaper of choice dropped at your door each day, afternoon tea in the drawing room or morning coffee by a wood fire, and a casual and convivial honesty bar, it’ll feel like staying with a friend, but with the luxuries and convenience (24-hour room service, concierge and valet services) of a five-star hotel.
by Julia Freemantle