Leicester Square is many things, but chic and relaxing are not words we’d usually use to describe it. To be completely frank, it’s chaotic, especially come summertime when the city receives eager foreigners in droves. By Shatricia Nair
The square is, after all, a tourist hotspot and for good reason, one being that it’s adjacent to other iconic destinations like Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown, and Regent Street.
It’s also London’s home of film and entertainment, with nationally significant cinemas such as the Odeon Leicester Square and Empire Leicester Square. The nearby Prince Charles Cinema is also known for screening cult films and marathon film runs, so to say that the area is an important part of London’s cultural fabric would be an understatement.
Yet as an area that’s teeming with knock-off Disney costume characters, tourist traps like M&M World and Lego World, and gritty souvenir shops, it’s easy to see why it isn’t top choice for those looking for a posh getaway in the city.
The Londoner, however, wants to change the landscape of Leicester Square, and it’s single-handedly succeeding. Still fresh from its opening a year ago, the ‘super-boutique’ hotel was 14 years and GBP 500 million (INR 45,87,44,86,200) in the making – and it shows.
We stayed the night to see if it was worth all the hype (spoiler alert: it was). Read on for our full review.
Review: The Londoner Hotel
Stepping into The Londoner from Leicester Square is almost like stepping into another world.
Its cobalt blue-tiled exterior – complete with a Union Jack – can be spotted from a mile away, and you’ll find yourself picking up the pace immediately. Step in and the freneticism from the street immediately quietens. You’re now listening to soothing jazz and the quiet chatter of people lounging around at the hotel’s swanky lobby bar, The Stage. The grittiness of Leceister Square is now replaced by soothing shades of beiges, pinks, and grey. You immediately relax.
Such is the power of The Londoner, which is backed by UK’s largest family-owned hotel groups, Edwardian Hotels London, and designed by world-renowned architectural designer Yabu Pushelberg – whose other high-profile hospitality clients include Aman, Ritz Carlton, and Four Seasons.
Don’t let the hotel’s eight-storey facade deceive you. Because of building height limitations in the neighbourhood, the hotel had to dig deep — quite literally — to double its blueprint. Its basement comprises eight floors below, and is where plenty of the action happens. It also makes it the deepest habitable commercial basement in London today.
The hotel is vast, but no details have been spared. You’ll find plush velvet touches and bold artwork across the 16 floors. Step into the lift and you’ll find little peepholes in random spots that reveal tiny artworks, just one of the many invitations for you to get up close and personal with the building.
Set on the site of the former West End Odeon Cinema, the 350 guest rooms 35 suites here were each designed by Pushelberg to reflect modern British sensibilities. Calming pinks and other pastels add colour to the room without jarring the eyes, and perfectly complement the warm wooden furnishings throughout.
The regular rooms are plenty luxurious enough for any discerning traveller, but if you want a stay you won’t forget, hit up one of the suites. The Junior Suite we stayed at was truly a sanctuary from the bustle down below, with extras such as a chaise, a king-sized bed dressed in 400-count Irish linen, and original art by Edd Pearman and The Connor Brothers.
Expansive floor-to-ceiling windows let plenty of natural light in and offer a view of the street, which would’ve been perfect for people watching with the bedside binoculars if said view wasn’t, unfortunately, of a rather dingy apartment building.
Nevertheless, you’ll be spoilt in this room. The bathroom is swathed with chic blue tiles and equipped with a Toto toilet that lifts automatically lifts its lid every time it senses you’re nearby. Oh, and there’s a vanity mirror with Hollywood-style lights so you’ll never have to question your makeup skills before a night out. There’s even a Dyson hairdryer so you’ll leave with a remarkable DIY blowout.
Food & drinks
Six restaurants and bars dot The Londoner and each are overseen by Amir Jati, whose credentials include Nobu. The Stage is a lobby bar that’s perfect for socialising at, with pink armchairs, live music, and an expansive bar that’s more than equipped for any cocktail requests you might have.
For something dressier, 8 At The Londoner is a rooftop bar that’s Japanese-inspired and offers both indoor and outdoor seating, the latter of which involves a zen-like garden area with plenty of bamboo. Here, you’ll find modern Japanese cuisine and more lavish cocktail options.
Gin lovers can head to Joshua’s Tavern, which is accessible from outside the hotel on the corner of St Martin’s Street and Orange Street. The establishment taps on regionally sourced gin (more than 50, to be exact) and the expertise of The Londoner’s Head Mixologist, Pierpaolo Schirru to offer terrior-led G&Ts, each with its own special garnish and house-infused bitters and tonic to perfectly compliment the spirit’s botanicals.
You won’t have to venture out for good food either. Whitcomb’s – the hotel’s signature restaurant – serves an extensive menu of contemporary French cuisine with Mediterranean influences, and the food here is excellent. The destination offers pre-theatre (in keeping with Leicester Square’s history) and an all-day dining menu that ranges from small plates to hearty mains.
Dishes like the Burrata Miel – which comes served with Seville orange, coriander seeds and manuka honey – and Carpaccio de bœuf are excellent starters, before you move on to signature mains like the Lobster Thermidor and Sea bass à la Marinière.
This might be a French restaurant but the pastas and risottos here are equally commendable, albeit a little sinful for those on diets. Highlights worth the calories include the Agnolotti au fromage et beurre – which comes served with cheese béchamel and crispy sage butter – and the Rigatoni au homard, which is essentially a very decadent mac & cheese – with lobster. If you’re a large group, opt for the sharing plates of rib-eye steak or Dover sole.
Wash everything down with the beignets, which come served with a trio of irresistible sauces: dulce de leche, Valrhona Organic Andoa Dark Chocolate, spiced orange. If you’re more of a pastry person, we recommend the mille-feuille and lemon tart. Service here is impeccable and the restaurant manager is patient and kind enough to accommodate to any allergies (or fussiness), so you’re guaranteed to leave full and contented here.
The Londoner differs from other boutique hotels in that it actually has all the amenities you’d expect from a branded five-star establishment. At the spa, choose from a menu of relaxing facials or massages, before you sink into pure bliss in one of the adjacent pool’s cabanas with a juice from the Refuel juice bar. A fully-equipped gym and yoga studio is available should you wish to burn off last night’s dinner, as is the sauna or steam room.
There’s even a blow-dry bar, nail bar, and barber on the same floor to get you ready for any occasion. Other basement floors also house chic and artsy event spaces that can accommodate weddings and business meetings.
One of the biggest perks as a guest, however, is access to The Residence, a private member’s club-style space that’s well hidden from the rest of the hotel. Essentially a very sophisticated lounge area, the 24-hour spot is perfect for socialising or down time without having to go back to your room. Play board games here and enjoy as much coffee or tea and snacks as you want.
The Y Bar and The Whisky Room within The Residence are also the best spots for quiet night caps. Oh, look out for the roving Residence Cart, which will bring you fresh breakfast items in the morning, and antipasti later in the day.
Skip or stay?
London isn’t short of remarkable boutique hotels, but the Londoner truly is an experience. Artfully designed at every turn, the property is inspiring to say the least, and is one of the trendiest locations to see and be seen at in the city today.
If anything, it’s finally put Leicester Square back on the map. Today, the establishment draws discerning travellers looking for style and sensibilities in their accommodation, as well as locals seeking a chic respite from the madness outside. Perhaps for once, you won’t be in a hurry to leave the neighbourhood.
Book your stay or find out more about The Londoner here.
(All images: The Londoner)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore