What’s the first thing you do when you enter your hotel room? Bounce on the edge of the bed? Check out the mini-bar? Eat the complimentary biscuits?
If you’re a blogger or you’re into social media in any way, you probably take photos before doing any of the above and definitely before someone creases the duvet or manhandles the pillows.
When we stayed at St Martins Lane hotel in Covent Garden, London, the first thing I did was take some snaps of the room before sitting on the bed.
It was only then I discovered the mood lighting, operated from a switch at the side of the bed. I’d photographed the bed with a blue light and now realised I could have had a pink, purple, yellow or green hue. This would have been enough to cause much gnashing of teeth if I were a serious Instagrammer. Instead, I jumped up, made a cursory attempt to smooth the bed linen then took a few more shots. You can still see where I perched on the side of the bed and squashed the pillow, but hopefully you’ll just say, “Ooh, pink!” I’m sure none of you will notice my book has taken up residence too.
On our trips to London we try to vary the location of our hotel, in order to scope out a specific area of the capital. We don’t exactly live like locals but it helps to have a base from where we can explore in a little more depth. We’ve done this successfully on the South Bank, at Kings Cross and Hyde Park. Choosing St Martins Lane hotel would mean we would be staying in the heart of the West End, near to theatres, museums plus a vast range of restaurants. Rather than travel into Covent Garden from another London hotel, we would have its delights on our doorstep.
After playing with the lights and helping myself to a Lavazza coffee from the machine, I was able to appreciate the clean lines of the contemporary bedrooms. The floor-to-ceiling windows allow light to flood in, giving a bright airy feel during the day. We had chosen to stay in a deluxe room which gave us more space but the facilities are the same whether you’re in a standard room or a suite. From the coffee machine to the media hub – (don’t ask me – lots of techno things on the TV but in essence you get Sky Sports, BBC iPlayer and you can link to your own YouTube channel apparently) – the room is kitted out to a very high spec.
My favourite things? Stylish pale leopard-print carpet deadens any noise and the bed was just heavenly. I loved the bathroom too: excellent shower, large mirrors plus decent-sized Ciel products.
Rather than opt for a pre-theatre dinner, I had the bright idea of booking a proper afternoon tea at the hotel. You’re spoilt for choice if you fancy afternoon tea in London but many establishments are either very smart in a ‘be careful how you butter your scone’ kind of way or very pretty with teeny-weeny cakes that can be demolished in one delicate bite.
Afternoon tea in The Den at St Martins Lane is a touch more rugged and masculine. The room is dimly-lit, with more than a whiff of Gentlemen’s Club about it. Dougie and I are shown to a chequerboard table underneath one of the eight whimsical paintings which are dotted about the room, designed to blend in with the surroundings but stop you in your tracks when you the see the joke. An image of cricketer W.G. Grace sits in a frame with the glass shattered as if damaged by a stray ball. Anne Boleyn’s portrait is chopped in half, just at the neck.
The food is robust. Hefty-looking scones, big bold brioches and, in place of dainty desserts, we have a slabs of chocolate tart and ‘The Rocher’. The latter is an unmistakable golden-coloured praline and choux pastry sweet treat but is the size of a small country. Ambassador, you’re spoiling us. Tea is served in large colourful teapots and placed on a side table so we can help ourselves. The ambience is relaxed, with no pretence or fuss. We are given a doggy bag to take the golden globes back to our room. We eat them later with an espresso. I should point out, when you look at the photo below, that it’s a tiny cup.
What else did we love about St Martins Lane? The lobby. I do love a statement reception area. This one is large and quirky. Like the food, the furniture is designed to be noticed. There’s a combination of throne-like chairs, possibly air-lifted from the Palace of Versailles, and a row of gold stubby stools which I can’t decide if they have been created by moulding derrières or a set of molars. Add to this, a banquette in red velvet and an enormous vase of pink flowers.
If you investigate further, you may spot a door with an unusual handle. Grab the proffered hand and you’ll find yourself in a speakeasy cocktail bar, Blind Spot. Unfortunately we didn’t try it out on this visit but I’m willing to be led astray by the golden fingers whenever we return.
St Martins Lane is a luxury hotel perfectly placed in Covent Garden. The public areas are bold and unconventional, in contrast to the cool, neutral tones of the bedrooms. Morgans Hotel Group, which runs the hotel, is generous with its offer to guests, from plentiful in-room amenities to complimentary bicycles and membership of the neighbouring gym. It’s a chic place to hang out and a supremely comfortable place to sleep. Just remember to try out all the colours of the mood lighting before you crumple the sheets.