Searching for a last-minute stay in London to coincide with the Statoil Masters tennis tournament at the Albert Hall, this newly-opened hotel burst out of the iPad, flashing its rich, sumptuous fabrics and extraordinarily kooky artwork. I was completely besotted.
In real life the hotel is just as arresting as it appears online. Its lobby, bar and lounge areas are comfortable and stylish but there are huge dollops of fun and eccentricity to make you smile. Great design touches include the lift: a genius idea to transform a tiny, claustrophobia-inducing space into an exquisite garden with artificial grass on the walls and brightly-coloured magnetic letters – how many rude words can you make before the lift stops at your floor? Say hello to the huge bull in the lobby and make friends with the naked male floor lamp. Find the little green doggy in the fireplace and wonder how the upside-down legs got into the large white jardiniere. The artwork continues to delight in the stairways and along the corridors: fresh, innovative and just a little bit weird.
Fancy a cocktail? Sink into the ample sofas, let your eyes be dazzled by the colour chart behind the Abstract Bar and indulge in one or two sublime drinks such as a Twisted Pina Colada (Koko Kanu coconut rum with fresh lime juice and coconut meringue) or an Ardbeg Margarita (Ardbeg 10 year old whisky, Cointreau, maple syrup, shaken with lemon and lime juice).
Breakfast? A small but perfectly formed dining area: wall to wall mirrors and clean, white furniture give this area a remarkable sense of space. I just hope all the guests don’t want to eat at once.
So far, so gloriously different and bewitching. But then we have the rooms themselves and, with a heavy heart, I have to say we were disappointed. The same flashes of brilliance could be found – the floral ceiling light, the bold colour choices, the slate walls in the bathroom – but a hotel bedroom needs comfort. I can appreciate great design, but I need a wardrobe I can actually open properly, not one which is positioned so near to the bedside table that you can only use one side of it, and then with some difficulty. I would like a bit more space (I know it’s central London but this is an expensive hotel and I was in an upgraded luxury room). Tea and coffee-making facilities please? A chair to go with the table? There were ten sockets in the room, four of them under the table and none close to a mirror. Then there’s the feature window in the bathroom. I can see the sensuous appeal of the shower being visible from the bed (this is The Exhibitionist after all) but when that window also reveals the loo, I’m afraid, for me, that’s going a little too far.
There were also a few snagging issues – fair enough as it was only a couple of weeks post-opening – but we were surprised these little things hadn’t been spotted or that there were no customer feedback forms so we could inform management about the odd loose screw. The staff were polite and charming and will be an asset to the hotel although I sensed a lot of urgent paddling under the surface. Give it a few more weeks and I’m sure things will have settled down.
Nevertheless, despite all the things we adore about the place, I don’t think we will return, unless it’s just to enjoy the fabulous bar. We loved the art and the inspirational flashes of cool design but we needed a few home comforts. And when we had to complain twice for the music in the bar to be turned down as we were on the floor above and the bass level was driving us insane…we realised we must be getting old and intolerant.
It might not have been ideal for us as a couple but it’s still an extraordinary hotel. Take a peek…
|Features of our luxury room|
|The Great Green Elevator|
|Corridor artwork – You won’t feel a thing…
|Dougie being scanned…|
|How many tables? It’s all done with mirrors.|
|Dougie’s new friend is a bit of a hot head.|
|Abstract Bar – I’ll have what she’s having.
We were offered a discounted rate of £190 per night for a luxury double room including breakfast and a complimentary cocktail. Rates vary so best to check online for current prices.
All opinions are my own.